The flourless almond cookies of Kea are traditional festive treats prepared for weddings and christenings and for other joyous family occasions. They are the perfect kosher-for-Passover sweet, as a participant in our classes pointed out, watching my neighbor Zenovia prepare amygdalota.
Most people now use blanched almonds, but I find that, although less attractive, cookies made with whole, un-skinned nuts are equally delicious, not to mention a bit less labor-intensive — if you’re starting from the harvest-field.
All over the Middle East one finds endless variations of these cookies, often heavily scented with citrus blossom, or rose water. I prefer to just use my own lemon liqueur, leaving the flavor and aroma of the local almonds shine; but if you have ordinary almonds I suggest you use a good quality citrus blossom water.
See also the Lemon-scented Almond cookies that are not baked, but cooked on the stove.
For 60 cookies
2 pounds blanched almonds , or un-skinned, if you like
2 cups sugar
6-7 egg whites 1/4 teaspoon Salt
Almond extract (optional)
Citrus blossom water, as needed
3-4 tablespoons Lemon Liqueur, as needed, optional
About 60 whole blanched almonds
In the blender or mixer grind the almonds with the sugar to a polenta-like consistency.
Beat the egg whites with 1 tablespoon sugar and a pinch of salt to form soft peaks.
In a large bowl combine the almonds and sugar, adding a few drops of almond extract, or 1 tablespoon citrus blossom water. Gradually add enough egg whites to make a mixture that can be shaped into cookies. Be careful at this stage because you don’t want to make a wet paste –you may not need all the egg whites.
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Wetting your hands with liqueur or orange blossom water, take walnut-size pieces of the almond mixture and briefly roll on your palms to form into balls. Flatten slightly, pushing your finger at the top to make a dimple where you stick a whole almond. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden both on top and at the bottom. Be very careful NOT to dry them. The almond cookies must be hard on the outside and still somewhat wet and soft inside. They may appear soft as you take them out of the oven but they harden as they cool.
Let cool completely, and store in air-tight boxes.
If you can resist eating them all, the almond cookies can be frozen for up to 4 months.