amaretti [am-uh–ret-ee, ah-muh-] noun
Italian macaroon cookies often made from almond paste, sugar and egg whites. When homemade, they can sometimes be chewy, other times crisp. Amaretti means “little bitter things” in Italian, and although they do not taste bitter at all, it is likely in reference to the bitter almond flavor that gives them their unique flavor. A popular commercial brand is Lazzaroni Amaretti di Saronno, which comes in a distinctive red tin (shown). The ingredients are listed as sugar, apricot kernels (20%) and free-range egg white. Apricot kernels contain a high level of benzaldehyde, a chemical that tastes like bitter almonds and gives the cookie its characteristic taste.
The classic Lazzaroni Amaretti di Saronno cookies are wrapped in pairs in a very lightweight patterned paper. These wrappers float when burned and this is a tradition for many aficionados of this cookie. Fold the paper into a long cylinder and stand it on end on your dessert plate and light the top. It will burn down to the bottom and then Whoosh! It will gently but quickly float up into the air. The whole process doesn’t even create any ashes, as the paper is so fine. Take care, of course, and make this an adult-supervised activity. It’s very cool and kids love to watch. (Video to come.)