Amaretti cookies are gluten-free Italian pastries made with almonds, egg whites and sugar. A great classic of Italian cuisine!
The special feature of these delicacies is the presence of a small amount of bitter almonds (armelline) in the dough. Armelline are obtained from the kernel of the apricot.
They give the particular intense and somewhat bitter (“amaro“) taste. Hence the name “Amaretti” for these Italian cookies.
There are two main types of Amaretti cookies: Amaretti Morbidi, soft and chewy, they are very similar to almond paste treats. And Amaretti Croccanti, more crispy and crunchy.
The most famous soft Amaretti are those from Sassello, typical of southern Piedmont and the province of Savona in Liguria.
The most popular crispy Amaretti, however, are those from Saronno, a small town in Lombardy.
Amaretti di Saronno are the cookies we are going to show you the step-by-step recipe.
Besides being tasty and delicious crunchy pastries, this type of Amaretti cookies is a valuable ingredient for making other recipes, both sweet and savory.
We often use Amaretti in many traditional recipes. For example, you can find Amaretti in the filling of Pumpkin Ravioli, Baked Peaches, or the classic piedmontese Bonet. They are often used together with chocolate to flavor cakes or even in fillings for roasts.
Making Amaretti cookies at home is not as difficult as you might think. We have chosen the easiest recipe. In fact, all you need is a good mixer in which to grind the ingredients to get the dough. Then form balls to bake.
Try making homemade Amaretti cookies: dry, crispy and fragrant!
They are perfect to enjoy as dessert, served with a small glass of fortified wine. Or enjoy them as a snack with a cup of tea or coffee. Finally add them as an ingredient to your fantastic recipes!
Now let’s start making the authentic Amaretti cookies recipe!
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How to Make Authentic Amaretti Cookies
- Prep Time: 30 Min
- Cook Time: 15 Min
- Servings: about 50 cookies
- 200 g (7 oz) of Blanched Whole Almonds
- 140 g (2/3 cup) of granulated sugar
- 125 g (1 cup) of icing sugar
- 50 g (3 tablespoons) of egg whites (about 2 medium eggs)
- 15 g (about 7 kernels) of Armelline (Bitter Apricot Kernels) or 5 drops of bitter almond extract
- 1 g (1/3 teaspoon) of ammonium bicarbonate or baking powder
Step 1) – To make Amaretti cookies, first of all, you need to toast the peeled almonds. So, line a baking pan with baking paper and spread the almonds well apart.
It only takes 5 minutes in a preheated oven at 200°C (392°F). This step is to dry the almonds and thus to have a finer flour. In addition, roasting gives them a distinctive and special color and aroma. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Step 2) – Now transfer the toasted almonds and Armelline (bitter almonds) to the bowl of a mixer. If you don’t have the bitter almonds but only bitter almond extract, add it at the end of step 4. Then add the granulated sugar.
Step 3) – Finally add the icing sugar and grind everything very finely.
You may want to run the mixer at intervals so as not to overheat the almonds too much. In fact, with the heat, the almonds release some oil that would make the almond flour moist and heavy.
Step 4) – Once you have made a fine flour from almonds and sugar, transfer it to a bowl. Now add ammonium bicarbonate and egg whites.
If you don’t have the Armelline, now is the time to add the bitter almond extract.
Step 5) – Mix well. First with a spoon and then, when the mixture has compacted a bit, finish kneading with your hands.
You should get a soft but firm and homogeneous dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.
Make the Cookies
Step 6) – Now take some of the dough with your hands and form rather small balls, between 2 and 3 cm in diameter (about 3/4 to 1 inch).
Step 7) – Arrange the balls on a baking sheet covered with baking paper, flattening them slightly in the center.
Be careful to make equal-sized balls and arrange them a little apart because they will increase a little in volume during baking. With the given doses you should get about 50 Amaretti Cookies.
Step 8) – Preheat the oven to 170°C (338°F) and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the Amaretti cookies from the oven and let cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet.
As they cool, they will harden completely. Here are the crispy Amaretti cookies ready to be enjoyed!
