They’re really meant for Christmas time, and when I made them around Christmas time last year, I just knew this would be a year round relationship. There is no good reason to hide these away for 11 months of the year.
The most memorable compliment I received about these cookies (among the scores and scores) was something along the lines of, “Wow! These are like from a bakery! How did you get them like that?” And wonderful almond flavor aside, what this lovely person was referring to was the soft, chewy texture of these little orbs. It is something special.
The main ingredient here is almond meal or almond flour. What is the difference, you ask? I wondered the same after seeing bulk bins and packages on the market shelves with seemingly interchangeable names for the same product. Turns out there’s no significant difference. Products labeled “almond flour” tend to come from blanched almonds, so they’ll be white. Products labeled “almond meal” are typically not blanched, and so you get the mixed browns you see in the cookies above. I’ve made these cookies with both almond meal and almond flour and learned that while the cookies may look different in color, the taste remains the same no matter which you use – a blanched almond flour or the unblanched almond meal.
Alright, what else do you have to do to get ready to eat 25 little cookies? You’ve got to get some caster sugar or make your own. Caster sugar is just super fine sugar. While you can buy caster sugar, I think it’s easy enough to go the DIY route since you likely already have sugar at home. All you have to do is put the sugar in a clean coffee grinder or food processor (I use a mini prep) and pulse it until you have super fine sugar. Don’t go too far, though – you don’t want powdered sugar! There will be a little sugar dust flying up out of your grinder or food processor, but don’t fret. You just ground little granules into even smaller granules; the dust is to be expected.
One of the great things about these cookies is that, like most of the cookies I end up making, they are quick work. I get a craving and I act fast. If I don’t, I’m horrible. Everything is your fault. Somehow, I can connect you to the source of whatever I identify the problem to be. Global warming? It’s you. You didn’t recycle the toilet paper tube. Inadequate funding for schools in our district? It’s you. You didn’t vote in that critical local election, you monster! My existential funk? You better run.
After shaping your dough, you’re only 20 minutes away from a fully baked tray. And then you only have to wait until the cookies cool before you can have a cookie eating contest with your…self. Make it a slow race. Enjoy the chewy, almondy taste of Christmas. Best alone, eaten en masse.
Maltese almond cookies (Biskuttini tal-Lewz)
Barely adapted from the recipe found on London Eats
Makes 25 cookies
200 grams almond meal or almond flour
180g caster sugar
zest of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons of lemon juice, to bind
25 whole almonds
Preheat your oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper.
Mix together the almond meal (or almond flour), caster sugar, lemon zest, almond extract and egg white until combined. Add the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time to bind.
Roll and shape the dough into a long rope. Given the crumbliness of the dough, this isn’t super easy, but it’s perfectly possible, and it won’t take too long. I usually manage a rope about 17-20 inches long depending on my level of perseverance on the day in question.
Cut your dough rope into 25 equal-ish pieces, rolling each piece into a ball. Press a whole almond into the center of each ball and then place it on the baking sheet. If there are cracks, you can leave them or smooth it out with your fingers or by lightly rolling the piece on its side.
Bake your tray for 10-12 minutes. I usually bake the cookies for 10 minutes for my preferred level of chewiness. If you are using blanched almond flour, you’ll know the cookies are ready once they are a light golden brown. If you use almond meal, you can check to see that the bottom is light brown. It’s worth it to know that if you’re using almond meal (the brown stuff), the cookies look the same before and after baking, bottoms aside.
Let the cookies cool before eating. These are best the first day, really good the second day, and then you can tell they’re drying out by the third day. Store in an airtight container between cookie binges.