This post marks Day 12 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.
Welcome to the second Cookie o' the Week! Last week we sampled a Dutch delight, and this week, we're moving south.
As a wee little thing, I sold (and ate) many, many boxes of Girl Scout cookies. They seemed mighty fine at the time (especially the Thin Mints nibbled straight out of the freezer), but that was before I discovered Pignoli Cookies, an Italian confection made up of little more than pine nuts, sugar and almond paste.
So chewy in the center, so crisp at the edges! Rich and nutty, perfect with a cup of tea... they're divine. Definitely one of my top-five cookies, and that's saying a lot. I really love cookies.
But between the price of pine nuts being what it is (scary) and the relative scarcity of almond paste in the stores where I usually shop, I don't make them often.
That's why I think the holidays are the ideal occasion to seek out the necessaries and bake a batch of these decadent, elegant treats.
Be warned... although you may want to hog them for yourself, they're a bit too rich to eat on your own. So dial up a friend or two, or package them with a pretty bow to give away. They're great host gifts (as long as your host doesn't have a nut allergy).
This year, I deviated a bit from my classic recipe adding lemon zest, which I think makes them even more lovely and citrus-season appropriate.
Citrus Pignoli Cookies (Makes about 3 dozen)
1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz almond paste
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 egg whites
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups pine nuts
1. Heat the oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl, blend powdered sugar, almond paste, vanilla and lemon zest before mixing in the egg whites.
3. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, blending the dry mix into the egg mixture. Blend just until the dough comes together.
4. Chill the dough for 30 to 40 minutes for easier handling. (It's a sticky dough.)
5. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls and then roll each dough ball in a shallow dish filled with the remaining pine nuts. Press the nuts into the surface of the cookies.
6. Place the balls about two inches apart on baking sheets, and bake until the cookies begin to turn golden at the edges — about 12 to 15 minutes.
7. Transfer the parchment with the hot cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before peeling the cookies off the paper.
You can sometimes find pine nuts for a bit cheaper in the big-big stores (Costco, Sam's Club, etc.), and sometimes they're sold in bulk at food co-ops or specialty shops.