Let’s finish off 2021 on a sweet note. The recipe for these soft, chewy almond cookies comes from Rachel Roddy’s outstanding first cookbook, Five Quarters (2015). She also covered pasticcini di mandorle way back in 2010 on her food blog, Rachel Eats.
These pasticcini di mandorle contain only four ingredients: ground almonds, icing (aka powdered) sugar, lemon zest and egg. Roddy sampled the cookies while in Sicily, although versions exist across Italy. Carol Field’s The Italian Baker (1985, 2011) has a similar cookie recipe that hails from the Italian Alps. Bolle di neve (“Snowballs”) contain ground candied orange peel instead of lemon zest and egg whites in place of whole egg, but otherwise these Alpine and Sicilian cookies are kissing cousins.
Here’s Roddy’s pasticcini di mandorle recipe, which makes 15 to 20 cookies.
350g ground almonds
200g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
grated zest of 1 large unwaxed lemon
2 eggs, gently beaten with a fork
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and, using a fork or your fingers, bring the mixture together to form a soft, sticky dough.
Dust your hands with icing sugar and scoop out a walnut-sized lump of dough, then gently shape and roll it between your palms into a ball. Dust the ball with more icing sugar and put it on the baking tray. Continue until you have used up all the mixture. Make an indentation in the centre of each ball with your finger so that they cook evenly.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown underneath and cracked, crisp and very pale gold on top. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool. They will keep in an airtight tin for up to a month.
I converted 180°C/gas mark 4 to 350°F and baked without issue. Roddy writes that the “mixture will spread from walnut-sized balls into 5-cm biscuits, so space them out accordingly….” The photo of pasticcini di mandorle in Five Quarters definitely look flatter than my bake, but I sort of like the looks of the rounder version better. I used Bob’s Red Mill super-fine almond flour, so maybe that accounts for the difference. Or I didn’t shape gently enough? Or…who knows.
Make sure you follow the recipe and dust your hands with powdered sugar to roll the cookies. This dough is so incredibly sticky! But employing a little powdered sugar takes the fight right out of the dough.
Wishing everyone A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year. Fingers crossed that 2022 turns out better than the last few years.