Amaretti Ice Cream Sandwiches

The very first recipe I ever made out of Ada Boni‘s classic recipe book, The Talisman, was probably also one of the easiest: amaretti biscuits, or what my 1950 English translation of The Talisman calls ‘Italian macaroons’ (not to be mistaken for French macarons, those overly fashionable discs of colourful meringue sandwiching sweet, fudgy ganache filling). ‘Italian macaroons’, much more like a good old fashioned coconut macaroon, are made with three simple ingredients: ground almonds, egg white and sugar. Better known as amaretti (from the Italian word amaro, bitter) for the bitter almonds used in traditional recipes, these lovely, aromatic biscuits come from northern Italy. The most famous ones are the amaretti di Saronno with their colourful, flammable wrappers (read Rachel’s wonderful post on this childhood memory and party trick).

Bitter almonds, which Artusi often calls for in recipes too, used to confuse me as an ingredient and often I’ve simply used regular almonds, which do the trick but lack that extra flavour and darker colour. The thing is (and this is why it is easy to get confused), bitter almonds are not actually almonds at all but apricot kernels – the insides of apricot pits, which look a lot like almonds and have a bitterness to them that balances out the sweetness of the regular, ground almonds (Note: Ada Boni’s recipe simply calls for ground almonds).

Boni’s cookbook, originally published in 1927 with the title, Il Talismano della Felicità (“The Talisman of Happiness”), had great success as a cookbook that, like Artusi’s, made its way into the kitchens of every respectable casalinga across the peninsula. The 1950s English version, designed to do the same thing for American households, although abridged, comes with a wonderful introduction by Mario Pei, a linguistics professor who talks about the connection between language, food and culture – it’s highly worth seeking out just for a read.

Making these amaretti – little dome-shaped blobs that go wonderfully with coffee or an after dinner liqueur – is a cinch and can be done from start to finish in less than twenty minutes. Just a few weeks ago I posted about a Piemontese classic, Ada Boni’s recipe for stuffed peaches – my new favourite summer dessert – and incidentally it calls for amaretti. So if you really wanted to impress some guests, you could use this recipe to make your own traditional amaretti to stuff peach halves. Or you could do something highly untraditional and make flat, round amaretti to house your favourite ice cream or gelato for some quick, homemade ice cream sandwiches. It is still summer down here, after all.

For me, the perfect ice cream sandwich has soft, slightly chewy biscuits and ice cream that’s not too hard but at that perfect melting moment where it will dribble a little through your fingers. Amaretti have that soft, sinking consistency that make them an ideal vehicle for vanilla ice cream laced with some homemade espresso syrup, turning a childhood favourite into something a little more ‘grown up’.

Amaretti Ice Cream Sandwiches

Amaretti recipe adapted from Ada Boni’s recipe for ‘Italian macaroons’.

Note: Ada Boni’s original recipe also calls for ½ teaspoon of almond extract and the recipe also has you sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the spoonfuls of biscuit batter before popping in the oven.

Normally dome-shaped, here I’ve used an egg ring and flattened with a spoon to make the amaretti uniformly sized and flat for the purpose of sandwiching them. Feel free to leave out the coffee syrup for a simpler recipe; I think these would be delicious with a very good, dark chocolate gelato too.

Makes about 10 biscuits (5 ice cream sandwiches)

For the amaretti:

200 g blanched almonds

2 egg whites

100 g of sugar

For the coffee syrup:

75 ml of strong espresso

150 g sugar

5 scoops of your favourite vanilla ice cream

For the amaretti biscuits:

Blend the blanched almonds in a food processor until they are fine; add the sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold in the almond meal and sugar.

Prepare a baking tray with baking paper. Using an egg ring or a round cookie cutter as a guide, place roughly two tablespoons of the amaretti mixture inside the ring and with the back of a spoon, even out the mixture (it should be about 1cm tall). Don’t worry about being too precise, the rustic nature of these biscuits is all part of the homemade appeal! Continue until you have used all the mixture, noting that they will spread a little when cooking.

Bake in a moderate oven (180°C) for about 5-10 minutes or until delicately brown and dry on top. Remove from the oven and let cool on a cake rack until ready to use.

