It has been a long time since I posted on Gluten Free Alchemist, but I make no apology. 2018 did not start well. January was a long, long month and one in which I unexpectedly lost my mother to Pancreatic Cancer.
Although she had probably had this ugly disease for a long time, it was only a week and half from when she was diagnosed to her death. Needless to say, the blog has not been uppermost in my mind.
I have now lost both of my parents to cancer (my father when I was just 18) and thus last week’s World Cancer Day on 4th February held a particular poignance for me. I worry that I may now become somewhat over-aware of every little pain and niggle.
Looking back over the last couple of years, my mother’s Pancreatic Cancer must have lain ‘undiscovered’ for many many months, if not years….. With my new found google-induced wisdom on how it presents, I now realise that many of the symptoms were clear as day….. the doctors simply did not look in the right place at the right time or consider her symptoms with appropriate curiosity.
There is a good reason that Pancreatic Cancer is known as the ‘Silent Killer’. It masquerades itself within symptoms which could be anything but….. Yet it kills with the precision of a carefully-targeted bullet and has a 5 year survival rate of only just over 3%.
At this time I do not wish to dwell on what it meant to (all too briefly) care for my mother in her final days, but would urge you to look up how this deadly disease manifests and stay armed with that knowledge just in case you ever need to know.
It was my mother who gave us our Italian heritage and also our love of food. Born to Italian parents, she introduced us early to foods that my friends had never heard of, let alone eaten. Visits to my ‘Nana’s’ house would often mean dodging fresh-made spaghetti draped around the kitchen and I would relish our trips with Mum to the Italian delicatessen to pick up ravioli shells ready to fill with spinach and cheese, finely sliced salami, parma ham, olives and the annual boxed Panettone.
There was always cake or dessert in our house too. Endless cake! Mum loved to bake and never needed an excuse to feed us with the sweet stuff. A meal wasn’t finished until we had devoured ‘pudding’.
In memory of my Mum and in celebration of her life and Italian roots, I decided last weekend to make some Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies. These traditional cookies come either crunchy or soft, but always have an intense sweet almond hit. I love both, but decided on this occasion to opt for the soft chewy version which have an almost marzipan quality to them. They also somehow seemed more comforting in my grief.
They are incredibly simple to make and a batch can be created from end to end (and probably eaten) in 30 to 40 minutes flat. Flavour them with a good hit of Italian Amaretti liqueur (I use Disaronno) or for a slightly more intense taste and aroma, add a little almond extract. Either way, with their crisp shell and slightly gooey interior, you will find it difficult to leave them alone, so plan ahead and make a double batch…..
Although I made them in memory of my Mum, these cookies make the perfect gift, whether for Valentines, birthdays, Mother’s Day or Christmas.
I am sharing these Amaretti Cookies with :
Cook Blog Share with Easy Peasy Foodie
Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too
Baking Crumbs with Only Crumbs Remain
Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice
Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum
Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies (makes about 18 to 20 cookies)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
to coat :
2½ tablespoons caster sugar
2½ tablespoons icing sugar
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.
- In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Fold in the almonds, sugar and vanilla.
- Gently stir through the liqueur and/or almond extract. You should now have a very thick, sticky dough.
- Tip the caster sugar and icing sugar for coating the cookies into two shallow bowls.
- Scoop out walnut-sized chunks of the dough using teaspoon and roll into balls using your hands (the mix is very sticky, so I use food gloves when I roll).
- Roll each ball as you make it in the caster sugar followed by the icing sugar and place on the baking tray, leaving a slight gap between them.
- Very slightly squash the top of each ball with your finger.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until crisp on the outside, but still quite pale in colour.
- Leave to cool on the baking tray for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
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