Amaretti, the moist and chewy classic Italian cookie. There truly are infinite variations and today I would like to share this simple, gluten free recipe for these Soft Amaretti Cookies with all of you.
Amaretti (plural) are almond flavored Italian macaroons that can have a texture ranging from soft and chewy to crispy. Amaretti can be found throughout Italy with each region claiming to have “the best” version of this cookie.
Without a doubt, the most famous commercially sold Amaretti are made by the Lazzaroni family in the city of Saronno located in the Northern area of Lombardy: Amaretti di Saronno. They are beautifully wrapped amaretti that come packaged in an easily recognizable red tin can. The Lazzaroni family have been making these amaretti cookies since 1719.
Amaretti are, without a doubt, perfect for your holiday cookie platter. They also make great hostess gifts. There are endless variations that can be found for Soft Amaretti Cookies, but today I’d like to share one of my favorites.
If you speak a bit of Italian, you will have probably guessed that the word amaretti is derived from the word amaro, which means bitter. And so in order to get the true authentic taste of an amaretti, you must use bitter almonds. They aren’t readily available in North Amercia, so I replaced them with bitter almond extract.
The recipe for these Soft Amaretti Cookies also calls for almond flour (if you recall, we also used almond flour in these Big Batch Amaretti Cookies). The almond flour will provide a smooth texture that will taste like marzipan. If you prefer a coarser texture, you can use blanched almonds, and grind your own. This will provide you with amaretti that have a coarse texture.
That perfect smooth texture and those pretty cracks on the surface of these Soft Amaretti Cookies depend on incorporating exactly the right amount of egg whites into the ground almond mixture.
That’s the challenge!
Come and take a look at how they are made… it’s a lot easier than you think!
The dry ingredients: The dry ingredients consist of almond flour, sugar and lemon zest. It’s important to whisk the almond flour and the sugar really, really well together. We also need to add the finely grated lemon zest. Once everything is whisked together, set it aside while we whisk the egg whites.
The wet ingredients: The wet ingredients consist of 3 egg whites and bitter almond extract. With a whisk, beat the egg whites to the soft peak stage (ie: when the whites begin to curl). I then add the bitter almond extract, and whisk for another minute or so.
The combination: Gently incorporate the egg white mixture with the dry ingredients. In just a few minutes, the almond flour will absorb the egg whites and you will obtain a nice sticky mixture.
The rolling of amaretti: Begin by portioning the amaretti dough. I like to use a small ice cream scooper, that way, all of the Soft Amaretti Cookies will be the same size. I will then dampen my hands and press my palms into a plate of sugar (I picked up this trick from one of my favorite blogs, Jovina Cooks. Thanks Jovina 🙂 )
I like to roll them a little bit more in the sugar and then onto the baking sheet and into the oven.
That’s it! Simple right?
The only thing left to do is get the coffee ready because in just 25 minutes, you will not believe what will come out of your oven!
ORIGINS OF THE RECIPE FOR SOFT AMARETTI COOKIES:
Over thirty years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Sardinia. Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean sea, and is geographically located to the west of Italy. I can still remember the landscapes and the turquoise waters- breathtaking and beautiful beyond words.
One of the best souvenirs I have from Sardinia was a conversation I had with a local merchant – she actually shared her Amaretti recipe with me! Even back then, I was curious about cookies and I guess she picked up on that. As was mentioned, the original recipe calls for bitter almonds, which I replaced with bitter almond extract, except for one year…
A few years ago, Vittoria (the same wonderful person that shared her Limoncello recipe with me) brought me a bag of processed bitter almonds from Italy. I used them in this amaretti recipe and the taste was incredible! For the record, you need to add about one ounce of these ground almonds. So, if ever you are in Italy, you can look for processed bitter almonds. Don’t forget to declare them at customs!
Hope you get a chance to try this recipe… would love to hear how they turned out for you.
Soft Amaretti Cookies
There are infinite variations of this classic Italian cookie. I'd like to share this simple, gluten free recipe for Soft Amaretti Cookies with all of you.
- 250 grams almond flour scant 2 1/2 cups
- 200 grams sugar approx 1 cup
- lemon zest of one medium lemon
- 3 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon bitter almond extract
- extra granulated sugar for rolling sprinkle 1/3 cup in a large dinner plate, set aside
- Preheat oven to 325° F. Position rack in the center.
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk almond flour and sugar together.
Add grated lemon zest and whisk a few more times. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites to a soft peak stage.
Whisk in the bitter almond extract.
Gently incorporate the egg whites to the dry ingredients. Once the dough is completely moist, you are done.
Use the smallest ice cream scooper to portion the dough (about 1 tablespoon).
With slightly damp hands, press your palms into the plate of sugar.
Roll each ball of dough with your sugar coated palms and then again in the sugar found on the plate.
Place on the paper lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown in color.
Cool before storing at room temperature in airtight containers. Will keep for 3-4 days.
Some recipes will recommend using super fine sugar. I use granulated sugar and am very happy with the results.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is just a rough estimate and variations can occur depending on the specific ingredients used.
Thanks for dropping by,
Ciao for now!
original date of publication: December 13, 2014.
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