Biscotti di Mandorla
This is a lovely little cookie, light and sweet, perfect for afternoon tea or just a little something sweet after dinner. They have the added benefit of being heart healthy in the sense that the only fat comes from almonds, and gluten free as the ground almonds also provide the structure of the dough.
I combined two recipes, Almond Curls from “Sicilian Food” by M. T. Simeti and Almond Thins from “Seafood alla Siciliana” by T. Lydecker. While Simeti’s recipe uses no flour it does use a lot of sugar. I cut 25% of the sugar out of her recipe and still thought the cookies were plenty sweet. Lydecker on the other hand uses less sugar but adds a bit of wheat flour. Something you may want to try if you want a cookie that is less sweet and don’t mind the wheat.
Traditionally the Sicilian form of the cookie is an S-shaped curlicue piped from a pastry bag. I went with Lydecker’s simpler and more elegant solution of a drop cookie garnished with an almond sliver.
¾ lb blanched slivered almonds, plus extra for garnish
1 ½ cup sugar
Zest from 1 small lemon
¼ t cinnamon
A pinch of salt
4 egg whites
½ t vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325. Pulse the almonds to a coarse flour in a food processor. Add the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt. Pulse to combine. Meanwhile add the vanilla to the egg whites and beat them to the soft peak stage.
Fold the almond mixture into the egg whites, starting with 1/3 of the mixture before adding the remaining mixture. Be careful not to over mix and deflate the egg whites.
To form the cookies, drop a teaspoon of dough at a time on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Leave enough room for the dough to spread when it bakes, but note that it won’t really rise much. Garnish with an almond sliver and bake one sheet at a time for 25-30 minutes, until the cookies turn a pale brown. Let them cool, at least 15 minutes, on the cookie sheet before trying to remove them. If they are too warm they will fall apart. Finish cooling them completely on a cooling rack before storing them in an airtight container. They also freeze nicely.