I developed this recipe after a blog reader challenged me to recreate the cookies from her favorite Italian joint. Though the cookies require several steps, the result is delicious and unlike any macaroon you've ever tasted–though the ingredients are largely the same. (The photo is of the ground roasted nuts that go into these cookies.)
1 cup slivered, blanched almonds
1 cup raw hazelnuts
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (preferably natural not Dutch processed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Step 1Preheat the oven to 325°F. Toast the hazelnuts for 3-4 minutes, then add the almonds to the other side of the tray and toast another 3-4 minutes, until both nuts are fragrant and just slightly gold. (it’s harder to see when the hazelnuts are done, but they should be fragrant and if you taste one it’ll have a much richer flavor than when raw.) Keeping the nuts separate, remove to two plates and set them in the freezer to cool.
Step 2When the nuts are cool, peel the hazelnuts by rubbing them between your fingers. The toasted skins will usually fall off quite easily; don't worry about any that remain on.
Step 3Combine the almonds and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse to grind finely, making sure that the nuts don’t become oily or butter-y (the powdered sugar helps with this). Remove to a bowl. Add the hazelnuts to the processor with the remaining tablespoon of powdered sugar. Remove to a bowl. Add the hazelnuts to the processor with the remaining tablespoon of powdered sugar.
Step 4Put the egg whites into a bowl and whip them until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar slowly, while continuing to beat for another thirty seconds or so (with a handheld mixer). By then, the eggs should be quite firm and somewhat smooth/silken.
Step 5Fold in the nuts, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract.
Step 6Turn the batter into a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot. Over the lowest heat, cook it, stirring frequently but not constantly, for 15-20 minutes. (Use a pan that cleans up easily—the egg whites and sugar do grow sticky during this.) As you cook, the batter will deflate and grow more molasses-y. It will also darken in color. When it is fragrant and hot to the touch, remove from the burner. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.
Step 7While you're cooking the batter, preheat the oven to 315°F (or turn it down if you left it on from the nut toasting). Using two spoons, heap mounds of batter the size of 2.5 tablespoons on the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the tops look dried out and the cookies are firm but not browned. Cool completely. These keep for days in an airtight container.