A twist on Peanut Butter Blossoms using gluten-free amaretti cookies, which are made without butter or oil.
‘Tis the season to be baking cookies! While I’m not brave enough to construct a gingerbread house, I’m more than willing to grab my oven mitts and bake any soft cookies, cut-out cookies, crispy cookies… really any kind of cookie that doesn’t involve engineering skills.
For some reason, Peanut Butter Blossoms are one of the ‘classic’ holiday cookies. I’m not entirely sure what peanut butter and Hershey’s Kisses have to do with Christmas, but oh well, these things don’t have to make sense. While peanut butter is absolutely delicious (and addictive), today I’m leaving my many peanut butter jars alone and focusing on almonds. Specifically, almond meal (i.e. ground almonds), one of the few ingredients in amaretti cookies.
Amaretti are traditional Italian cookies and are sometimes called ‘Italian macaroons’. They’re typically made using almond meal, egg whites, sugar and vanilla extract (or almond extract). These little cookies are crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
At least, in my mildly humble opinion, amaretti should be soft and chewy on the inside. Store-bought amaretti are usually crispy and crunchy the whole way through, which is sorely disappointing when you’re after a nice cookie to go with your coffee. (However, crushed store-bought amaretti do make a lovely addition to a cheesecake base or fruit crisp topping).
To make turn these amaretti into ‘blossoms’, the cookies are rolled in sugar before baking and a Hershey’s Kiss is pressed into the center of each cookie the second they’re taken out of the oven. Seriously, don’t delay with those Kisses. The outsides of the amaretti are soft when you take them out of the oven, but they’ll turn crispy very quickly!
Don’t be surprised if the edges of the amaretti crack a little when you press Kisses into the cookies. As with regular Peanut Butter Blossoms, a little cracking is good. You can avoid too much cracking by (a) being quick, and (b) being gentle.
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s talk about almond meal for a moment.
Almond meal is just ground-up almonds, and is often – but not always – made from blanched almonds. It’s sometimes said that almond meal is from whole almonds, while almond flour is from blanched almonds. However, that hasn’t always been my experience. The ‘almond meal’ that I usually buy is clearly made from blanched almonds, and – to make things even more blurry – I’ve noticed that Bob’s Red Mill call their product ‘Almond Meal/Flour’.
Anyway, the point is: go for the ground almonds made from blanched almonds. If the product resembles sand and is white/cream-colored, then you’re on the money.
Luckily, after that unnecessary food confusion, there are only a handful of other ingredients in these cookies. Since I love the combination of chocolate and orange, I added some orange zest to these amaretti. If you’re after something a little more festive, you could omit the zest and add a little cinnamon, ginger, or maybe even some holiday-themed sprinkles.
Last of all, here’s a serving suggestion for you: I highly recommend enjoying these cookies with a big mug of (boozy or regular) hot chocolate. Happy Holidays!
Fun Fact: Amaretto is the singular of amaretti, and also refers to an almond liqueur.
- 2 large egg whites
- ½ cup (110g) superfine (caster) sugar
- 2 cups (180g) almond meal
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- About 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, for rolling
- About 16 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped
- Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C). Line two baking trays with non-stick paper.
- In a large bowl (or in the base of an electric mixer), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks.
- Gently fold in the almond meal, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract. The cookie dough will be very soft and sticky.
- Spread the granulated sugar onto a large plate or dish. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the cookie dough onto the plate and carefully roll in sugar. Transfer to the prepared baking trays.
- Bake for 13 - 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Immediately press a Hershey’s Kiss into the center of each cookie.
- Let the cookies sit on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.