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swirl and savor

A Sweet Sunday Respite

Beth Ribblett

Most Sundays start with a long bike ride. Usually by noon, we've ridden 40-50 miles, eaten a big burger washed down with a few beers and are ready for a nap. But Sundays are also the day that I finish up all of my blog posts for the week, so an afternoon cup of coffee or tea are usually on the menu too. Having ridden exceptionally hard today, I treated myself to one of the Biscotti Amaretti that I made yesterday as well.

I've been on a mission with these nutty flourless Italian cookies since I first had one when we were in Chicago early in the year. Finding a recipe for something similar, I made the pistachio version a few months ago, but I felt like the texture was just not right, a little to gooey. Recently I found this recipe, using almonds, in a new cookbook I bought by Maria Filice called
"Breaking Bread in L'Aquila" , and it is absolutely perfect! The cookies are satisfyingly dense, chewy and nutty, and one is all you need for your afternoon coffee.

The book itself is a beautiful tribute to the style of cooking from the small town of L'Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy, where the author spent much time visiting her late husband's family. You may remember that this area was devastated in 2009 by a terrible earthquake. Upon a recent visit after the disaster, Maria reports:

"When I was leaving L'Aquila on my short visit in September 2009, in the lobby sitting next to me was an older woman, relocated there from her crumbled home in the city. We made eye contact. I smiled, and she asked me what I was doing in L'Aquila. I told her that I was finishing my book and that I had wished to see L'Aquila once more before I could put closure on my book's introduction. She looked at me and gripping my hand, said, "Don't forget about us." I was moved. This deepened my resolve to complete the book, and release it on April 6th 2010–the anniversary of the earthquake–as a reminder to readers of the Abruzzo region's suffering. I promised the elderly lady that I would help by donating the net profits of my book to L'Aquila."

I've posted the recipe below, and click here if you'd like to check out the book. It is cleverly organized by days of the week and each day features seven courses of an Italian meal starting with the antipasti and finishing with the dolci. Simple recipes, with easy to find ingredients and for a good cause, I'm happy to have it in my collection!

Biscotti Amaretti
from Maria Filice's "Breaking Bread in L'Aquila"

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 3 cups whole almonds with skins, plus an additional 36 whole almonds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups of confectioner's sugar, spread on a large sheet of wax paper for rolling
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Lightly grease three baking sheets with vegetable spray or line with parchment paper.
  • Using a food processor, pulse the 3 cups of almonds until they are finely ground. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and almond extract. Add the ground nuts and gently fold them together until you have a moist mixture that you can form into balls.
  • Using a teaspoon or your fingers, scoop up the batter and form balls, and then roll them in the confectioner's sugar. Place the balls at least an inch apart on the greased baking sheet. Prior to baking, press one whole almond into each ball.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden in color and firm to the touch.
  • Let them cool before removing them from the baking sheets.
Make a good cup of coffee or espresso, put your feet up and enjoy!