These gorgeous little almond biscuits are the bomb. Lightly crisp on the outside. Slightly chewy on the inside. Sweet but a little tart. Jam packed with dried sour cherries. For years I have been making the trek across town to my favourite little Italian pasticceria for my very special but not so secret indulgence. Until very recently when I literally stumbled upon a recipe for them in the fabulous Ottolenghi The Cookbook.
For years I have been too daunted to even consider googling a recipe to try baking amaretti at home. They seemed so exotic and complicated. Outside the realm of consideration. All the while the perfect recipe was sitting patiently at home waiting to be discovered. On the shelves of my rather extensive cookbook collection. It is a little ironic that for years while I have been flicking through my rather well thumbed copy of the Ottolenghi cookbook I have never taken any particular notice of the amaretti recipe. Perhaps it has been overshadowed by the showier, more glamourous offerings in this book. The upshot? These little indulgences taste divine and are unbelievably easy to make. It just goes to show all it takes is the right recipe and an open mind. Who knows this might just open up a whole new world of Italian biscotti baking.
Dried sour cherries are notoriously difficult to source here in Australia. I stocked up at Christmas time when the dried fruits for Christmas cake and pudding making were available in store. They are seasonally available from Whisk and Pin which is stocked in most good delis and health food stores. A good substitute is Whisk and Pin’s more readily available Four Berry Mix, which incidentally also contains dried sour cherries. Failing that I would try dried cranberries.
Sour Cherry Amaretti
Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook
Makes about 20 biscuits
180g ( 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) ground almonds
120g ( 10 tablespoons) caster sugar
zest of one lemon, finely grated
3 drops of natural almond extract
pinch of fine sea salt
60g ( 6 heaped tablespoons) dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
2 large free range egg whites, at room temperature
2 teaspoons honey
plenty of icing sugar for rolling, sifted
PREHEAT the oven to 170 C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Set aside.
MEASURE the ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest, salt and almond extract into a large bowl. Rub together with your fingertips to disperse the zest and essence evenly. Stir in the cherries. Set aside.
USING an electric beater whisk the egg whites with the honey until they reach a soft meringue consistency.
GENTLY fold the meringue into the almond mixture with a fork. At this stage you should have a soft malleable mixture.
USING your hands pinch off 20 tablespoon sized lumps of dough. Roll each lump into a ball and drop into a bowl of sifted icing sugar. Toss gently to coat.
ARRANGE the balls of dough on the lined baking sheet, gently pinching the tops to form a triangular shape.
BAKE in a preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Centre shelf position. When baked the biscuits will be relatively pale in colour and a little chewy in the centre. Allow to cool completely before indulging. Store in an airtight container.