Two Recipes for Greek Almond Cookies, Amygdalota
Almonds are a nutritionally dense food, rich in nutrients including B vitamins, niacin, vitamin E and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. They also have cholesterol-lowering properties due to their high content of dietary fiber, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and phytosterols. The main almond-producing region of Greece is Magnesia in Thessaly, around the town of Almyros. Amygdalota is a favorite Greek almond cookie, often prepared for weddings and other festive occasions. There are several different versions of these flourless treats, but the one thing all recipes have in common is a simplicity that allows the flavor of the almonds to shine. Made with a few key ingredients, they are a delicious candy to enjoy any time of the year. They can be prepared with or without egg whites to bind all the ingredients together. The vegan version, without eggs, can be enjoyed during periods of fasting, and by vegans and vegetarians. In Cyprus, ergolavi are another almond biscuit made from blanched almonds, sugar, egg whites, almond extract, and grated orange zest, then rolled in coarsely chopped blanched almonds. Here are two tonsillota recipes to try at home.
3 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
1/8 teaspoon Greek sea salt
1 pound finely ground blanched almonds
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons of water
About 30 whole blanched almonds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Beat until soft peaks form, set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, and almond extract. Stir the beaten egg white mixture into the almond mixture until well blended. Dampen your hands with water, take a spoonful of the dough and roll it into a ball. Make a dimple in the center, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, flatten slightly and place a blanched almond in the dimple. Bake cookies in preheated 325 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and set, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Let cool completely on wire racks before eating or storing in an airtight container.
3 cups finely ground blanched almonds
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Whole cloves for garnish (optional)
In a mixing bowl, whisk together ground almonds with 1 cup powdered sugar. The amount of added sugar can be adjusted to taste. Add the rose water slowly, a few drops at a time, and stir until the mixture can hold its shape when molded into a small pear shape. Be careful not to add too much rose water because then the mixture will be too wet to form. If desired, tonsillota can be baked for 5 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven. Cool completely on wire racks if baking. Place on a plate and sprinkle with additional powdered sugar. If preferred, garnish with a whole clove top and bottom to resemble the stem and bottom of a real pear. Serve with coffee or tea. Store leftover cookies tightly covered in an airtight container.