This past weekend we enjoyed just another wonderful feast with friends at Angelino and Peppa's. The place was packed when we arrived, and the only open table was the one we'd reserved. Our mixed antipasti was followed by coltello...something from the inside of the pig, I don't even want to know what it is...but it was tasty, and accompanied by freshly made, hot-off-the-griddle torta al testo. Next came the pasta dishes. First, lasagna, light as a feather, made with peas and zucchini and parmesan cheese. Next was the dish we'd specifically requested for our friends - fresh tagliatelle with porcini. The fragrance when this is served, gently lifted out of a huge bowl and placed on your plate until you say basta! is intoxicating! Okay, I was starting to feel full, and really, just another bite or two of the pasta with porcini and I would have been satisfied, but of course the end was nowhere in sight!
Cinghiale (wild boar) was next, gently roasted and served in it's own juices. More hot torta al testo helped us sop up every last bit of juice. After the cinghiale came the grilled meats...grilled over an open fire in the kitchen's huge fireplace....goose, pork and sausages. Oh yes, and skillet-fried potatoes! Oh my! And of course some spinach, or maybe it was chicory, but whatever, it was delicious as usual. And last but not least came the salad, just lettuce and tomatoes dressed with oil and vinegar, the perfect palate cleanser after the meat.
Of course coffee, or café, completes every meal in Italy...or at least it signals the beginning of the end. Following the coffee we enjoyed limoncello and grappa, and our waitress, a familiar face from San Venanzo, laughed when I told her we'd be having our dessert (dolce) at my house. She said we should let them prepare a dolce for us, but I told her mine were better...that we as Americans know our sweets! I invited her to drop in sometime and take the test!
Okay, by now you may be wondering why the title of this post is "amaretti". I started to write about the dessert, but somehow I couldn't resist reliving the wonderful meal that preceded it! So now, on to the dessert...filled peaches and amaretti (almond cookies).
Unless you're going to buy the cookies, and WHY would you want to do that when you can make them fresh?, you'll need the recipe for amaretti. A Google search turned up numerous recipes, but most of them called for almond paste. I don't know if almond paste is available in Italy, but even if it is, I like to keep things simple when I can. So I searched more recipes, and eventually found one I really liked on the blog CHOCOLATE SHAVINGS. It called for grinding the almonds first, and as an added bonus, used a little cocoa powder! (This recipe was orgininally posted on a different blog, CREAM PUFFS IN VENICE, and it's a family recipe)
I was quite pleased with the recipe, and froze about half for another day. Here is it, with thanks to both felow bloggers for sharing the recipe:
Amaretti Cookies Yield: 50-70 cookies
1-1/2 pounds almonds, finely ground
2 cups granulated sugar (plus 1 cup extra sugar to roll the cookies in)
1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa
3 tablespoons of almond extract
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Position oven racks so that one rack is at the bottom of the oven and the other rack is in the middle of the oven; line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, sugar and cocoa. Add the eggs and almond extract and mix until well combined. Using a tablespoon or your hands, scoop out enough of the almond mixture to form a ball that is roughly 1-1/2 to 2 inches in size.
Roll each ball in the cup of granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet. Make sure that there is a visible layer of white sugar on each amaretti. Press down the center of each cookie with your thumb to create an indentation in the center (this helps with sugar crackle on top of the almond base).
Bake cookies on lower rack for 10 minutes and then move to middle rack for an additional five minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, store cookies at room temperature in an airtight container. Cookies will keep for up 10 days.
I have to admint that I had only about 2 ½ tablespoons of almond extract, so I used vanilla extract to make up the difference.
I made the cookies the night before so they'd have time to cool completely before I had to crush them to fill the peaches. Here's that recipe:
Pesche Ripiene Baked Amaretti Peaches 6 servings
8+ crumbled amaretti cookies
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 350º
Wash and dry 6 unpeeled peaches. Cut each peach in half, remove the stone and carefully scoop out most of the fruit. Skin the 7th peach and place the peach flesh in a large bowl along with the flesh of the other 6 peaches. Mash with a fork.
Add sugar, cocoa, crushed amaretti, the egg yolk and mix well.
Place the peach halves in a buttered baking dish, close together. Fill each half with the peach/amaretti mixture, dot with a pat of butter and bake for about 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This was the perfect dessert after the huge lunch we'd eaten....light, refreshing and not too heavy. I put a plate of more amaretti cookies on table for a little crunch. Give these recipes a try when you're looking for something a little lighter or if you're like us and just love anything made with peaches!