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Fratelli's Cafe Italiano Amaretti Cookies

Source: Fratelli's, San Antonio, Texas

Fratelli's owner Jim Jungmann has roots in Northern Italy, and so do these wonderful almond cookies called amaretti.

On a wall in a little bakery/trattoria in Pompeii's ruins, there is a 2,000-year-old recipe calling for crushed almonds, stone-ground whole-wheat flour, egg whites and honey. Caesar Augustus and Nero are said to have eaten these very cookies.

1 1/2 cups whole almonds, ground fine in food processor
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar (sift first, then measure)
3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix ground almonds, flour and sugar together until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

Beat egg whites, almond extract and lemon extract together with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold almond mixture into beaten egg whites.

Drop rounded teaspoonsful onto buttered or sprayed wax paper-lined cookie sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between cookies. Bake about 12 to 15 minutes, or just until cookies are lightly browned. For a chewy consistency, remove cookies from oven immediately. For a crisp cookie, turn off oven and leave door slightly ajar to allow the cookies to dry out for 1 hour.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

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