Almonds are so abundant here that when I get them on sale, I freeze them and save them for just this reason.
This cookie is a little different in that it has no flour, and no added fat. The nuts do most the work here. Slivered almonds are ground into a paste that replaces flour and butter as the base of the cookie. Pine nuts, (pignoli) cover the cookie.
I learned to make these at first because they're very expensive to ship and they are better when they're fresh. Now I make them so I can be sure that the ingredients are organic and as close to our region as possible. These can be a little tricky to make at first, but well worth it.
Time: 3 hours
Yield: 45 cookies
2-1/2 cups raw, slivered, almonds
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp pure almond extract
2 cups pignoli nuts
Remove the eggs from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Spread the slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast them on the middle rack of the oven until they are slightly toasted (approx 20 minutes). They should not turn brown, just slightly more golden than before. Shake them occasionally to move them around so they toast evenly. This enhances their flavor. Remove the almonds from the oven and let them cool.
Using the metal blade of your food processor, grind the almonds into a paste. If you are using a blender, blend them in 4-5 batches. The paste will stick together if you press on it, but it will still fall apart. Don't process them too long or you'll make almond butter!
Place the almond paste in a mixing bowl. Work in 1 cup of sugar until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
Separate the eggs. In a clean, cool, bowl, beat the egg whites into a soft meringue. It will start to form peaks but they should not hold the shape (yet). Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue to beat until it forms peaks that hold the shape but are still somewhat wet in appearance. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond paste.
Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Place about one third of the pignoli nuts into a small bowl (you will use all of the pignolis but this keeps the entire bowl of nuts from getting gooey). Have 2 metal teaspoons ready. Using one spoon, scoop about a teaspoon of the mixture. Using the other spoon, push the mixture into the pignoli nuts. With both spoons, move the dough around until it is round and covered with pignoli nuts.
Place the cookies on the parchment paper leaving about an inch of space between. The cookies will flatten slightly as they bake.
Bake the cookies on the middle rack of your oven for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack when they are done. The cookies may not appear brown and they will be very soft. Don't worry, they firm up when they cool. Once they have cooled completely, place them in an airtight container with layers of wax paper between.