Gluten free and the perfect side to a freshly-brewed espresso, this is a simple recipe for traditional Italian amaretti cookies. These melt-in-the-mouth biscuits are a kind of macaron made with ground almonds and are veganized using the aquafaba (chickpea water) meringue method in place of whipped egg whites.
The vanilla extract is optional but I think it adds a nice rounded flavor to the sweetness. You could also substitute both extracts for 2-3 tablespoons of amaretto liqueur (depending how strong you want it to be) for an authentic rich almond flavor, but this can make the mix a little stickier to handle.
I find when working with aquafaba—and in vegan baking in general—it’s better to cook things for slightly longer for the best results because despite how great a replacement it is, I don’t think it’s quite as sturdy as egg whites. So don’t be tempted to up the cooking temperature and keep an eye on them in the oven for the golden color and crackled top which will give you a perfectly chewy center.
Vegan Amaretti Cookies
- 100 ml drained chickpea water (aquafaba)
- 200 g caster sugar (+ 3 tbsp for coating)
- 300 g ground almonds
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp icing sugar (sifted)
1. Using a hand whisk or electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the aquafaba on high for 8-10 minutes until stiff, fluffy peaks are formed.
2. While still whisking, gradually add the sugar in a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy, about another 5 minutes.
3. Gently fold through the ground almonds and both the almond and vanilla extracts with a spatula until the mixture is well combined.
4. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
5. Line two large trays with baking paper. Prepare two plates or shallow bowls, one with 3 tbsp of caster sugar and the other with the sifted icing sugar.
6. Start rolling out the cookies with slightly wet hands, using a heaped teaspoon as a size guide. Once shaped into a ball, gently roll each cookie first in the caster sugar and then in the icing sugar.
7. Lay the cookies onto the trays with room to spread and press down on the top gently to flatten the shape out.
8. Once rolled, place the trays in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the top has a crackled look. They may still look a bit soft but they will firm up once cooled, giving you the distinctive chewy center and crunchy outside.
9. Take the cookies out of the oven and allow to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
10. Once fully cooled, they are ready to serve. You can store them in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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Photo: Anna Burgoine