I got up early this morning while the house was still blissfully quiet. This is my favorite time to bake; the day is fresh, and I can lose myself in the process. Everything else fades away except my chef’s knife and measuring cups waiting patiently on the counter. The only sounds I hear are the wooden spoon scraping the side of the bowl and the gentle clanking of measuring spoons. Another perk- I am forced to eat cookies for breakfast.
Making cookies always reminds me of my Italian grandmother. Nana and I spent hours of quality time in her kitchen. When we baked cookies or pies, we began by taking out all of the ingredients and tools we would need: measuring cups and spoons, bowls, greased cookie sheets, and so on. We laid everything out in proper order and only then did we begin assembling the ingredients. Sometimes I could not understand her insistence with perfection in the kitchen and in life, but now I appreciate the gifts she gave to me.
This fall when I was in Florence, I learned this cookie recipe in Stefania Fermi’s Italian cooking class- Fatto in Casa Con Stile (Homemade with Style ). She picked us up in Florence and in fifteen minutes we arrived at her quiet country home in Chianti. We cooked in her adorable kitchen and ate in the garden while sharing a bottle of local Chianti wine. If you plan to visit Florence, I highly recommend taking Stefania’s cooking class. She believes that food is medicine, and her food choices show respect for animals, people, and the planet. She is originally from Emilia-Romagna, lives in Tuscany and teaches traditional dishes from these two regions. She is lively and lots of fun.
Variations: substitute almonds for the hazelnuts, experiment with different toppings or leave them plain. I put raspberries on these right out of the oven.
Flourless Italian Cookies
These wonderful little drop cookies are easy to make and can be dressed up for parties or holidays. There are only five ingredients: powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate chunks, egg whites, and hazelnuts. They are flourless, so they are a perfect treat for anyone with a gluten sensitivity.
- 2 cups powdered sugar (plus a bit more for decoration)
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 3.5 ounces 70% chocolate bar roughly chopped, or 1/2 heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 egg whites
- Preheat oven to 325 F
- Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
- Stir in hazelnuts and chocolate chunks.
- Add egg whites and stir to moisten everything thoroughly- will be the consistency of brownie batter.
- Line a cookie sheet with chlorine-free parchment paper.
- Drop cookies by heaping teaspoons onto parchment paper. Leave 1 inch between cookies as they will expand when cooked.
- Bake for 15 minutes for a chewy cookie. Bake 20 minutes for a crunchy cookie.
- Cool completely and carefully remove cookies from parchment paper. Place on a platter and use sifter to cover with powdered sugar.
- Serve while still warm or store in an airtight container when cooled.
- La dolce vita!