Soft Walnut Cookies (Biscotti Morbidi alle Noci), a delicious gluten-free cookie, typical of the holidays, made with just four ingredients and a dusting of icing sugar. Quick and easy to make, you just can't stop eating them!
Song of the day: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Michael Bublé
Soft Walnut Cookies (Biscotti Morbidi alle Noci), respect the typical Italian tradition of having nuts and nut-based cookies for the holidays. It just wouldn't be Christmas without them.
On our Italian table, during the holidays, there was always a tray filled with nuts: hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds, and sometimes Brazilian nuts. And I'm not talking candied, sugary, savory, or spiced nuts, but nuts in their natural form, still in their shell, and with one nutcracker provided. Usually, you would see my father or one of my uncles doing the hard job of cracking open the nuts, and passing them here and there while all the family around the table would be busy and concentrated playing cards, or better, the beloved Tombola, a game similar to Bingo. Together with the nuts, there would always be mandarins and clementines.
If you're not familiar with Tombola, I'll explain to you briefly how it works. You have a tabellone, or cartellone, that can be translated as billboard, and contains numbers from 1 to 90; numbered cards, each one containing blank squares and random numbers, arranged in three rows, each containing five numbers; 90 wooden or plastic "tombolini" with numbers from 1 to 90, which are kept in a container, usually a cloth sack. Players buy the cards, and one of the players buy the cartellone. The money is divided into five prizes, from lowest to highest, with tombola being the jackpot: "ambo", two numbers on the same row, "terno", three numbers on the same row, "quaterna", four numbers on the same row, "cinquina", five numbers on the same row, "tombola", all numbers on the card, bingo! The one who has the cartellone takes the numbers out of the sack, one at a time, calling them loudly, and placing them on their box in the cartellone, and leaving time to the players to mark the number on their card. All the relatives, from grandparents to children, shouting when they win a prize. For more color in the game, each number has also a nickname, like "47 morto che parla" or "77 gambe delle vecchie" (47 dead man talking, or 77 old women's legs), sometimes they would only use the nickname and you had to know what the number was, or beg they told you. So much fun, and laughs and loud voices! Modern tombola cards are in plastic and have on the numbers small plastic slots that can be closed down when the number is called, but traditionally they were made of cardboard and "closed" by beans, or pieces of mandarin peel, or nut shells, that you kept eating while playing. My family's preferred way.
Those memories are so imprinted in me, that they are able to bring a grin to my face and a warmth in my heart, while the laughter and the loudness, still echo in my ears.
You might be wondering where are all the Holiday sweets in all this? Well, definitely there were sweets: Stella di Pandoro and Panettone, Torrone, the Struffoli my aunt would make, some cookies, mostly nut based, like the "Brutti ma Buoni", or these Soft Walnut Cookies (Biscotti Morbidi alle Noci), as well as a profusion of dried fruits: dates, nut stuffed figs, chocolate covered figs, "mosciarelle" (dried, soft chestnuts), and the nuts, of course. But not as many cookies and sweets as you see here.
Since those were busy times of prepping and cooking, these Soft Walnut Cookies helped reduce the time you spent in the kitchen, while still delivering the most delectable treat. They are made with only four ingredients, well five, if you count the icing sugar you sprinkle on top before baking them. The overall time needed is less than half an hour, you cannot beat that!
The beaten egg white and sugar deliver a soft and cloudy texture, similar to a macaroon, while the walnuts provide the crunch and the wonderful nutty flavor, just mitigated by the pure vanilla extract. I used, as I often do, coconut sugar which gives a nice darker color and a lovely, "caramelly" flavor.
These are the type of cookies that you can bend and watch as it slowly comes apart. The texture going in is a celebration of soft chewy meets an incredible awakening nutty crunch. The blends just melt in your mouth leaving you with flavors of walnut, caramel, a touch of vanilla finishing with a warm fuzzy festive feeling of Christmas, especially for us Italians.
Want to bring a little Italian into your Christmas celebration? Now you can, with these Soft Walnut Cookies (Biscotti Morbidi Alle Noci)!
Buone Feste! Happy Holidays!
Song of the day: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Michael BubléPrint