If you've been invited to Sunday pranzo (lunch - but think bountiful and leisurely), then it is almost obligatory that you first stop at a pasticceria and pick up at least a dozen miniature pastries to bring to your host. Below you'll find a quick and easy recipe for the most classic of sweets - paste di mandorla, small almond paste cookies.
I was inspired by the generous number of almond products we can find at our local farmers market. I made my own almond flour by grinding blanched almond slivers in my blender. You could do the same, or buy almond flower at your local grocery store.
We modified the recipe by making it a little bit naughty - we added a splash of rum to give it that je ne sais quoi warmth and yumminess. If you want to be even more naughty serve these with a deep red wine like primitivo or your favorite port. Otherwise enjoy with milk or tea!
This recipe yields about a dozen cookies.
Prep time: 5 - 10 min.
Cooking time: 20min
Total: 30 minutes
1 c. almond flour (almond flours/meals vary - you may need to add more to make your mix less goopy and more solid).
1/4 c. granulated sugar
zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
splash of rum
whole almonds or candied orange peel for topping
Start with the almond flour in a bowl:
Add all the remaining ingredients (except for the whole almonds or candied orange peels) and mix well. I used my hands - the dough is a bit too thick for a utensil and probably not worth getting any sort of appliance dirty. Note the use of lemon zest - this is typical in many Italian pastries. The lemon gives these cookies a lively bouquet.
Your dough should look something like this:
Make one inch balls and put them on a non-stick cookie sheet or on one covered in parchment paper. Press one whole almond or candied peel onto the top of each little ball of dough like this:
Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes or until they just start to turn golden on top.
Here is our finished product!
Italian cooking is far from precise. Mosts recipes are passed down from generation to generation simply by showing what's done and having a gut feeling for how much of this or that. We welcome any variations on this recipe.
Let us know how yours turned out and any creative twists you may have taken!