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Monday, July 3, 2017

Nonna Caterina's Green Almond Cookies

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post


Francesca Piemonte Slesinger's Sicilian mother used to make these cookies during the Christmas season in Upstate New York. Her mother and aunt would blanch whole almonds, then toast them, adding Sicilian bitter almonds or bitter almond extract. They were the most prized of the dozens of varieties that were baked, for their pure almond flavor and luscious texture.

Make Ahead: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week. They can be frozen for up to 1 month.


Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
1 pound blanched, toasted almonds (preferably whole; not browned; see NOTE)
1 pound granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 or 2 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 to 3 large egg whites

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Dust a clean, smooth work surface with confectioners' sugar.

Combine half the almonds and half the sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until light, powdery and no longer grainy, like snow. Watch carefully, as too much processing can break down oils in the nuts. Transfer to a mixing bowl; repeat with the remaining almonds and sugar, keeping the second batch in the food processor.

Add half the baking powder, half the honey and half the almond extract. Pulse to mix in, then add a drop of food coloring, if desired; pulse long enough to make sure the color gets evenly distributed. With the motor running, gradually add about 1 tablespoon of the egg whites, stopping when the mixture just comes together. The mixture should be quite firm, almost like barely moistened beach sand. Transfer to the work surface.

Repeat with the remaining almond-sugar mixture, the remaining baking powder, honey and almond extract, and a drop of food coloring, if desired. At this point, if you think the first half of the mixture is softer or firmer than it ought to be, add less or more of some of the remaining egg whites. Pulse to form a firm mixture. Add to the first half on the work surface, using your clean hands to combine the mixture into a single, uniform mound of dough.

Divide the dough evenly in half, forming two logs that are about 18 inches long and a generous inch in diameter, dusting frequently with more confectioners’ sugar as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cut each log crosswise into 16 equal pieces, dusting each one with additional confectioners’ sugar if needed to keep it from sticking. Grasp the ends of each piece, pushing them gently in opposite directions to form a kind of thick tilde (~) shape. Arrange on the baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 1 inch apart. Use a pastry brush to gently brush any excess confectioners' sugar off the cookies.

Bake one sheet at a time (on the middle rack) for 10 to 12 minutes, watching carefully. Remove from the oven just as cookies' bottom edges begin to brown. The cookies will have spread a bit; they should still look pale green and be quite tender to the touch.

Let them sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Repeat to bake the remaining cookies.

NOTE: To toast the almonds, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring them every few minutes to prevent them from browning.

Adapted from a recipe by Slesinger, of Piemonte Biscotti in Bethesda.

Tested by Effie Dawson and Bonnie S. Benwick.

Nutritional Facts
Calories per cookie: 140
% Daily Values*
Total Fat: 7g 11%
Saturated Fat: 1g 5%
Cholesterol: 0mg 0%
Sodium: 15mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates: 18g 6%
Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%
Sugar: 15g
Protein: 3g

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