Photo by Aglaia Kremezi
The traditional cookies of the Cyclades are a perfect dessert for Passover, as a participant in one of our classes pointed out, as she watched my neighbor Zenovia prepare the Kean amygdalota. Most people use blanched almonds, but I find that, although less attractive, cookies made with whole, un-skinned nuts are equally delicious, not to mention a bit less labor-intensive--if you're starting from the harvest field.
Makes 60 cookies.
6-7 Egg Whites
2 cups Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 pounds finely ground, blanched almonds (or un-skinned, if you like)
2-3 drops Almond extract, or orange blossom water
3-4 tablespoons Lemon Liqueur, as needed
60 whole blanched almonds
Beat the egg whites with 1 tablespoon sugar and a pinch of salt to form soft peaks. In a large bowl, combine the almonds and sugar, adding the almond extract, if you are using it, or a few drops of orange blossom water. Gradually add enough egg whites to make a mixture that can be shaped into cookies. Be careful at this stage, because you don't want to make a wet paste that will not hold its shape in the oven. (You may not need all of the egg whites).
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
Wetting your hands with liqueur, take walnut-size pieces of the almond mixture and roll them on your palms to form balls. Flatten slightly, pushing your finger at the top to make a dimple. Stick a whole almond in the dimple. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden, both on top and at the bottom. Be very careful not to dry them. The almond cookies must be hard on the outside and still somewhat wet and soft inside. They may appear soft as you take them out of the oven but they harden as they cool.
Let cool completely. Store in air-tight boxes.