As a pastry chef, I want everything I make to taste like your Nonna made it just for you: an instant classic in your mouth. That’s truer than ever around the holidays, which are all about comfort, joy and traditions. So during the holiday season of 2019, when I was in charge of the bread and pastry programs at Rossoblu in Los Angeles, I dove deep into the research of traditional Italian cookies.

Coincidentally, I was watching movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. One night, while poring over scraps of recipes in Italian as “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” played in the background, Marilyn Monroe shimmied in a pink strapless dress singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and this cookie idea popped into my head: a sugar-dusted diamond of amaretti dipped in a ruby chocolate party dress.

Marilyn’s best friends may have been diamonds, but mine have always been cookies — and, like diamonds, the greatest ones are stunning and rare. But that doesn’t mean they’re complicated. This amaretti recipe celebrates almonds, and it is simple, straightforward, crunchy on the outside, fluffy inside and gluten-free. Then there is that stunner of a pink party dress: ruby chocolate ganache.

Ruby is the chocolate world’s newest bombshell, eliciting strong reactions, defying conventions and capturing everyone’s attention. And it’s where the cookie’s rarity comes in: Ruby is the expressive result of recessive genes in the tropical fruit of the cacao trees, a special fruit that keeps its pink color all the way through the chocolate-making process. Ruby also maintains its bright flavor of berries, mangoes and, of course, chocolate. Its color and flavor shine best in a ganache made with olive oil rather than the standard cream.

Whip these up and bake till golden brown. When your diamonds are cool, dip them in their party dress for all your best friends. If you can’t find ruby chocolate, feel free to substitute another one, such as white or dark, if you prefer. Marilyn, after all, looked great in a party dress of any color.

Recipe notes: For the smaller amount of egg whites here, we found it easier to beat them using a hand mixer.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. (Freezing and thawing may dissolve the confectioners’ sugar and turn it sticky.)

Bars of ruby chocolate are available at some grocery stores. We found Chocolove brand at Whole Foods. It is also available online.


Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) almond meal/flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal (or 1 1/2 teaspoons Morton’s)
  • 2 large egg whites (60 grams total)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) confectioners' sugar, for rolling, plus more for your hands

For the ganache

  • 4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) ruby chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Step 1

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.


Step 2

Make the cookies: In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, granulated sugar and salt, breaking up any clumps with your fingers.


Step 3

Place the egg whites in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer with whisk attachment, start on low speed and gradually increase to medium-high, beating until soft peaks form. Pull out the whisk attachment and see how the egg whites look in the bowl and on the whisk. For soft peaks, they should flop over a bit. Add the almond extract and amaretto, then whip on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form. This time, the whites should hold a stiff peak that doesn’t bend when the whisk is pulled out.

Step 4

Using a flexible spatula, gently fold in half of the almond mixture. Lift the egg whites from the bottom of the bowl over the top of the almond mixture, rotating the bowl as you work. Add the remaining almond mixture and keep folding until a sticky dough forms. It’s okay if you lose some of the volume of the egg whites; they will still puff during baking.


Step 5

Place the 1/2 cup (65 grams) of confectioners' sugar in a small bowl and lightly dust your hands with some more. Use a No. 30 disher or a regular soup spoon to scoop 2-tablespoon (35 grams) portions. For mini cookies, use a No. 60 disher or scoop approximately 1-tablespoon (17 grams) portions. Roll the dough with your hands to form a smooth ball and then flatten to about 1/4-inch thick. Dip in the confectioners' sugar and coat completely. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing them 1 to 2 inches apart (they won't spread much). Bake, one sheet at a time, for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating from front to back halfway through, until the cookies are cracked and golden brown. (Smaller cookies may take less time.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 6

Make the ganache: Fill a small saucepan with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the water is barely simmering. Place the chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl that fits over the pan without touching the water, and melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.


Step 7

Dip the cooled cookies halfway into the ganache. Return to one of the lined baking sheets and transfer to the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to set, about 30 minutes.


Nutrition Information

The nutritional analysis is based on 36 cookies.

Calories: 111; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 69 mg; Carbohydrates: 14 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 12 g; Protein: 2 g.


Adapted from Rose Wilde, owner of Red Bread and pastry chef at Rossoblu in Los Angeles.

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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