September 15th, 2009

Pignoli Almond Cookies

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The cookie book is off to the printers and we are thoroughly excited about sharing a few more recipes with you. For those who were at the Toronto Veggie Food Fair, did you catch Terry and her cooking/baking demos? Here she is kissing our book cover at the Book Expo this past summer.

It will be out in stores in early November, but you can preorder the book on Amazon or where ever you like! Now on to today’s recipe.

Pignoli Almond Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

You may simply knows these are “pignoli,” the rice almond buttery cookie with the dense, chewy center and a smattering of pine nuts. I’ve been missing Brooklyn a lot lately, especially around autumn, and these cookies are an Italian (and Jewish) bakery staple. The bakeries in Brooklyn are a little bit different from the kind of hoity toity 4-dollar-cookie bakery we find across the country these days. For one thing, you could buy cookies by the pound. And for another, the cases were overflowing. It wasn’t about buying one cookie to nibble on while you pretended to work on your lap top. It was buying a box, tied up with red string, to bring and share where ever you were going. It wasn’t a birthday party (or a funeral) if it didn’t end with a big cardboard box of colorful, chewy, chunky, crispy, crumbly cookies.

Pingolis were a staple in that box. If you know what I’m talking about you’re probably already in the kitchen unwrapping your almond paste. If you don’t, well, try these heavenly bites and join us.

Note: These cookies are super-soft right out of the oven, so be sure to allow them a full five minutes to firm up on the cookie sheet before transferring to racks to complete cooling.

7 ounces almond paste, sliced into 1 inch cubes (not marzipan)

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, softened

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2  cup pine nuts

2 to 3 tablespoons almond milk for dipping

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a medium sized baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse almond paste, salt, baking powder and 1/3 cup sugar in a food processor until mixture is crumbly, about 1 minute.

In a large bowl cream together margarine and remaining 1/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add almond paste mixture and almond extract and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Sift in flour and beat until a slightly crumbly yet soft dough forms. Dough should form a soft mass when pressed together.

Pour pine nuts into a shallow bowl and pour 2 Tablespoons of almond milk into a small saucer. For each cookie, roll 1 tablespoon of dough in palms to form into a ball, dip one end in almond milk and press moistened end into pine nuts. If necessary press pine nuts into surface of ball. Place dough balls, pine nut side up, on baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 14 minutes until cookies have puffed and spread a little, and nuts are are just slightly toasted. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes to firm up before carefully transferring to cooling rack. Store in a tightly covered container.

From Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

54 comments to Pignoli Almond Cookies

  • Sina


    Oooooh, these look good!
    Is it really not possible to sub marzipan (skipping the first step where the almond paste is mixed with sugar and salt but adding the baking powder in the next step)?

    – Sina

  • I just love the purple and blue in the picture background! 🙂 Oh, and the cookies look good too, I guess.

  • I’m sure it’s possible to sub marzipan if you want to risk it and have an idea of what you’re doing, but why risk it? This recipe was developed with almond paste which is much less sweet so I don’t want people to accidentally to marzipan and ruin expensive ingredients.

  • Sina

    Well, I’m not sure almond paste is available around here. I’ve only seen (not-that-expensive) marzipan (almonds 51%, sugar, water, invert sugar syrup) in supermarkets and happen to have some lying around in the cupboard.
    Where did you find the almond paste?

  • These look and sound amazing! Excited for the book, it doesn’t by chance have a recipe for those pistachio/almond cookies in the Italian bakeries does it? I’ve been thinking of them ever since our trip ( I tried them aware that they we most likely not vegan and fell in love with them).

  • Those cookies must be so good! I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for almond paste – I’ve never seen it, so I’m not even sure it’s available around here or in what kind of packaging it’s sold, but I’ve got to find some!

  • Kris J

    OMG – i’ve been waiting for this book! I plan on begging my hubby for this and the brunch book for Christmas!

  • Kelly

    Look where they sell the baking stuff or sometimes where the canned pie fillings are. In a little can, not that expensive, I’m thinking around 3-4 bucks.

  • these look amazing!! if i can find almond paste soon, i wanna make these asap!!
    thanks for the sneak peek isa!

