Once upon a time, a comment was left on my blog. A comment, that after much searching, I haven't been unable to find to link to. It came from a friend of my Dad's, and it suggested that if I wanted to make some cookies, I should make pignoli cookies, an Italian confection based on pine nuts. I filed that suggestion away, and when I spotted almond paste (a necessary ingredient) on post-Christmas sale at the grocery store, I picked up a can. But in the the extreme baking burnout in the aftermath of last year's Cookie Bonanza, I let the almond past migrate to the back of the cabinet.
Now that I'm gearing up for this year's giveaway by testing recipes, I decided it was time to finally fulfill that request of so long ago. Really, I should have known better. I can't think of a single Italian dessert, other than gelato, that I actually enjoy eating. I didn't really have any illusions that I was baking these cookies for my own enjoyment, but I was at least hoping to enjoy them a little. Sadly, I did not. That is not to say that they are bad. My Italian coworker with whom I shared some of the cookies was rapturous over them. Since she's actually from Italy, I'll trust that these are good exemplars of the pignoli cookie form.
The problem is, I just don't like almond-flavored things. I like almonds themselves for snacking, but I don't like almond flavoring. I tend to shy away from recipes that call for almond extract -- the smell alone makes me ill. When I opened the can of almond paste to make these cookies, I just about fell over. I persevered, largely because the pine nuts had been so expensive and I was determined to use them. The dough, despite only having a single egg for moisture, was sticky and hard to work with, although it came together easily with the aid of a food processor. The texture of the finished product was pleasant enough -- chewy on the inside, and crunchy from the nuts on the outside. I just couldn't get over the almond flavor. So if you like Italian baked goods, you like almonds, or you like pine nuts, I would recommend this recipe. If you're like me, and only like pine nuts, I'd recommend making a nice batch of pesto instead...
Pine Nut Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
2 c. pine nuts
1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. almond paste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process 3/4 cup pine nuts, the sugar, almond paste, and vanilla in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add egg; pulse to combine. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; process just until dough comes together.
2. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls. Roll balls in remaining 11/4 cups pine nuts, gently pressing to coat. Space 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
3. Bake until cookies begin to turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.