Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spumoni Cookies

This is not your ordinary cookie. When you look at the top five most popular cookies, you get chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, peanut butter, oatmeal, and sugar cookies—nothing remotely similar to spumoni cookies. And you won’t find them on long lists of cookie flavors. These are very special cookies—the kind you might bake for your closest friend, for a special occasion, or to impress the recipient.

Many years ago, when we lived in New Orleans, there was favorite local ice cream place in the French Quarter called Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream Parlor on Ursulines Street. It was here that I first tasted spumoni ice cream: a brightly-colored ice cream with chocolate, pistachios, dried fruit, and lemons. To this day, spumoni ice cream is a favorite of mine.  Alas, Brocato’s has moved uptown, but back then it was the coolest place, with slowly turning ceiling fans, tile floors, and rows of apothecary jars. In these cookies, I tried to recreate that taste sensation. The recipe specifies maraschino cherries because Alex loves them, but chopped dried cherries taste just as good, even if they are not brightly colored and festive. I began my recipe development with Almond Cloud Cookies from King Arthur’s website so you’ll notice some resemblance, but these cookies contain less sugar, less almond paste, and lots of interesting flavor add-ins.

The batter looks so pretty!

(Makes 20 cookies)
8 ounces almond paste
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons Amaretto (or almond extract)
½ cup cacao nibs
½ cup chopped pistachios
12 maraschino cherries, chopped and blotted dry (or ½ cup chopped dried cherries)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, blend the almond paste, sugar, salt, and egg whites until the mixture is a smooth paste.
3. By hand, stir in the nibs, nuts, cherries, and lemon zest.
4. Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls and press down slightly with dampened fingers to flatten the tops.
5. Bake the cookies for 35 minutes, until they're brown around the edges. Allow to set for 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack.

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