Sicillian-style lemon amaretti

lemon_amarettiThese amaretti are halfway between the hard little amaretti you get with a coffee after dinner and a macaron. They are crisp at the edges and soft in the middle.

There’s a rich almond flavour as you’d expect but I have also spiked these with amaretto liqueur and lemon zest.

The ingredients and consistency are similar to some of the method for macarons, but the handling and baking are different. For instance, no having to create little ‘feet’.

Notes

If you don’t want to add the amaretto liqueur, add instead 1 teaspoon of a good vanilla extract (not essence) and 1 teaspoon of milk. This will avoid the alcohol but still give the right viscosity for the mix.

Tips for ensuring the amaretti – or other bakes – don’t stick:

  • If you have any rice paper this can be used
  • Lightly oil a scrunched-up paper kitchen towel, then rub this over the baking paper (so there is only a thin covering), followed by a sprinkling of flour

Makes about 25

Equipment

  • Blender or food processor
  • Two large bowls
  • Balloon whisk, hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Baking tray, lined with baking parchment or a silicon mat (be warned: these are very sticky so you need good quality baking paper)
  • Piping bag and large round nozzle (optional)
  • Large metal spoon or spatula
  • Wire rack, spatula or fish slice

Ingredients

  • Ground almonds – 150g
  • Caster sugar – 125g
  • Plain flour (or rice flour to be gluten free) – 2  tablespoons
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Amaretto – 1 tablespoons
  • Egg whites – 2 large
  • Zest of a lemon (a lovely, large unwaxed Sicilian lemon if you can get hold of one)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (about 1 – 2 teaspoons)
  • Plus – a sprinkling of icing sugar

Method

    Warm the oven to 150C fan / 170C conventional (this is unusually low for biscuits, but it is needed)

  1. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar for the meringue
  2. Put the almonds, (the remainder of the) caster sugar, salt and flour in the blender or food processor and pulse until very fine. This may seem excessive if you are starting with ground almonds, but it gives a much smoother surface that these amaretti call for
  3. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks, adding in the tablespoon of caster sugar you put to one side at the end, and a quick squeeze of lemon. Then mix it all through
  4. Tip the ground-up, dry ingredients into a large bowl and take about a third of the meringue and fold it in. Use a small amount of meringue to start with to ‘loosen’ the mix and make it easier as a whole
  5. Take another third of the meringue and now more carefully fold the meringue into the mix. It’s best to use a large metal spoon, or failing that, a good flexible spatula and use a figure of eight movement. You’re aiming to keep ‘fluffiness’ from the meringue whilst mixing it all thoroughly. This is a balancing act and you will end up knocking quite a lot of air out but the trick is limiting this as much as possible and making sure there are no lumps of meringue or dry mix lurking. This is the same process for any mix that uses separately whipped egg whites, such as macarons, a Japonaise or Dacquoise, for example
  6. When it’s all incorporated fully up to now, add in the remaining meringue and add the amaretto (or the vanilla and milk) and the lemon zest and again swirl in
  7. If you want to, you can now transfer the mix to a piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe rounds of the mix onto the prepared baking trays. Alternatively, you can just use a spoon to put rounds of mix on to the tray
  8. Place the tray(s) in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes
  9. The edges will start to go a golden colour when ready (don’t panic and think this is far too long for biscuits: because of the gentler-than-normal oven temperature these do need at least 25 minutes)
  10. Leave to cool a little in the tray (they will bend and squash if you remove too early) then transfer with a fish slice or spatula to a wire rack to fully cool
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