I don’t know about you guys, but baking has always made me feel good.
And I know that’s not true for a lot of people.
For a lot of people, baking is stressful.
It makes me think that I was born in the wrong era (I was definitely born in the wrong era).
Like most women, my grandmother and mother used to bake to relax … and that was good because, back in the day, doing something that made only YOU feel good (especially if you were a woman) was frowned upon.
Maybe it was just Italians…I don’t know. But I do know that’s how it was in my house growing up. Kinda sad I guess, but also very empathetic in another way.
So if baking was a stress reliever back in the day, it was good because it benefited everyone…unlike getting a manicure, which is about you and your pretty hands!
Speaking of hands (good segue right ;)), these are my aunt’s hands. She made the best cookies and was our resident bocconotti maker in the family. A few years ago, a few of my cousins and I went to her house to learn from her (she was so excited…she even dressed up for us!). It was a fabulous day! If you’d like to read all about it, you can see the post here).
These bocconotti cookies are made all over Italy (and made in many different ways) but this is the traditional Abruzzesi way (my aunt is from Abruzzo). Here, the ‘ricetta’ (recipe) is made alle mandorle (with almonds) and al cioccolato (with chocolate).
The filling starts with whipped egg white…
Then, you add grated chocolate (I just like to chop it in little pieces in the food processor…it saves the skin on my knuckles from all the grating!!)
Then I’ll add the almond meal/flour in and give it another pulse to combine it with the chocolate…
And then add that mixture to the beaten egg whites (I find mixing the almonds and chocolate together means you need less folding so your egg whites stay fluffy!).
You want to spray the tins to make sure they don’t stick (I spray them in the sink!!)
Just pull off about a tablespoon of the dough and push it into the tin (my aun’ts original recipe called for rolling the pastry in a pasta machine to get it thin …which you can do but the pastry will be almost crunchy, which is still super yummy)
So pretty, no??
Seriously, if you know, you know!
With a sprinkle of powdered sugar, they are so good and not at all sweet (like most Italian cookies).
This is actually my aunt’s tray (below). When she died, her daughter-in-law asked me what I wanted of hers (it’s kinda tradition for the next of kin to lay out old glasses and kitchen ware and then everyone takes something to remember her by). So I got her tray and some beautiful little shot glasses which I use all the time!
The inside is soft and pillowy, with hints of chocolate. A perfect accompaniment to an afternoon espresso!
And in case you’re wondering why I didn’t just update my original post, I just couldn’t. It is everything a post shouldn’t be…the pictures are blurry, the recipe is buried in the post (and not printable), the story is a bit ‘rambling’…yet it continues to be my most popular post on the blog!
Whenever I see the photos and the pictures of her hands, I get emotional. The times we spent together learning from her meant so much to all of us.
I hope she’s looking down on all of us making her recipe.
Zia Rachelina, you were a rockstar!
This Italian cookie is so nostalgic and was always seen on every baptismal and communion table...if you're Italian, you know!
- 12 egg whites
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 16 oz ground almonds/almond flour about 4 cups
- 8 oz dark chocolate, chopped about 2 cups (you can sub in semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
- 12 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 c olive oil you can also use a mild oil
- 3 1/4 c flour plus more or kneading
- 3-4 tsp lemon zest (the zest of 1-2 lemons)
- cooking spray or Crisco (vegetable shortening)
- icing/powdered sugar for dusting
Crack your eggs (use this trick!) and separate the whites from the yolks (do it this way…it’s easy). Set the yolks aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer; add the egg whites and beat until white and frothy (they will pick up a bit of volume); while the mixer is on, sprinkle in the 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
Add the grated chocolate and the almonds (you can mix these two together if you like) and gently fold into the egg white mixture (be careful not to deflate the mixture).
Scrape the eggs white mixture into a large bowl and put the mixing bowl back on the mixer (no need to clean the bowl); add the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar to the bowl and beat until incorporated (the mixture will be light in colour after beating for about 5-6 minutes), add the olive oil and mix again until combined.
With the mixer on low, add the flour and the lemon zest, a scoopful at a time until all the flour is incorporated. When the mixture comes together and forms a stiff dough, take it out of the bowl and knead it a few times to get it smooth (sort of like pasta dough); let it rest for a few minutes while you get your equipment ready
Scoop the dough into golf-ball sized pieces and press into the tins (you can also use mini muffin tins - just make sure they are sprayed well)...make sure it is pressed well into all the corners!
Place about 1 tbsp of the filling into each shell (this recipe makes a lot); place the filled cookie tins onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes (you will know they are ready when the crust begins to brown and the filling is puffed and firm).
Remove them from the oven and let them stand for a few minutes (it will be easier to pop them out of the tins).
When they are cool, sprinkle them with icing sugar and enjoy with a freshly brewed cup of espresso….and a friend….the best way to enjoy them!