Southern Italian Cookies

Guest post + recipe today by Marie Bianco, my dear friend, food writer and author. This is one of her favorite holiday cookie recipes.

Edible holiday gifts always make a hit and this one is about as easy as it can get. Even school age children can get into the act. 

Pignoli cookies can cost up to $16 to $20 a pound if you buy them at an Italian bakery, but these Southern Italian holiday favorites are so easy to make you’ll want to make plenty and give them as gifts.

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Pignoli Cookies

8 ounces pignoli (pine nuts)

½ cup granulated sugar

½ confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Dash salt

1 (8 ounce) can almond paste

2 egg whites, slightly beaten

½ teaspoon almond extract

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with Teflon or Silpat liners or lightly butter the sheets. Place pignoli in a shallow dish.

2. Combine granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl and lightly whisk. 

3. Break up the almond paste with your fingers and place in a mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Add the eggs whites and beat on low speed until smooth. You can use a hand mixer, but you’ll need a strong arm if you do it by hand. 

4. Add the almond extract and the flour mixture and beat until flour is blended in, about 30 seconds. Do not over beat.

5. Using a teaspoon, scoop up a rounded spoon of dough and cover it with pignoli. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Wash sticky dough off your hands and keep them clean. 

6. Bake the cookies 18 to 25 minutes, depending if you like them soft or chewy. Cool 1 minute before removing them from the rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Makes about 30 cookies.

Hints for making pignoli.

Always use almond paste, not marzipan which is a combination of almond paste and sugar.

Break up the almond paste into small pieces with your fingers. If the almond paste has hardened, grate it using the large hole on a four-sided grater.

A small amount of flour will keep the cookies from spreading too much.

The size of the dough ball determines the size of the cookie. Make them smaller if you want more cookies.

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