This headline was misleading, since, according to my DNA, I am <1% Italian; however, the smell of these cookies baking took me to the evenings I’ve visited Vaccaro’s Bakery in Baltimore’s Little Italy.
If you are just joining this 2017 adventure, Jeremy and I have challenged ourselves to produce one terrific cookie recipe from each of the 50 states. Each week, we draw a state name and go off in search of an interesting cookie recipe. This week, I added New Jersey to my group of states. I have baked my way through Alaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.
Before my research on cookies from New Jersey, I had never heard of a pignoli cookie. (Pignoli is pronounced: peen-yo-lee and means “pine nuts.”) Also, I could not imagine a delicious sweet made with pine nuts, which are usually relegated to annoyingly healthy salads or pesto–savory, not sweet.
I landed on the Carlo’s Bakery page. Although I do not watch TLC’s Cake Boss, I learned that the show is filmed in the Hoboken bakery. Digging a little deeper, I figured out that the charismatic Buddy Valastro also has a huge repertoire of cookies, including the Italian pignoli.
I picked up 7 oz. of almond paste (a first for me–had no idea this existed) and 8 oz. of pine nuts. Almond paste was $8.99 at Martins, and the pine nuts set me back another $8.00. The recipe I used produced 14 cookies–that’s more than $1.00 a cookie. Valastro advertises these cookies at $14.95 a lb.
With my usual disregard of baking directions, I didn’t see that I would be making the dough in a food processor–mixing took less than 5 minutes. I did like the surprising ease of directions, but if a person didn’t have a food processor, it would be hard to create the consistency needed.
I rank the flavor of these cookies at the top of my list so far, but the price tag would keep me from producing these as gifts. If I can find a more reasonable source of these two ingredients, I am making these in December.
MAKES 14 COOKIES
- 1 7-ounce tube almond paste (not marzipan), coarsely crumbled
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse almond paste and powdered sugar in a food processor until combined. Add egg white, honey, and salt and pulse until a smooth, thick batter forms, about 1 minute.
Place pine nuts in a small bowl. Working one at a time, scoop tablespoonfuls of batter onto pine nuts and toss gently to coat. Roll lightly with your hands to form pine nut-covered balls. (Note to Reader: It is a sticky dough–I wasted at least a cookie’s worth of dough stuck to my fingers–“flouring” my hands and utensils with powdered sugar would have helped this process.) Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake cookies until golden brown and edges are firm, 16–19 minutes. Let cool.
Do Ahead: Cookies can be made 5 days ahead; store airtight at room temperature.