  • Kelly

    Just made these, but i made them gluten free! They are wonderful! By the way, i bought my almond paste at Winco for 4.27. It was 8 oz so i just ate the extra oz!

  • Almond paste is relatively easy to find! It’s usually in the baking section right next to the marzipan. In a little can or in a plastic tube that comes in a cardboard box.

    Glad you liked the Kelly! What kind of flour did you use?

  • Terry’s was amazing at the Food Fair in Toronto. She packed the house for both of her demos. She was funny, with her wrestling and zombie jokes, and incredibly engaging.

    There are some great shots of her (headset and all) on the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair flickr page

    I am really looking forward to the amazing calibre of vegan cookie exchanges this year-following the release of this book.

  • Suzanne

    Does it matter if you use the kind of marzipan in the tube or in a can? I tried to recreate these cookies a few months ago myself from recipes online and some recipes said that you had to use the kind in a can. My recipe concoction came out too moist so I am really excited to try this recipe!

  • I’m so excited about these. My boss brought in her own the other day (not Vegan) and they looked so good. I want to make these right away, so thank you for sharing the recipe. Do you think there is a way to replace the sugar with agave nectar? I’m always trying to do that, but I don’t know if this is one recipe that just can’t be altered that way.

  • A

    The sound of the cardboard box being folded…. the red string…. WOW! Major flood of memories just came flooding back of visiting my relatives in New York as a kid!!!!! AWESOME!

  • Kelly

    To make them gluten free, i just used the combination of 2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca starch-this makes 3 cups, just store the rest. i usually buy the rice and tapioca starch at the little asian markets for about .60 for a bag, or at Winco in the bulk section. i also added a scant 1/8 tsp. of xanthan gum. i made mine a little larger so they took a little longer to bake, but they are (almost were) incredible! i’m going to bring the rest to all my friends at Barnes and Noble. Could be a good thing!

  • Alexa

    wow these look amazing i can’t wait for the book to come out. And I saw Terry at the toronto veggie food fair, her demos were awsome!!

  • Terry

    Hi everyone!

    Questions are basically answering themselves! This recipe was developed for use with almond paste which is better for baking and stuff. Canned or tube works fine. Gluten free should work just fine here too. But I wouldn’t mess too much with using agave in these…the liquid balance is very specific here and all that agave might turn these cookies into puddles.

    Thanks Lisa for posting the TO food pic pool! Good times!

  • theresa

    I miss east coast bakeries too! Good, hole in the wall bakeries … that is one thing lacking around the Pacific Northwest.s. I can’t wait for the book!

  • JUST saw this recipe!! I think you might have inspired me to make cookies again for the holidays.. ^_^

  • JenD

    I just made these and they are exactly like the ones I used to buy (by the pound) at the Italian bakery in my pre-vegan days. Thank you so much!
    ps – I found almond paste at a regular old supermarket in the baking aisle.

  • Adena

    I just made these, and they are a hit with the boyfriend! And with me! And the dogs were sniffing around them excitedly too, but we didn’t let them have any. But I’m sure they would have been a huge hit with the dogs if they were allowed to eat sweets!

  • […] working on her 4th cookbook, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is testing recipes for a low-fat cookbook, Terry Hope Romero, co-author with Isa on Veganomicon, has a Latin Vegan cookbook set to be published in April […]

  • Thank You for posting! I used to work in a traditional Italian bakery pre-gan days and have been wanting to recreate these 🙂

  • This recipe caught my eye because I am trying to develop a rainforest-friendly cookie that does not use palm oil. Orangutans are being driven to extinction because their forests are being cut down in Borneo and Sumatra for palm oil plantations. I am developing the recipe for the rainforest-friendly cookie in connection with my book about orangutans, The Intimate Orangutan, which is being released in the U.S. in March 2010. I’d be glad to hear from anyone who can help me design this cookie, particularly if it can be low fat and healthy. I intend to post the recipe on the Internet when I finish. There is more information about orangutans on my website There is contact information on the website too.

  • Shawn

    What I meant to say is can this recipe be done without margarine, for the reasons above?

  • Spooky

    I am anaphlylactically allergic to pine nuts. Would it be almond overload to sub almonds on the top in their place? Or would you recommend a different substitution?

