Once upon a time, my best friend and I were driving around Houston trying to figure out a new place to grab coffee. We are creatures of habit and normally gravitate to one place – Blacksmith. I’m so glad that for once that we ventured out [a mile away from our usual spot] into this little spot called La Sicilia Italian Bakery & Cafe.
They had all kinds of gourmet pastries on display – crostatas, cannolis, donuts, croissants – but what caught our eyes were these fluffy, white little cookies shoved in the corner of the display. We didn’t care that we didn’t know what they were called, we just knew we had to devour them. The nice employee saw us ogling at them and told us they were called soft amaretti cookies (not like the regular crunchy amaretti) and made small talk while she weighed a pound of it that we ordered. We were kidding ourselves when we said we’d only eat one cookie each because we were still full from our previous meal. We ended up eating all the cookies in one sitting. These are almond cookies with a hint of lemon – crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and they went perfectly with an afternoon cup of coffee.
I’m pretty sure we dreamt about those cookies for weeks to come.
However, it wasn’t easy coming back to keep ordering them because 1) that amazing little bakery is off the busiest, skinniest, most annoying road in Houston (Westheimer) and 2) they close early, as most bakeries do.
As usual, when I’m craving something, I have to have it at that exact moment or else I’ll go crazy. That’s when I googled a bunch of amaretti cookie recipes trying to find one that looks the easiest to follow since I’m challenged when it comes to baking. After going through a million recipes, I combined elements from here and there that sounded good to me, so instead of just making regular soft amaretti cookies, I went with a version of the recipe with pistachios mixed in… and they turned out pretty good. I’m excited to share this recipe because it is so simple. It was also my first time making meringue and I didn’t screw it up. If I can do it, you can do it better.
These are very simple to make, but they do require a couple of specific ingredients that a regular grocery store may not have (thank God that Amazon sells everything). I also believe that this is a recipe best measured by weight (grams), rather than by cups. It also requires a food processor, but a blender should work too.
SOFT AMARETTI COOKIES WITH PISTACHIOS
- 275g almond flour (recommended Bob’s Red Mill)
- 250g caster sugar*, plus more for coating
- 100g unsalted, unroasted pistachios, shelled
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar, for coating
- Food processor or blender, to ground pistachios
- Hand mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment
- Preheat oven to 355 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silipat mat.
- Add all the pistachios, salt, and only half the almond four (doesn’t have to be exactly half) to the food processor or blender, and pulse until the pistachios are finely ground. Add the remaining almond flour and blend to combine. Pour the almond-pistachio mixture into a large bowl, add about half of the caster sugar and mix to combine.
- Now it’s time to make the meringue! In a large bowl using an electric mixer or stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until it’s foamy (it will literally look like fine soap suds). Slowly add the remaining caster sugar into the egg whites and keep whisking until the meringue forms stiff peaks (haha).
- Add about 1/3 of the meringue to the almond-pistachio mixture, along with the vanilla extract and lemon extract and mix until well combined. Repeat this process in thirds until all the meringue is evenly combined with the almond-pistachio mixture. This process is not very fun since it doesn’t mix easily like regular batter, but the goal is just to make sure that there’s no clumps of meringue in the middle of the mixture.
- Once combined, take about 1.5 – 2 tablespoon scoop of the mixture and drop it into the extra caster sugar to coat, form into balls, then roll them into the powdered sugar to coat fully. Place the cookie balls onto the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch away from each other. They don’t expand much so you can fit quite a bit of cookies in 1 sheet.
- Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes. At the 12 minute mark, check the top of the cookies. If the tops of the cookies are SLIGHTLY browning, go ahead and take them out. If not, bake longer in 1-minute increments until you see a bit of browning.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes before eating.
*Note: Caster sugar is something in between granulated sugar and powdered sugar. It’s something that’s widely used in the UK, but may be a bit harder to find in the US. If you live in Houston, Central Market will have caster sugar. You can also purchase it through Amazon. If you want to make your own, take granulated sugar and run it through your food processor for about 3-4 minutes. Make sure to check it it because if you process it too long, it will turn into powdered sugar (which is what you don’t want).