Almonds have been essential to Italian cooking for centuries. They were used to make sauces during the early Renaissance, especially during Lent. Today, as then, they are used in sauces and in fillings for meats; for stuffings for tortellini and vegetables, for marzipan, in cakes, breads, and of course, in biscotti. These Amaretti are just one of many kinds to be found all over Italy.
1 pound unblanched whole almonds
2 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut sheets of parchment paper to fit 4 cookie sheets.
In a food processor or by hand, finely chop the almonds and place them in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, mix the confectioner's sugar and baking powder together. Add to the almonds and mix well.
In a separate bowl (preferably copper), beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the almond mixture a little at a time until the mixture is well blended.
Using two soup spoons, shape the batter into balls about 2 inches in diameter and place them about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. They will spread while baking.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until firm to the touch and golden brown. Let the cookies cool completely on the parchment paper before removing; otherwise, they will break. Store the cookies in an airtight container.
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