I like pine nuts. I like almond paste. This recipe is the apotheosis of the two together in the simplest form possible. These are criminally easy to make, and require very few ingredients. They tend to run a bit expensive because of those few ingredients, but I think you’ll agree that result is well worth it.
The macaroons are about 1.5 inches in diameter, lightly golden, crisp on the exterior and chewy on the interior. They are lovely for several days, but humidity will affect them. In dry weather, they will slowly dry out and get crunchy and in damp weather they will slowly get chewier. This doesn’t particularly bother me as they never last long enough for it to matter. 3 days and they are long gone.
These macaroons are extremely similar to Nancy macaroons barring the addition of pine nuts. This recipe is slightly adapted from a book of Italian sweets I have. I say slightly because the book calls for 1 cup of pine nuts, and my version effectively requires about 3x that much. In my version, pine nuts aren’t just an accent, they are an equal partner. I’ve also never managed to make mine look like the picture in the book. In fact, I like mine better than the picture in the book. Mine are domed higher and the pine nuts stick out at funny angles and the color is much lighter. And who needs powdered sugar, anyway? Forget the powdered sugar. These don’t need it.
This is a flourless recipe which may be of use to folks during Pesach. Because the ingredients, except for the egg whites, can be kept for long periods of time if properly stored, these cookies also qualify as Pantry Magic. Buy the ingredients when they are on sale, and always keep some around. Because they take some time to bake and do so at a low temperature, these cookies are easy enough to do while folding laundry, cooking something else, or noding. So, if you’re expecting guests, or it’s the holidays and you need something special, or perhaps you just want something yummy for yourself or your sweetie, there’s no delay between desire and execution.
Pine nut macaroons
Makes 60-70 cookies
1 pound good quality almond paste (I buy it in 8 oz. cans when it’s on sale. Note, almond paste is not the same as marzipan. Marzipan is made with almond paste and additional sugar, and is quite a bit sweeter.).
- 1 c. sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature.
3 c. pine nuts (also known as pignoli, piñon, I store these in the freezer where they keep well for months)
Preheat the oven to 300°F and evenly space the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
Break the almond paste up into small chunks and place into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix on medium/medium-low speed until they are well blended in to what looks rather like slightly lumpy sand. A stand mixer is the easiest for this, as it can take a while.
Once the almond paste is mostly broken up small, and the pieces are all smaller than lentils, gradually add the egg whites and increase the beater speed. Beat until it’s a smooth sticky paste. There should be no lumps and it should look a bit lighter from all the air being beaten in.
Scrape it down, ideally with a rubber scraper, and make sure there are no lumps or unblended spots. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Pour about a cup of pine nuts into a container about twice the size, a pint sized round plastic take-out container works well.
This next part is easiest with a #100 spring loaded ice cream scoop (#100 = 100 level scoops per quart, and it holds just shy of a level teaspoon), but you can do it with two teaspoons too. One to scoop, one to scrape.
For each cookie, scoop out a teaspoonful of dough. Round out its shape, and drop it into the pine nuts. If you use a spring loaded scoop, make sure it’s a level scoop or the cookies will be bigger. Note, this is a very small amount of dough. It’s about the size of an unshelled, hazelnut. They get bigger as they bake due to all the air that gets beaten into them. Of course, you can make bigger cookies. They’ll just take longer to bake and won’t use up quite as many pine nuts.
Gently shake the container around so that pine nuts stick to the bottom and sides of the little ball of dough. Don’t cover the top. Then, scoop up the ball with your fingers, using the pine nuts to shield your fingers from the sticky sticky dough. Flip the ball over onto the parchment paper, naked side down. Add pine nuts to any large bare spot that might have been missed, and continue with the next cookie. Place them about 1.5 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Note, once you've placed a cookie, you can't move it! So get it right the first time.
Bake for about half an hour. The dough will be a light golden tan color, not that far removed from blond. The nuts will be starting to toast golden. They will not be dark at all, just a lovely mellow brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes. Then, remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. They shouldn’t stick to the parchment paper, but if they do, gently flip the sheet over, and brush the paper on the underside of the cooled cookies with water. Let it sit for a bit, and then peel off the paper. Since you are the baker, you get to eat all the stray pine nuts that fall off the cookies. Please do not repeatedly drop the cookies to make the pine nuts fall off.
They are crunchy right out of the oven, and the centers will be chewier upon cooling. Store them in an airtight tin, etc. etc. These don’t keep well beyond about a week. Their texture starts to suffer after a few days, and the nuts will go rancid eventually. Do not save these for a rainy day. Eat them double quick, and share them too. These are serious cookies, extremely filling because they are so high in nuts. No matter how many you think you can eat in a day, it’s really better to share.
If you should run out of pine nuts (as I did with a double batch, 1 1/2 trays from finishing), try placing a single semi-sweet chocolate chip in the center of each nekkid macaroon instead of adorning it with pine nuts. Chocolate is a lovely complement to the almond, and it's rather cute looking too. Just be sure to let them cool completly before attempting to remove them from the parchment, or the bottom may stay behind when you lift the cookie.
Chris-O says re pine nut macaroon: these are really popular in italian families (or at least with mine and the italian families i know); we just refer to them as ''pignioli cookies'', tho. ''biscotti di pignioli'', i suppose, if'n you wanna get fancy.
A testimonial from one who's tried mine!: doyle says re pine nut macaroon: Oh, my goodness! As goood as they look on paper, real life can't be beat!
Another testimonial!: Myrkabah says Also: If you are ever in the mood to get hitched to a blonde, musclebound guy from california, my friend Don proposed to you after a single bite of your pine nut macaroons. ::grin::
Yet another satisfied cookie sampler!: wertperch says re pine nut macaroon: If ever you need testimony as to the golden-ness, crispness or chewyness, look no further. We yummed 'em up!
The original recipe came from La Dolce Vita by Michele Scicolone, William Morrow and Co., 1993.