Almond Cookies: Viscotti di Mènnula


Almonds are widely grown throughout Italy and used extensively in Sicilian cuisine.  The City of Agrigento hosts the spectacular Almond Blossom Festival, held each year during the month of February, amongst the back drop of the ancient Greek ruins of the Valley of the Temples.  It’s a folkloric celebration of the almond blossom signifying the coming of spring and the planting season.

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe that was handed down to my mother by her cousin Maria.  These cookies are essentially amaretti – Italian almond macaroons.  These easy-to-make, intensely almond-flavored cookies are soft on the inside and lightly crisp on the outside.  Just the perfect accompaniment to a cup of espresso coffee.  If you prefer your cookies on the crunchy side, you can bake them a minute or two longer.

(Viscotti di Mènnula/Biscotti di Mandorla)

Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes approximately 32 cookies.

12 ounces (approximately 3 1/2 cups) finely ground almonds
2 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large egg whites
1 Tablespoon almond extract
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups Confectioner’s sugar

In a medium mixer bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate medium mixer bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until frothy, gradually add granulated sugar until soft peaks are formed.  Fold in almond extract and honey.  Fold egg whites and lemon zest into the ground almonds, until combined.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Have ready a small bowl filled with water.  Place the remaining confectioner’s sugar in separate small bowl.  Using a 1 1/2-inch diameter cookie scoop, dip in water first, then scoop the cookie dough.  Roll cookie in confectioner’s sugar.  Repeat with remaining cookies.  Alternatively, wet hands with water and form balls, 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Place cookies 1 1/2- inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake approximately 15 minutes, until lightly browned.  While cookies are still warm, roll in additional powdered sugar if desired.

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