As regular readers know, we make small treats to bring down to our Monday evening walk on the nights we volunteer. It gives us the chance to try new recipes and see how the other volunteers like them. But, we often feel badly because there are a few people who don’t eat anything with gluten, and almost everything we make involves flour. Now, we could get gluten-free all-purpose flour, but we prefer finding recipes that are naturally gluten-free, at least when we can. So, when we saw this recipe in Ciao Biscotti, by Domenica Marchetti, we figured we’d give it a whirl.
It’s essentially an Almond Macaroon recipe made using pistachios in place of almonds. The other change is dusting confectioners’ sugar over the top of the cookies to give them a more interesting look. One thing we do, for neatness, portion control, and nicer-looking cookies, is to pipe the batter. You don’t have to, but if you want to, we’ll show you how.
Not much here, but we’d suggest that you use eggs from free-range hens. They do taste better, and, while they’re more expensive, we think they’re worth it. Not only for us, but for the hens and the environment where they live. For the unsalted pistachios, we picked our up at Trader Joe’s; they have a good selection of nuts at reasonable prices.
Procedure in detail:
Shell pistachios. If you haven’t done so already, start shelling the pistachios. It goes faster if you can get a helper. To get 180 grams of shelled pistachios, we used about 3/4 of a one-pound bag, or around 12 ounces of pistachios in the shell.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment for easy cleanup. If you’re going to be piping the cookies, consider making a template like the one shown in the picture. Simply slip it under the parchment, pipe the cookies to the exact size, then slip it out and save it for the next time you need to pipe macaroons.
Toast pistachios. We’ll give you two ways to toast the pistachios: one, you can place them in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat for 7 to 9 minutes, stirring very frequently, until they’re fragrant and lightly browned, or two, place them on a baking sheet and pop them into the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Either way, make sure to remove them from the pan or baking sheet immediately; otherwise, they’ll continue to toast from the residual heat.
Grind pistachios. Place the pistachios and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few time to start the nuts grinding. We have the problem that a bit of sugar and nuts spew out through the seam between the lid and the bowl, so we place the entire food processor into the kitchen sink while we work; once done, we brush it off, place it on the counter, and wash down the sink. Once the nuts are coarsely chopped, turn the processor on and let run until the pistachios are finely ground, about a minute.
Add egg whites and almond extract. With the processor running, pour the egg whites and almond extract into the feed tube and let run until a thick batter forms and the mixture is completely moistened, about 30 seconds. Naturally, you can do as we did and add the almond extract to the egg whites before pouring them into the food processor. It’s just a little easier.
Transfer to piping bag. If you’re not going to pipe, simply place rounded teaspoonfuls of dough on the baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space between each cookie. Otherwise, break out a piping bag — we use disposable bags, so we just snip off the tip to make a hole instead of using a piping tip — and fit it with your 1/4- to 3/8-inch piping tip. If you have a helper, have him or her hold the bag while you fill it. If you’re doing this by yourself, place the bag in a large measuring cup or something like a quart mason jar and fold the opening of the bag over the rim. Now you can scoop in the batter. Once filled, scrape it down towards the tip and twist the open end closed.
Pipe. Hold the piping bag vertically and pipe cookies that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. We use the guide shown above for uniformly- sized cookies. If you wish, you can use a dampened finger to press down the “tails” that form when you remove the piping bag.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the cookies. An easy way to get a light coating is to place the confectioners’ sugar in a small strainer and tap the edge to shake out an even coating of sugar. We happen to have a shaker can that does the same thing.
Bake. Place the cookies in the oven and bake, rotating front to back and top to bottom halfway through, for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are firm near the edges and slightly soft in the middle. This will result in a cookie that’s crispy and chewy.
Cool. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to a cooling rack. An easy way to remove the cookies is to give them a slight twist and lift.
These are easy and really tasty. We will say that they tasted more of almond than of pistachios, but they were still very good. We might cut back on the almond extract next time, perhaps to 3/4 of a teaspoon. We always like the crunchy/chewy texture that adds a lot of textural contrast, and really liked the visual appeal after applying the confectioners’ sugar. The sugar made for one really nice-looking cookie. And, how can you go wrong with a cookie that’s mostly nuts? Five stars.