  • Taylor

    These are my mom’s Christmas gift this year. She loves pignolis.. I am so excited this recipe was posted..AND I am so excited you’re alive to share your awesome recipes with us.
    Thanks so much!

  • TattooedNar

    Almond paste is really easy to find here (Turkey), along with hazelnut and pistachio. Mmmmm….pistachio paste…Might have to think of a cookie recipe to go with that.

  • Krystyna

    Sadly almond paste is near impossible to find here. At least I’ve had no luck. I found it in one store just before Christmas, but the first ingredient was sugar.

  • Ang

    Just wanted to say thanks for another great book, and if I may be so bold, to put in a plea for a future little themed book: Vegan Appetizers!
    One of the many things that keeps me from throwing house parties is the blank I draw when trying to think of what nice little munchies to put out for people. It would be great to have an arsenal of crowd-pleasing, impressive, even cutesy little finger foods (esp. ones at room temp) for such moments. This would also come in handy for pot-lucks.
    Of course I realize you’re a busy lady, but it’s a feather to stick in your hat.

  • Super. these look amazing i can’t wait for the book to come out. Thank you

  • Heather

    I made these for the first time last week and they were AMAZING! My mom and I absolutely loved them and they were easy to make! Thank you for sharing this recipe I can’t wait to go pick up the book 🙂

  • […] Project has me shoulder deep in cookies, and today’s sweet little morsels are none other than Pignoli Almond Cookies. Guess what? While these are indeed from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra […]

  • I made these and they came out SOOOOOOO GOOD. I haven’t had pignoli cookies for 7 years so thank you so much!!

    I pressed down on the cookies so they were a little thin. I recommend to everyone that they just leave the dough as a ball on the pan, don’t press it- the cookies spread on their own.

  • Help! In the UK we don’t have almond paste, just marzipan and the names are used interchangeably. What is the difference and can I make almond paste?

  • […] My mother-in-law has a recipe for pignoli cookies that my sister-in-law has perfected. Golden pignolis with a chewy center. The cookie is great because it’s gluten free. But now that I’m working towards being a vegan, I wanted to try a version without eggs so I turned to my favorite vegan baker, Isa Chandra Moskowitz. They did not disappoint. I actually prefer these because them seem less sweet – my mother-in-law’s recipe has sweetened coconut that makes the cookies sweeter.  Here’s Isa’s recipe: […]

  • April Maier

    Made these today. Wonderful! My husband has given them his seal of approval. Printing out the recipe-it’s a keeper.

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  • […] adding a twist on a traditional Italian Christmas cookie, pignoli almond cookies, which comes by of Post Punk Kitchen. Let’s get […]

  • I just made these and they are delicious !!! Even with my experimental homemade almond paste 🙂 Happy Fairy

  • Laurie

    The dough came out a little too crumbly so i added a few tablespoons of almond milk and it came together nicely. They are in the oven now. Having had the finest pignoli cookies from Madonia Brother’s bakery on Arthur Ave in the bronx, these have a high bar to measure up to, but so far, they seem great! Best looking recipe out there vegan or not! Thanks!

  • Barbara

    Great recipe!! I’ve made pignoli cookies for several years at Christmas time and this year wanted to try a vegan version so I could share the yumminess with a friend and this recipe was great. My co-workers didn’t even notice the difference from previous years.

  • Neha

    For those asking about marzipan, I made these tonight with marzipan. Used the same weight as almond paste, lowered the sugar to 1/2 cup. They were fabulous! Could totally lower the sugar to 1/3 cup next time.

  • Kelly S

    Almond Paste at a regular grocery store is not vegan and full if sugar. Any suggestions for a homemade almond paste recipe?

  • Pignoli almond cookies is not easy to make.

  • I just made these, and they are a hit with the boyfriend! And with me! And the dogs were sniffing around them excitedly too, but we didn’t let them have any. But I’m sure they would have been a huge hit with the dogs if they were allowed to eat sweets!

  • I found a very good website, how to fold 4 pointed star

  • […] I’m not a biscuit baker but I thought I’d give these little cookies a go. Popular in southern Italy and Sicilian communities in the US. Apparently, they are also typical of Catalonia, where they called panellets served on All Saints Day. This recipe is adapted from Isa Chandra’s recipe here. […]

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