Sunday, January 5, 2020

Holiday House Recipe - Our Favorite Pignoli Cookie

After many years of baking, testing, and refinement (AKA: eating them non stop each Christmas), I’m ready to share our family's favorite Pignoli Cookie recipe. These are, to my mind, the best holiday cookie of all time. They are good year round and versatile enough to serve from breakfast (they are the ultimate coffee cookie) straight through to dessert. 

As if that weren't enough,  they are naturally Gluten Free and Dairy Free. Pignoli are truly cookies for us all. With so many great things going for them, the fact that they can also be prepped in minutes have solidified their top spot in my holiday (and every day) cookie pantheon. Before we go on to reveal the house recipe, I must give my thanks to genius chef, Lidia Bastianich, for the original recipe. I've made hers many times over the years, and while it is delicious, I have found that we prefer ours much less sweet. 

We use only half the sugar of the original, but the ratio is very flexible and can adjust to your personal taste. If you want them sweeter, you can add a little more sugar, but I’d suggest stopping at 3/4 cup. Also, our cookies have evolved to include a dusting of confectioner's sugar once finished. This extra layer of sugar is the perfect counterbalance to the lightly sweet and almond-y chewiness of the cookie interior, complemented by the firmly textured, savory and toasty pine nut flavor. These cookies also make the perfect host/hostess gift. The batches you give don't have to be huge (a dozen is quite nice in fact) because they happen to be so satisfying that you really only need one or two (but don’t feel bad if you can’t stop). Pignoli Cookies also last a few weeks frozen in an airtight container.
They freeze well too! Recipe follows below.

Our Favorite Pignoli Cookies
Makes 25-30 

14 ounces of Almond Paste - I prefer to use one tube of Odense Brand plus One Box of Solo Brand (you’ll need to remove one ounce as solo comes in 8 Oz boxes). 
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 large Egg Whites 
Finely grated zest of one big Orange 
1.5 cups whole Pine Nuts
A few Tablespoons of Confectioner’s Sugar for dusting 

2 to 3 medium to large Baking Sheets lined with Parchment Paper


Preheat oven to 350 with rack in the middle. Crumble almond paste into the work bowl of your food processor fitted with a whisk and process until you get fine crumbs. Add sugar gradually as you continue to process. Once you’ve added all the sugar, add the egg whites and orange zest. Spread the pine nuts on a plate. Form the dough into 1 inch sized balls (about 2 Tablespoons) by rolling them with your palms. Having your hands just slightly damp is helpful in doing this. Then roll the balls in the pine nuts and place them on the baking sheets with a little space in between. (Photos below). 

Bake until the pine nuts become slightly golden but not burnt (I watch them very carefully at the end) about 14-15 minutes.  The cookie will appear very, very soft but will firm once you let them cool on baking sheet and then transfer to a plate or rack. Once cooled, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar!

Ready for the oven

The final dusting

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