Almond Cherry Cookies (Bocconcini all’Amarena)

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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!

Ingredients

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For 20 bocconcini

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

Preparation

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If using whole almonds, toast them on a baking sheet for 8 minutes at 180ºC/350ºF.

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Combine almonds, sugar, corn starch, lemon zest and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor.

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Process…

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…until as fine as almond meal. When using almond meal, you only need to process until the ingredients are mixed.

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Add the almond extract…

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…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.

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Process again…

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…until the dough has come together and looks like almond paste. (This is in fact what it is, except for the added corn starch and salt.)

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Wrap the dough in plastic, and allow to firm up in the refrigerator for about an hour.

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Meanwhile, drain the cherries. (Mix the leftover syrup with coca cola for the best cherry coke you’ve ever tasted.)

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After the dough has rested, divide it into 20 equal pieces. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF (fan forced).

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.

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Close the hole and roll into a ball again.

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Put the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake for about 12 minutes at 190ºC/375ºF (fan forced), or until the bocconcini are slightly golden.

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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.

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Sprinkle them with icing sugar if you like.

Flashback


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 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Almond Cherry Cookies (Bocconcini all’Amarena)

  1. Well, of course you have homemade pancetta in your freezer! You are Stefan. 🙂
    Yes, you are a man gone wild, completely obsessed with almonds paired with amarena cherries. I am not one to argue with any classic combination, especially this one. I laughed out loud imagining you and Kees eating through two batches of boccocini allamarena until you got them perfectly round. Yes, it’s a rough life. 😉 So, I think it’s so smart to lightly toast your blanched almonds for more flavor. Though I have a history of burning nuts in the oven! When I make almond meal/flour, I run it through a fine sieve after the food processing. If any clumps remain, I process again and repeat until the mixture is very fine. It may be a little neurotic but is an effective method. Great post; now I need a cookie. 🙂

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  2. Good job, Stefan. I can almost smell them baking in the oven. I vaguely remember these. Mom never made them but Dad brought them home from a baker friend. Ido remember how much I loved the combination of cherries with almond — and still do today. I wonder if my Italian market has amarena cherries. I have to take a better look around, or, in other words, leave the pasta aisle. 🙂

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  3. My mother made the same cookies with one minor change. She rolled the balls in lightly crushed raw sliced almonds prior to baking. On Twelfth Night, aside from the traditional puff pastry King’s cake, she made the same cookies substituting the almonds with pistachio nuts. (once upon a time they were very inexpensive in our local Italian markets and sold in barrels.These were not the red, dyed ones sold by the chestnut vendors by the bocce courts in our local park.)

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    1. PS. She dropped one of the cherries in her green Chartreuse as a garnish. Not overly fond of Chartreuse with the exception of green beans sautéed with butter and Chartreuse, they make the best Manhattans in the world with a couple of drops of their syrup to balance the sweetness.

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