How to Store Amaretti
Store Amaretti cookies in a glass jar or cookie tin and eat them within a week.
You can prepare the dough balls in advance and then freeze them raw.
Freeze them on a tray, well spaced apart. When they have hardened you can put them in freezer bags. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month.
The Distinctive Ingredients: Armelline and Food Ammonia
Armelline: Bitter Apricot Kernels
There are many Italian cookies and sweets made with almonds, but Amaretti Cookies are different from others because of a distinctive and intense taste.
This taste is given by the presence of the Bitter Apricot Kernels, called Armelline in Italian.
The flavor is slightly bitter, but still pleasant.
Especially in the past, they were used more extensively.
Today, however, Armelline is increasingly difficult to find commercially. Its use is limited to confectionery for making cakes, liqueurs, and syrups.
If you cannot find them, you can replace them with a few drops of natural bitter almond extract.
Food Ammonia (Ammonium Bicarbonate)
Another special ingredient for the preparation of Amaretti cookies is a pinch of food ammonia.
Food ammonia (ammonium bicarbonate) is mainly used for the preparation of dry cookies. This leavening agent gives more firmness to the cookies. So you don’t have to add it if you want a soft dough.
Yuo can also use it in the preparation of tarts. While it is not normally used for the preparation of cakes.
It can be substituted with baking soda with the same result.
Authentic Italian Amaretti Cookies: Some Variants
Amaretti cookies are spread in Italy from north to south in many different variations. But, as we said, they mainly come in two types.
Amaretti di Sassello and Amaretti di Saronno
They can have a soft texture, similar to that of marzipan or almond paste sweets, such as Amaretti di Sassello.
Or there are small ones with a crunchy, crumbly texture, such as Amaretti di Saronno, whose recipe we have shown youa above.
There is also the Amaretto Sardo (amarettos de mendula) very popular and widespread throughout Sardinia.
Amaretti Sardi are characterized by their somewhat larger size (6 to 8 cm – 2 1/3 to 3 1/5 inch) and the presence of a whole almond in the center. They have a crunchy sugar crust on the surface. They are flavored with lemon zest and have a soft texture.
In Sardinian tradition, amaretti de mendula are the sweets of the holidays! In fact, people make these sweets at Christmas and Easter, but also for ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms.
You can flavor the Amaretti by adding very finely grated orange or lemon zest to the dough. Or you can use a few drops of your favorite flavoring or liqueur.
You can also make delicious coffee or cocoa Amaretti. Add half tablespoon of either instant coffee or cocoa powder to the dough. Try them they are really delicious!
Amaretti Cookies: Origins and Curiosities
Amaretto is probably one of the most popular pastry cookies in Italy.It has its roots in the Middle Ages.
It began to spread in Arab countries only around the 13th century. While for a spread of Amaretti cookies throughout Europe it’s necessary to wait for the arrival of the Renaissance.
In Italy it seems to have arrived during the 17th century. They have spread throughout the peninsula. Each locality has its own Amaretti!
Piedmont is the region that claims paternity of these cookies in the soft Sassello-type version. It seems that the oldest are those of Monbaruzzo.
As we have already mentioned, Lombardy also has its famous Amaretti, the crisp and crumbly ones from Saronno.
They are even the symbol of this city from which they take their name. They were born, according to legend, almost by accident. In 1718 a young couple, in order to give a gift to the Cardinal of Milan who was visiting the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Miracles in Saronno, baked a simple dough of egg whites, armellinas and sugar in the oven.
But Amaretti di Saronno certainly do not owe their success over the centuries to chance. Their history, the real one, is inextricably linked to that of the Lazzaroni Family who, having moved to Saronno in the early 18th century, became custodians of this unique recipe.
The fame of Amaretti cookies has spread around the world, transforming the crunchy local cookies into an Italian specialty appreciated worldwide.
Suffice it to say that you can even catch a glimpse of a jar of Amaretti di Saronno in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in the latest chapter in the saga of the famous wizard!