You may think I’m obsessed with the combination of almond and amarena cherries. Recently I posted about this meringue cake and these cookies. So why yet another post that features this combination? Well, I really liked the texture of the cookies, but I also wanted to make an Italian specialty which is bocconcini all’amarena. “Bocconcini” means “little bites”, and they are basically amarena cherries inside baked almond paste. They are different from the cookies in both shape (round rather than flat) and texture. Another difference is that these beauties are gluten free.
It wasn’t easy to get them round. We had to eat through two batches of flat bocconcini before I figured out how to make that happen. What a hard life we lead! There are two important factors: use only just enough egg white to bring the dough together and not a drop more, and chill the dough to help the bocconcini keep their shape while they are in the oven. You can make these bocconcini from either whole blanched almonds or almond meal. The advantage of using whole blanched almonds is that you can lightly toast them for additional flavor, but you have to make sure to grind them very fine in your food processor. If they are not as fine, the dough will take less egg white so you’ll have to compensate for that. Using almond meal saves you the trouble to grind the almonds, and it is always fine enough.
Let me sing the praises of the combination of almond and amarena cherries again. These bocconcini are delicious and look great as well. They are not difficult to make if you follow my instructions. The worst that can happen is that they will be flat rather than round, but they will still taste great!
20 amarena cherries (from a jar, drained)
250 grams blanched almonds (or 250 grams almond meal)
250 grams sugar (preferably perfumed by keeping vanilla beans in the sugar jar)
50 grams corn starch
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
about 2 egg whites
…and the egg whites. It is a good idea not to add all the egg white at once, but to try first to see whether the dough will come together. Only add a bit more egg white when the dough does not. If you add too much egg white, the dough will be too soft and the bocconcini will flatten when you bake them.
Meanwhile, drain the cherries. (Mix the leftover syrup with coca cola for the best cherry coke you’ve ever tasted.)
Take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball with your hands. Poke a hole in the center with your finger, and put a cherry in the hole.
Allow the bocconcini to cool before you touch them, as they will still be pliable when warm and would otherwise lose their shape. Once cool, store in an airtight container. They keep for a pretty long time, but are best during the first few days.
A well-known Dutch dish is mashed potatoes with endive and bacon. Two years ago I turned it into an Italian version with pancetta and orecchiette pasta, and I’ve made that dish on a regular basis since because it is fast to make and delicious. It is even better now that I have homemade pancetta in my freezer 🙂