Two Dessert Rule: Amaretti Cookies

26 Feb

Dear Yolo,

I’m every so slightly fuzzy brained this morning as last night we the Hurtys over for dinner and I drank oodles of wine. The husband Bernard is a friend of Roscoe’s from cycling and his wife Phoebe is a writer. They’ve lived in Brooklyn for a million years. We’ve been to their house a couple times (they live in the most gorgeous brownstone in Park Slope) and we were finally able to coax them over to our apartment. They’re really lovely people, both so intelligent, interesting, lively and idiosyncratic and they are SUCH a cute couple. They just celebrated their 29th anniversary and you can still tell how much they love eachother. Not in a gross or obvious way.  They’re what Kurt Vonnegut describes as a “duprass” in Cat’s Cradle if I remember correctly.

For my part, I think the guests felt welcome, the kitchen wasn’t a wreck, and while we had several courses, I don’t think it looked like I was working too hard. And, the results of my labor were well received by our gracious guests so I think I count the evening as a success.

As is my custom, I made two desserts.  This way, if dinner sucks, everyone can just fill up on dessert. Everyone loves dessert! AND, as I like to try out experimental recipes on new victims guests if I make two desserts, I can be fairly certain at least one of them will turn out okay. Plus, two desserts feels decadent and fancy and scores me big points with anyone who was raised, as I was, to equate food with affection. I am so simple. I can’t believe I wasn’t abducted as a child.

Last night was one occasion where I was relieved I made two desserts. I tried making a Tangerine Bavarian which I thought would be light and refreshing. Bavarians are one of those weird desserts in the back of The Joy of Cooking and Julia Child’s books that I’ve always wanted to try. I understand it had its heyday as a sophisticated dessert in the 60’s and since has fallen into relative obscurity. It’s essentially fancy-pants custardy Jello.

I couldn’t find tangerines so I used oranges and I must have overcooked the custard because it ended up tasting very eggy. And that eggy-orangey taste combo? Not good. Darren even said he liked it but I thought it was gross– I couldn’t eat it. The accompanying Tangerine Caramel Sauce made it slightly better because of it’s strong flavor, but while the sauce was interesting (a Bay leaf was involved) it still wasn’t what I would call good. I kind of want to give the Bavarian another crack– maybe a more basic flavor like chocolate which seems like it would be harder to screw up but possibly they’re just gross and that’s the reason no one ever makes them.

All this would have been traumatizing but I had baked some Amaretti this morning as dessert #2 to serve alongside the Bavarian. I like mine a little chewy and these are certainly that. Plus, they’re way easy to make and there’s no flour. It’s a one bowl food processor affair.

I whipped a first batch of whipped cream with zest to be folded into the custard for the Bavarian a little too long (it hadn’t turned into butter yet but was just a little too stiff) so I put it aside and used that as filling and made little macaron style sandwich cookies. They were a hit and Phoebe asked for the recipe.

I have photographed them here with Bernard’s placemat that he colored because it’s awesome and Roscoe and I agree the best placemat a guest of ours has ever colored.  So 2012. So now.

And now the recipe. 🙂

Amaretti Cookies
Chewy, sweet, flourless Italian almond cookies.
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2009

Similar to macarons but much easier to make! I don’t have a pastry bag, so I roll hood-style with this and use a ziplock sandwich bag and cut one of the corners.

Yield: About four dozen cookies, or half as much if you sandwich them

1 (7-ounce) tube pure almond paste (not marzipan; 3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt
2 large egg whites at room temperature for at least 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 300°F and place racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.

Pulse almond paste, sugar and salt in a food processor until broken up, then add egg whites and puree until smooth. Transfer batter to pastry bag  fitted with a 3/8-inch tip and pipe 3/4-inch rounds (1/3 inch high) about 1-inch apart in pans. Dip a fingertip in water and gently tamp down any peaks.

Bake, rotating and switching position of pans halfway through, until golden and puffed, 15 to 18 minutes.

[These will puff up, so do leave that 1″ between.]

Let cookies cool almost completely in their pans. Once cool, they’re much easier to cleanly remove from the parchment. You can make them into sandwich cookies by spreading some jam between them. You can also use (as I did) stiffly whipped cream with some zest or liquor to flavor or ganache (3 ounces of semi-sweet chips melted with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream, then left to thicken a bit would be enough to sandwich the whole batch).

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two or frozen up to one month.

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