It turns out, real life is happening. The past week or two have brought me down to reality with a bump. I’ve finally cut the apron strings of eternal studentdom and entered the world of the tax payers proper, embarking on working (more than) full time. I knew I had it good as a student and I genuinely was thankful for the late starts, early finishes, long summer holidays and very little actual responsibility on my shoulders. Ahhh, those were the days! So now the realisation that unless I win the Lotto, I shall be fighting for car park spaces 45 mins before my shift starts and doing “just one more job” at the end of each working day until I *gulp* retire has had to sink in rapidly and my cooking habits will have to change substantially to keep up. A girl who loves to cook, eat and bake as much as i do has to find a way to get homemade treats as well as meals into her working week, even when she’s so tired all she can manage is ten minutes stood stove side a night. You read it here first – Just Jo is changing!
Luckily, these snowy white sweet kisses of a cookie take perhaps a minute to mix up and perhaps two more to shape before baking. I give you, amaretti biscuits.
What we have here is my version of a homemade amaretti cookie. Little soft yet satisfyingly chewy balls of ground almond, eggs and sugar which go oh so perfectly with a great cup of coffee (or for the hard working adults amongst us, home measure of Amaretto liquer 😉 ). I first came across them in a local cafe Hungry Hubby and I have frequented for years which always cooks fresh to order, pre-warms their coffee cups and serves a wee teeny tiny amaretti with every caffeinated hot beverage. Now I appreciate almond extract is a love-hate thang for most folk as its an extremely powerful flavour – a teaspoon of even good quality, expensive vanilla extract pales into insipid insignificance next to the sweetly but definitely more potent equivalent of almond extract. You may use amaretto liquer if you want a lesser hit in your cookies but I would definitely recommend adding something extra to the ground nuts as they do not convey enough baby sweet soft almond flavour themselves. If you have a bowl, a whisk and a spoon as well as a craving for nursery sweet salvation this is the sweet treat for you.
I knocked these up late on Sunday evening as the light was fading despite my desire to have some small baked good with a reasonably long shelf life on my kitchen counter to get me kick-started through the next week at work growing. The inspiration began on Friday afternoon last week when I was busy seeing patients on “Minors” (the minor injury bit of my A&E), head down, scribbling notes furiously whilst counting the minutes till home time that I did not see the legend that is Trevor with his biscuit tin coming. I’d heard of Trevor (a physiotherapist and “the knee guy” – what this man does not know about knees and their injuries is wasted on mere mortals) and his Friday afternoon cookie sharing tradition. Thus far though, I’d not been lucky enough to be around when he emerges from what one can only presume is some Willy Wonka Wonderland of cookie heaven with his giant Tupperware full of freshly baked cookies. I tell you, when I raised my head to see a huge tub of Trevor’s own recipe of amaretti biccies and I took a long deep inhalation of their beguiling scent I almost swooned on the nurse’s station there and then! I feel I should complain that whilst my induction training informed me of Trevor’s Friday afternoon cookie habit it failed to mention if you don’t ask for a second one immediately you ain’t gonna get a second! As I was not cheeky enough to ask for another, I’ve had to trawl t’internet this weekend looking for a recipe to take the edge off until I get the courage to ask Trevor for his recipe. Because it was magical. Until then, we will have to make do with my own version, cobbled together after reading many, many online amaretti recipes this weekend. I’m still taken aback that my considerable cook book library does not hold a recipe within its papery volumes….
But dear reader, do not be despondent that these morsels are not the Ne Plus Ultra amaretti a la Trev, for whilst my recipe lacks a little of the chew he somehow managed to achieve, mine still deliver on the flavour front. Plus, they may just win the hearts of you chewy cookie haters out there (I believe such folk do exist!) as these melt on the tongue. At this size, one could eat them in one bite but I love to savour them longer with a second. Their white coat of icing sugar might not be traditional but it delivers on the sweetness front as I’ve reduced down the caster sugar from the cookie itself so what you get is a slick of barely perceptible sweetness on your tongue followed by a toothsome chomp through a ball of just baked dough which just offers enough bite to allow us to call them a “chewy” cookie finishing with a very definite nutty, rich almond taste. Could you possibly want anything more from a 2 minute cookie to see you through 5 days (and thirty to forty years) of work? I think not….
- 225g ground almonds
- 150g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 2-3tbsp icing sugar
- Whisk your egg yolks and caster sugar until combined.
- Stir in the almond extract and follow with your ground almonds.
- Whisk the egg whites until they barely form soft peaks - ensure all of it whisks up as the bottom millimetre or so can escape a balloon whisk!
- Fold in the egg whites into the ground almond mix a big spoonful at a time then cover and chill for at least an hour (leaving it overnight is more than fine).
- Scoop out tbsp sized nuggets of dough and roll to make them spherical.
- Toss in the icing sugar and bake on a baking tray lined with reusable silicone paper for preference, if not parchment paper, for 25 minutes at 160˚C.
- They will not colour but will firm up on baking if you give one a little squeeze (they don't spread really either so you might be able to get all 25 on a big oven tray at once - if not, refrigerate half the dough until the first batch is done).
- Cool on the tray then keep in an airtight container - I bet they don't last you more than a day mind you...