Growing up in an Italian-Jewish family, there was a lot of cooking—and baking. But, it wasn’t until we lived in Rome, Italy, that the holiday traditions of sweets like panettone, pandoro, panforte, torrone, marrons glacés and all the cookies you could ever imagine became mine. Back in New York City, I lived for years in the Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. Everywhere I went, pine nut cookies followed. And, I made sure I tried as many of them from local bakeries as I could get my hands on. That was, until Isaiah (and now Chiara) was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
While pine nut cookies can be naturally gluten free, I realized that wasn’t always true. Starting with the key ingredient—almond paste—I discovered last week that some popular supermarket brands contain gluten. I found a brand online (Love ‘n Bake) and ordered it, but it wasn’t going to make it in time to develop the recipe for this post. So, instead, I decided to make it myself. It was fast, easy and more affordable than the canned or tubed varieties. It made all the difference. I just wish my parents and brother, Bernardo, were in my kitchen to enjoy them with us.
From my family to yours, we wish you and your family the happiest and healthiest of holidays!
For ingredient substitutions, please see the detailed chart at Gluten-Free 101.
You can make the almond paste ahead of time and keep in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
For the almond paste:
6 ounces finely ground blanched almond flour, such as Honeyville
4 ounces confectioners' sugar
1 large egg white
For the cookies:
10 ounces homemade or gluten-free store-bought almond paste
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1½ cups pine nuts, for topping
Confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling
- To make the almond paste, place the almond flour, confectioners' sugar and egg white in a food processor and pulse to combine. Roll into a log and wrap to seal in plastic wrap.
- To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 325º and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the almond paste, granulated sugar, salt and egg whites in a food processor and pulse to combine. Place the pine nuts in a medium bowl. Using a 1½-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon, scoop the dough and roll in the pine nuts to coat; place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and let cool completely.