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Merry Christmas everyone!

One of my favorite cookies is an Italian almond paste cookie called Pignoli. Normally served at the holidays or other special occasions, they are always the first to disappear. The thing I love most about them besides the decadent almond flavor is the texture - they are SO chewy. 


This year was my first year attempting them. I don't know why but they always seemed so mysterious. How could a block of almond paste transform into these light, chewy morsels of heaven?

You may have seen almond paste at the store and wondered what the heck it is. It's what makes these cookies so chewy. For this recipe, make sure you use this and not marzipan or pie filling, they will not work. It comes in boxes and cans. I personally like the little boxes better because it's easier to open but either are fine. 
 
I tried a couple different recipes and finally found a winner! This one doesn't use any flour so it's gluten free too. Bust out your food processor to make these even easier. If you don't have one, you can crumble the paste manually and use a pastry cutter. This recipe is expensive but so worth it! 

Ingredients:

2 (8-oz) cans or boxes almond paste (not marzipan)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons honey

1 cup (4 1/2 oz) pine nuts aka pignoli
marachino cherries (optional) 

You will need parchment paper or a silpat for this recipe.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Break up almond paste to fit into bowl of food processor. Pulse almond paste until crumbled up into small bits, then add confectioners sugar and salt and continue to pulse until very finely ground, about 1 minute.

Beat together almond mixture, egg whites, and honey in mixer at medium-high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough will be very thick. Refrigerate over night.

Spoon about a teaspoon of dough into your slightly dampened hands and roll into balls. Place the balls about 1 inch apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Decorate one of three ways:

 Place a small piece of marachino cherry in the center and then gently press      about 5 pine nuts around it. It will look like  a flower (this is my favorite)
 Roll the cookie in pine nuts then place a piece of cherry in the center
 Gently press half of pine nuts into tops of cookies

Bake cookies until golden, approximately 10 - 12 minutes depending on the size. Slide cookies on parchment onto racks to cool completely, then peel cookies from parchment. Make rest of batch on cooled baking sheets.

Notes:

If you roll the cookies in the pine nuts you will need at least 2 cups of the nuts.

Cookies will keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week or they can be frozen.

Inspired by Epicurious.

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