I love almonds and am always looking for recipes which include these lovely nuts. I love biscuits but too many include forbidden dairy ingredients. I always have a couple of egg whites knocking around in the fridge so I love it when I find a recipe that solves this three-way issue.
The recipe starts with blanched almonds, rich in moisture and essential oils which I reduce to a fine flour in my food processor. However, I’d be just as happy to use unpeeled ones. It’s important to use good quality nuts otherwise the end product won’t taste good.
I make the biscuits all the same shape and size by using a very small ice cream scoop but you could roll the balls of dough in pine nuts or crushed pistachios, stud them with glace or fresh cherries, or a curl of candied peel, or a thumb print of jam. I like them best plain, I don’t even dust them afterwards with icing sugar as I find they’re sweet enough.
These are as much marzipan sweets as they are biscuits, with the egg white keeping them sticky and light, so they need careful cooking. When cooked, the biscuits turn opaque with just a gilding of gold on top. Keep a close eye on them, so they don’t catch on the bottom. These are not biscuits to walk away from – they require you to loiter close by. When they come out of the oven, they will still be soft, so let them cool on a wire rack before lifting on to a plate and (if you must) dusting with more icing sugar.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/(325F/300F) gas 3½. In a food processor, grind the almonds to a flour, tip into a large bowl, then add the sifted icing sugar, salt and lemon zest. Stir well to incorporate all the ingredients.
2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, add to the almond mix and bring everything together into a dough initially using a spatula and then your (clean) hands.
3. Use a small ice-cream scoop to form balls or dust your hands with icing sugar and make balls by rolling walnut-sized lumps of dough between your palms.
4. If you want to decorate them, either press something into the centre of each biscuit, or make a deep indent with your finger and fill with a blob of jam.
5. Put the dough shapes, slightly flattened, nicely spaced out, on a baking tray lined with greaseproof (parchment) baking paper or silpat, and bake on the middle shelf for 10-12 minutes, or until they are lightly golden.
6. They will still be soft when pulled from the oven, so leave them to cool completely on a wire rack, then lift on to a plate and (if you must) dust with more icing sugar. Heaven with tea or coffee!