For the coffee syrup:

Place the freshly made espresso in a small saucepan with the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. As soon as you see the liquid begin to simmer, take off the heat and allow to cool. Keep in a jar in the fridge until you need to use it. This will make plenty coffee syrup to last you for many more ice cream sandwiches to come, or try it on your favourite desserts.

To assemble the ice cream sandwiches:

Allow your vanilla ice cream to soften slightly. Stir through the coffee syrup. Sandwich one generous scoop of the coffee-laced ice cream between two amaretti biscuits and serve at once.

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Comments

15 Responses to “Amaretti Ice Cream Sandwiches”
  1. Rosa says:

    Oh, those look fabulous and sound amazing! I coul easily eat a few of them for breakfast. ;-) Perfect with an espresso.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. These look absolutely delicious! I love the flavour of amaretti biscuits and made into an ice cream sandwich they would be utterly irresistible.

    As for the wrapper trick, my Dad used to do it for us when we were little and once almost set fire to a light fitting as the burning cylinder floated so high! Happy memories :-)

  3. Aha! The bitter almond thing had been confusing me. Thanks for clearing it up. Can you buy the apricot kernels or do you split the seeds yourself (or is that a silly question!)?

    Have to admit I’m pretty jealous that it’s summer there – it’s been a very grey, cold and drizzly few weeks. Ice cream sandwiches sound perfect for a nice sunny day.

    • Emiko says:

      Not a silly question at all! You can usually find apricot kernels in health food shops – I’ve yet to try them in recipes though, I end up just using regular almonds!

      • Zita says:

        I don’t know if both of you know… :) that Vitamin B-17, also known as laetrile and amygdaline is found in most fruit seeds. Apricot seeds are one of the best sources.

        When apricot seeds are blanched they are boiled at high temperature, which results in a skinless, pale coloured kernel. As you are probably aware boiling anything destroys much of its vitamin content, enzymes and nutrients. Blanched apricot seeds therefore have little value as a nutritional supplement.

        You can read a lot on the internet how amygdaline kills cancer cells (http://bit.ly/14qS4tX) or watch an interview with G. Edward Griffin (who is the author of the book: World Without Cancer) – http://bit.ly/118YWfN.

        • Valeria says:

          Thank you for this, Zita. I had a vague idea of fruit seeds, including apple seeds and apricot kernels, being anti-cancer food, but didn’t know about their vitamin content and the heating issue. Will look for whole, unbleached ones for sure. Thanks again.

        • Emiko says:

          Yes, I know! Though the apricot kernels I’ve seen have the brown skin still on them (so they look exactly like almonds) – these are the raw ones, not blanched. Many of the old recipes that use “bitter almonds” call for raw apricot kernels that are often then blanched as part of the recipe, but you could always leave them whole for that extra bit of nutrition and to add a bit of speckled colour!

  4. Zita says:

    Yum! I need one sandwich! I would love to try this now!

  5. rach says:

    …so next time I make stuffed peaches I will make my own amaretti – she says. Sun todayy but my oh my it’s been glum in Rome, can’t way for spring and peaches. Swaddle swaddle x

  6. Valeria says:

    OMG. I want it to be summer, like, right now. Gorgeous, Emiko. I love amaretti much more than macarons (too sweet and flavored). Never thought of amaretti ice-cream sandwich! And the best thing about these is that they are even more than simple ice-cream sandwiches –they are affogato amaretti sandwiches! Wow. Sorry for this dumb comment but I am lost in the beauty of this creation of yours.

    • Emiko says:

      Thanks Val :) actually I did have affogato on my mind when making these! I love amaretti too, had to do everything possible not to eat them all before putting the ice cream in them!

  7. Morgan says:

    Hi there! I’ve been reading your recipes for a few months now– and learning so much! I was curious about these cookies– do you think they’d hold up okay if I mailed them? Or would they not taste so great after a day or two? I was thinking about mailing these and a copy of Boni’s book to my food-loving boyfriend as a Valentine’s Day gift, but mailing cookies can be so tricky! Thanks for any help!

    • Emiko says:

      Now that’s an interesting question! If you make them in the more traditional domed shape (about an inch wide), they may hold up better. Taste-wise, they would still be great, as long as they’re in an air tight container they should keep well for at least a week. Good luck, what a lovely idea for Valentine’s day!

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