My father is having his 92nd birthday next Tuesday. It has been really hard to figure out what to get him for his birthday for the last several years. After much thought, I decided to bake him his favorite sweet treat for his birthday. It just so happens that he absolutely loves Italian Pignoli Cookies. I never tried baking them before but it's difficult to find a good (or any) Italian bakery in Maryland that sells Pignoli cookies. I know there is at least one (Vaccaro's) in Baltimore City but I don't enjoy driving down there unless I absolutely have to. Since I just got a brand new oven, I decided to seek out a recipe for the cookies. One of my favorite bloggers, Susan Russo of FoodBlogga did not disappoint me. She has a recipe on her blog that I have used here. The only tiny changes that I made are that I used an 8 ounce can of Almond Paste because I couldn't find a 7-ounce tube of the stuff. She also recommends dusting the cookies with powdered sugar. I knew that my dad wouldn't want me to do that, so I didn't. I made my cookies a tiny bit too big which is typical of me which is why I only got 25 cookies instead of 30. Here is something that I will do next time I make them: I will only put pine nuts on the top of the cookies. My dad says he doesn't remember the entire cookie being coated in nuts so that will save me from using so many nuts. I didn't use the entire 2-1/2 cups of nuts for this recipe which is why I'm thinking you could get away with only 2 cups or even a bit less than that. Pine nuts are quite expensive. I paid $8.49 for each 5 ounce bag. I bought 3 packages of them for this project. The almond paste was around $5.00 for the can of 8 ounces. I also found a recipe for making your own almond paste but I didn't go to that extreme. I posted it here just in case you feel inclined to make your own almond paste. These cookies came out really delicious according to the expert (my dad). I'm pretty darn sure that my Italian grandmothers would be proud to know that their granddaughter made these cookies and didn't just run to a bakery to buy them at $20.00 a pound. Of course, my dad is worth his weight in gold but I feel that making the cookies myself shows my love even more than just buying them would. I also made him another of his favorites (Pecan Coffee Cake). I'll post that recipe tomorrow.
Italian Pignoli (Pine Nut) Cookies
By Susan Russo from http://Food Blogga.blogspot.com
2-1/2 cups pine nuts
1 (7-ounce) tube of almond paste
¾ cup white sugar
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, optional
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Take ¼ cup of pine nuts and pulse in a food processor until coarsely ground. Break the almond paste with your hands; add to the processor; process until just mixed. Add the sugar; process until mixture is crumbly. Add the egg whites and vanilla; process until the dough begins to come together. Add the flour and salt; process until fully blended and smooth.
Pour the remaining pine nuts into a small bowl. Using a teaspoon and slightly moistened hands, take about 1 teaspoon worth of batter and roll it into a ball. Gently drop the ball in the pine nuts and turn until completely coated. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
Cool on racks. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired. Cookies should be stored in an airtight container. Makes approximately 30 cookies.
3 cups Sicilian Almonds, blanched
3 cups Superfine Sugar
2 tbsp. Orange Blossom Honey (no substitutes)
2 egg whites
2 tbsp. Amaretto Di Saronno (Lazzaroni or Di Saronno)
1- Grind Almonds to a fine flour.
2- Add sugar and Amaretto.
3- Add egg whites and honey.
4- Mix until it comes together in a ball.
5- Let stand in the refrigerator overnight.
Makes approximately 2 lbs.
The Creative Cook