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Monday, April 7, 2014


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     Pignoli cookies are soft centered almond flavored cookies with a gently firm outer shell, topped with pine nuts (called pignoli in Italian).  I love marzipan and these are like baked marzipan balls of bliss.  These cookies are easy to make with very rewarding results.  
     Where I live there are many Italian bakeries and shops where you can buy these cookies, but not GF versions.  I used to love these cookies and missed having them. I am so glad I tried to make some since they are as good as or even better and fresher than any store bought ones.  
     I looked on-line at various recipes.  Most were naturally gluten free with just almond paste, sugar, egg whites and pine nuts.  Some used 1/4 cup of flour. Some used vanilla and or almond extracts.  Some used some honey.  Some used grated orange zest. Most used a combination of confectioner’s and regular sugar.  The amounts of each ingredient varied greatly with each recipe. 
     I had a 10 ounce can of almond paste.  The almond paste out of the can tasted sweet already and had a strong almond flavor, so I decided not to add any flavorings and to reduce the amount of sugar.  I started with a half cup total of sugar.  Most recipes called for at least one cup of sugar and were using two ounces less almond paste.  I prefer a less sweet product and I figured that I could always add more sugar.  With the half cup of sugar the dough had a  sweetness that was just right for me.  The recipes all stated to add 1-3 egg whites until the dough came together.  I added one egg white and it came together well without being too sticky.  The cookies did not spread while baking.

Makes about 35 1¼-inch round cookies


10 oz. Almond Paste (I used Love N Bake brand. Read the labels as many brands contain wheat.)
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1  (30gm) Egg White
1/2 - 3/4 cup Pignoli or Pine Nuts - raw.  ( Or you can use chopped almonds or press a whole or half of a blanched almond onto the top of each cookie.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 310 degrees. Take two baking pans and double each pan by placing one baking sheet inside the other. This will insulate the pan and keep the cookies from browning too much on the bottoms. Prepare each double baking sheet by lining the top pan with parchment paper. 
  2. Break up the almond paste into smaller chunks to make it easier to mix the ingredients.  Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse several times holding the pulse button for 5-10 seconds each time.  Keep pulsing until all the sugar and almond paste are incorporated and form large crumbs.
    Sugar and almond paste in the food processor bow.
    I should have broken down the almond paste into smaller pieces
    because the food processor complained.

    What the sugar and almond paste look like when pulsed together enough.
  3. Add one egg white and pulse until the dough comes together.  (Add more egg white if needed for the dough to stay together if it is too dry.)
  4. Using a scoop that measures 1-inch across, measure out portions of dough. 
  5. Place the pine nuts in a shallow bowl or plate.
  6. With wet hands roll the dough into balls and press one half of each ball into the pine nuts. 
    Pine nuts pressed onto half of a ball of dough.
    The nuts stick better when the ball is tacky from being rolled with wet hands.
  7. Then place each ball, the side without the nuts down, on a cookie sheet. The cookies will not spread much so you can place them 1½ to 2-inches apart.
    Balls of dough, nut side up, on a baking sheet.
    The dough did not spread while baking and
     the balls could have been placed closer together.
  8. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until just turning color and lightly browned on the bottoms.
    First batch, the oven was 350 degrees and the pan was not doubled to insulate.
    The bottom got too brown for my liking, but still tasted great.

    Next batches with the lower oven temperature of 310 degrees
    and on a doubled pan to insulate from the heat.
    I prefer this color of brown.
  9. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheets before moving the cookies still on the parchment paper to a rack to cool completely.  Remove the cookies from the parchment paper with a spatula.
  10. Store in an airtight container or tin at room temperature for 2 days.  Freeze for longer storage.
    Close up of the inside of a cookie. 


  1. I love cookies that are healthy and good for you as well.


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