Vegan amaretti – soft Italian almond cookies
Snow flakes are falling, I have a fresh batch of vegan amaretti and right this moment, life is perfect.
The snowy stack you’re looking at is my vegan rendition of the classic Italian amaretti morbidi, or soft almond cookies. With their soft texture and delicate flavour, these Italian almond cookies make the ultimate indulgent treat. I can never limit myself to just eating one, but, or so I tell myself, because they are tiny and elegant, I don’t have to. And the good thing is, they are so easy to make at home!
Traditionally, amaretti are made with egg whites, which gives them their lovely chewy texture. Fortunately, they can also be made egg-free and equally delicious with the help of that magical egg-replacing ingredient, aquafaba. Despite its fancy name, this is nothing more or less than the liquid drained from a tin of chickpeas, or the left-over cooking liquid from a pan of pulses. With its composition of plant proteins and carbohydrates, it mimics the properties of eggs, making it an ideal substitute for both whole eggs and egg whites. In its liquid state, aquafaba may have a rather distinct chickpea flavour. Like egg-whites, though, it can be whipped to stiff peaks and once it’s foamy and voluminous, the flavour is completely gone. So in case you were worried: these amaretti won’t taste like chickpeas, only of almondy sweetness.
After whipping the aquafaba the making of these vegan amaretti is quite straightforward. They are made with a simple mixture of almond flour, sugar and baking powder, bound together by the aquafaba. Optional add-ins are extra flavourings, like vanilla, lemon or orange zest, or even more adventurous flavours like matcha or freeze-dried and ground raspberries. Almond extract gives them their characteristic amaretto flavour, which I think makes this a non-optional add-in. Depending on how pronounced you like it, though, you can choose to add a gush of the extract, or, like I do in the recipe below, add just a hint of extra flavour and let the natural flavour of the ingredients sing through.
Now roll the mixture into little marzipan balls and bake them until risen and cracked on the surface. Rolling the balls in icing sugar before baking them gives them their snow-dusted appearance and accentuates the cracks. It also makes them sweeter, so depending on how sweet you like them you can choose to add this extra step or omit it.
There’s a bit of a debate when it comes to the best way to bake these cookies. As you’ll see in the recipe, I bake mine for about 15 minutes on a single baking sheet. This yields amaretti with a slightly crisp exterior, a soft and chewy middle and a golden, caramelised bottom, which, according to my eldest, is the best part of the cookie. If you prefer the bottom to stay just as soft and lightly coloured as the upper part, though (or your oven bakes more fiercely than mine and you want to prevent the bottoms from burning), you can achieve this by adding an insulating layer to the baking sheet. Either stack two identical baking sheets on top of each other, or add an extra layer by shoving an old newspaper under the baking parchment before baking. If you do so, you may need to raise the baking time by 5-10 minutes. You’ll know the cookies are ready when cracks appear on the surface. When straight out of the oven, the amaretti will still be soft; they’ll crisp up when they cool down.
You can use these amaretti as a delicious biscuit base for my vegan lemon tiramisu. Alternatively, simply indulge in a stack of cookies with a hot espresso.
And if you like these, you may also like my buckwheat biscotti with orange and fennel seeds.
Vegan amaretti – makes appr. 25
- 300 g almond flour (or 300 g almonds, finely ground at home)
- 180 g raw cane sugar
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- 100 ml aquafaba, drained from a 400 g tin of chickpeas
- ¾ tsp. lemon juice
- ¾ tsp. almond extract
- icing sugar, to coat (optional)
- a single baking sheet lined with baking parchment
- Or, if you want the bottom of the cookies to stay just as soft and lightly coloured as the upper part, a baking sheet with added insulation. To achieve this, you can stack two identical baking sheets on top of each other, or use a single sheet and add an extra layer by shoving an old newspaper under the baking parchment.
Heat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas 4. Prepare your baking sheet.
Mix the almond flour, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and stir well to break up any lumps.
Pour the aquafaba and lemon juice into a grease-free bowl. Whip the mixture to stiff peaks. Using an elextric mixer, this will take 5-10 minutes. The aquafaba is ready to use if it stays put when you turn over the bowl; if it starts to slide out, whisk a bit longer until it reaches the desired consistency.
Fold half of the aquafaba into the flour mixture. Sprinkle over the almond extract and mix. Now gradually fold in more of the aquafaba until the mixture holds together and can be rolled into little balls. You may not need all of the aquafaba; you want the mixture to be moist but not wet.
Scoop out little portions of the almond mixture and roll them into even-sized balls. For best baking results, I use a scale and make 20 g balls each, which equals balls with a 3 cm diameter.
Optionally, roll the marzipan balls in icing sugar, then place them onto the prepared baking sheet, 3 cm apart, to give them room to rise and spread a little.
Bake the amaretti for 15-17 minutes until golden and risen. If you chose to use an insulated baking sheet, you may need 5-10 minutes more. You’ll know the cookies are ready when cracks appear on the surface.
Leave to cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.