Pine nuts, or "pignoli," are a real delicacy that most of us here in America are used to seeing in savory cooking. They're one of the key ingredients in pesto and are often tossed into pastas and other Italian staples to add earthy crunch.
Buddy Valastro's Pignoli Cookies
- 2½ cups tightly packed almond paste (1 pound 9 ounces)
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup powdered (10x) sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon honey, preferably clover
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 extra-large egg whites
- 5 cups pine nuts (about 1½ pounds)
- Put the almond paste, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, honey, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment. (You can also use a hand mixer.) Paddle at low-medium speed until the mixture is smooth with no lumps remaining, about 1 minute.
- With the motor running, add the egg whites in three installments and paddle until absorbed, 30 seconds to 1 minute per addition.
- Cute five 12-inch square of parchment paper. Arrange a square of parchment paper on a work surface. Put the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a #6 plain tip and pipe the dough out into circles, 2 inches in diameter and about 1½ inches high, leaving about 2 inches between circles. Repeat on four remaining pieces of parchment.
- Spread the pine nuts out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Take one of the cookie-dough-covered parchment sheets in two hands and slowly invert it over the nuts. Press down so that the nuts adhere to the dough and remove, very gently shaking the parchment to loosen any extra nuts. Set the nut-coated dough aside. Shake the cookie sheet to redistribute the pine nuts, and repeat with the remaining dough-covered sheets until all cookies are coated with pine nuts. Save any unused nuts for another use.
- Leave the prepared cookies out uncovered at room temperature overnight or for 8 hours to dry.
- When ready to bake the cookies, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- Set one of the parchment sheets on a baking tray and bake until the cookies are nicely golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, carefully transfer the parchment to a heatproof surface to let the cookies cool, and bake the next sheet on the tray. Repeat until all cookies are baked, and let cool for approximately 20 minutes before serving.
The cookies can be help in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month. Let come to room temperature before serving.