Monday, April 25, 2011


I love a good legend. And I love a good cookie. Well, today must be my lucky day because Amaretti di Saronno are both. The tale takes place three hundred years ago in the town of Saronno in the far, far north of Italy. One day the Cardinal of Milan made a surprise visit to the little town. As everyone else scrambled with ways to welcome him, two young lovers got out of bed and whipped up a batch of cookies made from sugar, egg whites, and apricot kernels. They served the cookies in pairs of two, to represent their love. The gift was a hit, probably because Amaretti di Saronno are airy and crispy and slightly bittersweet. The cardinal was so impressed that he blessed them and they lived, yes, say it with me, Happily Ever After!

If you haven’t had a chance to try these cookies, imagine a small, extra crispy almond macaron. What sets these apart from other almond flavored cookies are the apricot kernels in the batter, which give the cookies a distinct bittersweet flavor. It’s this flavor that makes the cookies interesting in an addictive “what is that flavor” sort of way. They’re so delicious, in fact, that they’re used in all kinds of Italian recipes. Mario Batali made one dish particularly chic in the US: pumpkin ravioli with amaretti cookies grated over the top.

So buy the cookies for their delicious any time of day snackability, keep them to use in recipes, and when they’re all gone appreciate their collectable, pretty red tin.

Chocolate-Amaretti Torte

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

When it comes to desserts, people usually fall into one of two camps. The first camp includes people who like delicate, beautiful, and rich desserts. These people are often French. The second camp is for those people who like big, homely, not always even that flavorful desserts. The kind of people who like to take a big cakey cookie straight to their face while they mutter nom nom nom and have a stupid smile on their face. I am absolutely no holds barred definitely in the latter camp.

But sometimes you want to impress people. Sometimes you want to fool people into thinking you have a delicate, refined palate. Sometimes you’re cooking for fourteen people and you need a relatively easy dessert that looks like it took a long time to prepare and tastes like something they could never, ever make at home. In other words, sometimes you have to be sneaky.

So a few weeks ago I found myself in this very situation. I was cooking for a group of people, many of whom I didn’t know, all of whom I really would like to impress. I was serving this dish of big rustic braised pork with grilled polenta for dinner, so I thought that dessert should be classy. I had also stupidly decided to serve two types of bruschetta, meaning plating was a logistical nightmare. It was the type of situation where I really didn’t want to have to worry about a last minute dessert debacle.

This recipe from Dorie Greenspan was perfect. Thanks to our friend the Cuisinart, it’s easy to prepare. A shiny chocolate glaze that sets in the refrigerator makes it look decidedly chic. And there is something about a cold chocolate glaze that makes people think "restaurant" or "store bought" but never "homemade." Best of all, it’s rich as hell so people probably won’t ask for seconds.


For Cake:
6 Large double Amaretti di Saronno or 18 mini amarettini
3/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For Glaze:
4 ounces best dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch spring form pan.

In a Cuisinart, grind almonds and cookies until they are a fine ground. Pour out of processor and set aside. Add butter, sugar and eggs to processor. Pulse for two minutes. Add almonds and cookies and pulse for 30 seconds. Add chocolate and pulse until just combined.

Pour batter into springform pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake is starting to dry on top and a tester comes out with a few crumbles but mostly clean. Don't overbake.

While cake cools, make glaze.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat cream, sugar and water until sugar has dissolved. Mix in chocolate, stirring constantly until chocolate has dissolved. Take off heat.

Pour glaze over cake and spread so that it evenly coats the top and the sides. Refrigerate cake for at least 40 minutes to set the glaze. Cut into thin wedges for serving.

*photo of cookies by

1 comment:

  1. amaretti cookies are the best! my mom used to crumble a bit of amaretti on pumpkin ravioli, and it was sooo good.

    chocolate and amaretti = a total win. can't wait to try your recipe!