Almond cookies with orange & pistachio

I haven’t baked cookies in a long time. I think it was because I always ended up with butter on everything after a cookie episode and, let’s face it – the humble cookie was cast aside by its flamboyant, well-dressed cousin, the cupcake. However, I’m happy to share a new cookie recipe that I really enjoyed making. This one came out of a brief – what do you give to some new neighbours that you don’t know? And cookies seemed to be the most inoffensive, least climate-sensitive option. I made these as plain almond biscuits first, but found they were too strong on the almond flavour. With the addition of a new texture and the zesty orange I think these are a real crowd pleaser. They’re a little bit like a (traditional) macaron, or the Italians amaretti biscuit – and almost taste a little bit like a flourless orange cake(!). The dough itself is really easy to make, the rolling does take a bit of extra effort but the way they look coming out of the oven… I think it’s worth it. It’s also worth mentioning that these cookies are gluten-free, use just the egg whites, and have nuts and fruit, meaning they are only a little bit naughty.

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Ingredients
Yields about 30 cookies 

240g almond meal
200g caster sugar
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup pistachios (peeled)
zest of one orange

3 tbsp caster sugar, to roll
3 tbsp icing sugar, to roll
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Chop the pistachios into small pieces, roughly each nut into three. I like them to retain some texture, but they shouldn’t affect the overall shape of the biscuits. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F.

 

Weigh out and combine the almond meal, caster sugar, pistachios and orange zest in a large bowl. Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites to a firm peak.

 

Add 1/3 of the egg whites and the vanilla bean paste (or essence) to the mix and mix well. Trying not to overmix, add the rest of the egg whites gently until the mixture is evenly combined.

 

This is what my cookie dough looked like – it’s soft and just holds together, but not overly wet or oily. Prepare two bowls for rolling, one with caster sugar and one with a small amount of icing sugar.

 

Roll the cookie dough into small balls, about 3-4cm in diameter and drop them into the caster sugar bowl. I know it seems like a bit of overkill to roll them in two types of sugar – but there is a reason! The caster sugar creates a chewy layer under the icing sugar, and I’ve reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe to account for the sweet exterior so it balances out in the end.

 

In the second layer of sugar, try to get as much on the cookies, rolling from one hand to the other and gently pressing icing sugar into the surface. The trick is to get an even, visible layer of sugar on each cookie.

 

Line baking trays with baking sheet and press gently with a flat utensil to get some cracks along the sides. This will ensure the cookies grow and crack along the sides and maintain a nice flat top.

 

Leave a little room between each cookie to allow for them to expand – here they are just before they go into the oven!

 

Bake for about 15 minutes, they are ready when they have a little golden brown colour on the tops. It’s best not to overbake these, since the combination of crunchy exterior + chewy texture is the best part!

As tempting as it is to eat them straight out of the oven, it’s best to cool them first (they get even chewier as they cool down). Of course, it’s ok to have a customary taste to “make sure they are cooked”.

 

And here’s what they look like inside! I like to make sure there are pistachios in each cookie – and I love how the orange zest really cuts through the almond meal.