Greek almond biscuits
When making social calls to friends and family, Greeks invariably show up toting a ribbon-tied box from a local Greek bakery. Nine times out of ten, the box will contain some of these cookies. My earliest childhood memories of welcoming visitors and paying visits include these biscuits. In my reminiscences, they always conjure up images of good times and wholesome relationships.
Amygdalota biscuits are a staple product in any Greek bakery and they are wildly popular. They are the perfect accompaniment to a Greek coffee and an ideal anytime treat. If you are not already familiar with these cookies, then you will be in for a pleasant surprise should you decide to mix up a batch. The ingredients are simple and the process is straightforward and rewarding – both visually and gastronomically.
1 pound (½ kg.) blanched almonds
1 ½ cups of sugar
1 tbsp. fine semolina
1 tbsp. orange blossom water
1. Add the blanched almonds and the semolina to a food processor/blender and puree/grind until very fine. You will likely need to stop the processor a few times to scrape the sides of the bowl so that the mixture is thoroughly mixed and very finely processed.
2. Beat the two yolks and one egg white very well with a mixer in a large bowl, then add the sugar, the almond puree, and the orange blossom water and mix well with either a dough hook (stand-mixer) or a wooden spoon.
3. In another bowl, whip the remaining egg white until nice and stiff with peaks and then incorporate it thoroughly into the almond puree mixture.
4. Two options for creating the individual cookies, first the hard and then the easy:
- The hard: Prepare a large/oversized piping/icing bag by coating the interior of the bag with butter to ensure some lubrication as the biscuit mixture is pretty dry. Ensure that the largest tip is affixed to the end of the piping bag and proceed to fill the open end with the cookie dough (likely all collected in one mass at this point). This is where the “hard” part begins because squeezing the cookies out of the piping/icing bag will require a little bit of elbow grease, so if your hands are weak I recommend the easy way as outlined below. Now, when you do work the mixture down to the point where you can squeeze the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie tray, the trick is to create small rosettes by drawing an inward spiral, just one complete circle but with the ending point in its centre where you will twist the bag to cut off the cookie, and then move on to the next. When you have squeezed off all you can, lightly press a whole blanched almond into the centre of each rosette to cover the cut-off point.
- The easy: break off small pieces of the dough, no bigger than a golf ball (though preferably a touch smaller), and roll them into balls between your palms. Placing the balls on your bake sheet press an almond into the centre of each ball in such a way as to effectively flatten the lower hemisphere of the biscuit. These biscuits will lack the visual flair of those done the “hard” way, but the taste and texture will remain the same.
5. Once your cookies are laid out (approximately 28-30 pieces from the measurements given above), place the cookie sheet/tray in an oven preheated to 350° F. Bake for approximately 20 - 30 minutes or until the cookies are starting to turn slightly golden. The aim here is to dry out the outer layer and bottom of each biscuit but to retain whatever little moisture is still left within, so stay on top of them after the 15 minute mark of baking as you do not want to dry these out too much.
6. When removed from oven leave to cool for at least one hour, though I prefer these biscuits on the following day. Important: To maintain the inner chewiness of these biscuits, it is a good idea to store them in sealed air-tight containers or wrapped in cellophane/plastic.
And that is that!
Panta Kala (Always Be Well)!
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.