Looking for a beautiful holiday cookie that tastes like a treat but will leave you and your kids feeling good, even hours after you eat it? This, my friends, is your cookie.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I do enjoy some of the classic sweets around this time of the year. At parties, I let them join in and try what is offered. But it’s important to me to have some healthier, festive alternatives around that we all like, because the holidays go on for over a month, and all of the sugar involved can become overwhelming.
I’m sharing a little list of why I am so sold on these particular cookies, hoping that you will try them out:
- They transport me back to a night in Italy in December, when my family and I would bundle up and stroll though the gorgeous outdoor Christmas markets. Some of my favorite treats for sale were always the Sicilian cookies made with almond flour, which are my inspiration for this recipe.
- These cookies are beautifully festive — the pistachio and cherry version reminds me of little holiday wreaths.
- I love both their flavour and texture. They are like a less-sweet, more satisfying version of marzipan.
- The only sweetener used in this recipe is dates, which are still high in sugar, but at least they add some fiber and other nutrients to the cookies. (Make sure to check the ingredient list on the dates before buying them to make sure they are unsweetened, because some are coated in glucose syrup.)
- The almond flour which makes the basis of the dough and the pistachios used for the coating contribute additional fiber as well as protein and healthy fats. The egg whites add protein as well. (See the nutrition facts at the end of the post). What this means is that these cookies will give you and your kids lasting energy and be less likely to cause a sugar high and subsequent crash. So, what this really means is that you will lower your chances of having kids who melt-down in the middle of a holiday outing or event if you give them one of these as a treat instead of a sugar cookie.
I love these with an espresso or caffé macchiato, and my kids with a little schiumetta di latte (foamed milk).
They also happen to be gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free, which I mention in case those are selling points for you.
Did I convince you? Ready to get baking?
Sicilian Almond Cookies, Naturally Sweetened
Makes around 48 small cookies.
To make these, I used the recipe of one of my favorite chefs, David Lebovitz, as a starting point. I replaced the regular sugar with homemade date paste, changed the coating to chopped pistachios and dried cherries, and made them round instead of oval. As David shows on his blog, sliced almonds or pine nuts are also beautiful toppings. I couldn’t resist and I made some covered in those as well, and also tried using quartered dried apricots instead of cherries, which worked nicely.
–3 cups almond flour (290g)
–A pinch of salt
–2 cups pitted, unsweetened dates (294g)
–1/3 cup water
–5 egg whites (3 for the dough and 2 for the coating) at room temperature
–1 cup unsalted, raw pistachios, chopped
–48 dried, unsweetened cherries (roughly 1/2 cup if small)
–Other optional toppings: pine nuts, sliced almonds, quartered dried apricots
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (160 C.)
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Make the Dough:
- In a small bowl, combine the almond flour and the salt and set aside.
- In a food processor (or chopper), blend the dates and the water into a creamy paste. It is ok if there are still small, visible bits of dates in the paste.
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Crack 3 into a medium bowl for beating and 2 into a small bowl that you will use to coat the cookies. (You won’t need the yolks for this recipe.)
- Beat the 3 egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Using a rubber scraper, fold the date paste into the whites. This will deflate them some and that is okay.
- Fold in the dry ingredients and continue blending until a dough forms in the middle of the bowl. It is okay if it feels sticky/gooey.
Roll, Coat, and Top:
- Shape the dough into small balls, slightly smaller than 1 inch each. This should make around 48.
- Using a fork, stir the remaining 2 egg whites to loosen them up. Chop your pistachios if you haven’t already and put them in another bowl.
- Dip each of the balls into the egg white and then roll in the pistachios (or other nuts).
- Flatten each ball into a small disk and coat with additional nuts, if needed.
- Create an indent in each cookie and top with a dried cherry (or apricot piece).
- Place on the baking sheet.
- Bake the cookies for around 25 minutes or until they are golden brown. For even browning, it is helpful to rotate the pan around a few times.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring them off of the pan.
*Below are the some approximate nutrition facts generated using the USDA SuperTracker Tool.