Saturday, December 18, 2010

My New Favorite

apricot_amaretti2


When I was in London in October I made sure we had time to have lunch at Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi is everything I want in a food shop. Huge platters and bowls of the most colorful and delicious salads. I'm not talking about sad wilted lettuce greens with a couple of chunks of pale tomatoes. I'm talking about grilled broccolini with mild red chili peppers and toasted garlic or roasted potatoes with sunchokes, olives, lemon and sage or red rice and quinoa with orange, pistachios and arugula.

But Ottolenghi is really known for their lovely pastries, cakes and cookies piled high on cake stands and trays. From obscenely large multicolored, multiflavored meringues to perfectly precious cupcakes, muffins and teacakes and bow tied cellophane bags of cheese straws or cookies, their abundant display of baked goods beckons you inside.

I find the place stylish yet unpretentious. It isn't frou-frou or fancy. Just great imaginative food done well with quality ingredients. Even though San Francisco is a food mecca, I have yet to find someplace similar.

I first tasted these amaretti at Ottolenghi's Islington location. Like most things in London, they were not cheap. 5.50 GBP for a bag of 7 cookies. Since it's basically lightly whipped egg whites stirred into ground almonds, I could easily make them at home. Armed with my copy of the Ottolenghi cookbook, I cranked out a batch of the amaretti. Two days later I baked another batch. And yet another batch.

This amaretti is now my new favorite cookie. I used dried apricots, bergamot orange zest and orange blossom honey in the ones pictured. But this recipe is so versatile that any dried fruit and citrus zest you like can be used. I like dried cherries with orange zest, dried blueberries with lemon zest or dried cranberries with lime zest. You can use any honey you like or even agave nectar.

My amaretti always seem to turn out a bit softer than the ones sold by Ottolenghi, but I'm not complaining. They have a wonderful almond flavor that is given a spark by the citrus zest. I love the jewel like nuggets of apricots. I think the powdered sugar coating is non-negotiable but the cookies will taste just as lovely without it.

apricot_amaretti_interior


Amaretti
(adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)
(makes 20 biscuits/cookies)

180 grams ground blanched almonds
120 grams sugar (granulated, superfine or caster)
1 tablespoon finely grated citrus zest
a pinch of kosher salt
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tsp pure natural almond extract
60 g dried fruit, roughly chopped
powdered or icing sugar for rolling

[Note: For this recipe I always weigh my almonds and sugar so I cannot vouch for the volume measurements. According to joyofbaking.com, 180 grams finely ground almonds = 1 3/4 cups and 120 grams granulated sugar = 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons.]

Preheat your oven to 170C/340F. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground almonds, sugar, citrus zest and salt. Rub everything together with your fingertips to disperse the zest evenly. Alternatively, give it quick whirl in a food processor.

Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the egg whites and honey until medium peaks form. Fold the meringue and almond extract into the almond and sugar mixture. Add dried fruit. Your dough should be a soft but malleable paste.

apricot_amaretti_paste


With your hands, roll the dough into 20 balls or logs or whatever irregular shape you desire. Roll them in powdered sugar. (I like to use a small ice cream disher to scoop out 20 balls of dough. Then I shape each ball into a flattened log and roll them in powdered sugar.)

apricot_amaretti_portioned
apricot_amaretti_powdered


Place on a baking sheet tray lined with parchment paper and bake at 170C/340F for about 12 minutes. They should turn a very light golden color, but stay relatively pale and chewy in the center.

apricot_amaretti_baked

12 comments:

oabgirl said...

These cookies sound perfect for my cookie exchange. I will most likely try it with cranberries.

Connie said...

Wow, these sound really good! And, I also like the fact that they do not have butter in them for my niece who is currently not eating any dairy products...I've been searching for treats I can make for her.
Thanks for sharing...and Happy Holidays!

crustabakes said...

These sound wonderful. Perfect for the christmas cookie platter!

Nicole @ Arctic Garden Studio said...

I have your other Amaretti recipe on my list to bake this week, but with the arrival of a case of citrus today, I think I might have to try these instead...

Melissa (The Sword in the Scone) said...

I'm making a similar cookie for Christmas, but the won't be as nice as these.

Michelle said...

These cookies look YummY! Loved browsing through your blog and I especially loved pictures of your chocolate cake.. I have that down on my to-do list! :)

I write a small cooking blog on the Onsugar network called

www.barefootcookingwithinagarten.onsugar.com

Lucy said...

I love Ottolenghi - this post seems like a good reason to have another visit. I know I would not be able to resist these cookies - will have to make soon!

Alpineberry Mary said...

Lucy - You are so lucky to be able to visit Ottolenghi whenever you want to!

Deena said...

Cookies are a personal choice when it comes to baking... I think I have 100 collections of cookie recipes and pretty sure I will include this yummy looking cookie recipe. I would love to try it ASAP. Love it that you shared.

Vaya said...

Mary, I stumbled across your blog and felt compelled to try baking! I made these Amaretti's with your recipe and they turned out divine!! I live on my own however I shared a few with my colleagues and they absolutely concur, these are a wonderful biscuit. Also I still have some left over from when I made them a week ago and they are still moist and yummy as if they were baked yesterday. They are a winner!!! Love love our blog. I will be attempting to try more recipes even though I dont bake. Thankyou for sharing your beautiful recipes and photos. All the way from Australia, Vaya. xo

Vaya said...

oops meant to say 'your' blog :-)

Eugen said...

My previous try (Espresso Praline Muffin) was very appreciated by the guys at work. Tomorrow I'll present them with this "favorite". I'm not a fan of lemon zest so I changed that with vanilla extract. Also I'm pleased to see that I'm not the only one using cranberries for this recipe.
The wife loved the result. Thanks for the post.