Wandering through the streets of Figueres, Spain last week – someplace between Fundacio Gala – the Dali Museum – and tapas to the Nth degree, I found myself wandering the streets of this charming, funky little town. My compatriots and I had spent all day spinning through the Spanish countryside, rallying really, blowing up our minds, hearts and legs on bikes and we were satisfied, exhausted and hungry. It was around 6pm and locals were out for walks with their children, enjoying cafe culture of early evening, sipping beer and sangria on the square, and bundling up as the sun set behind the buildings of the town center.
Too antsy to sit at the cafe with the others, my friend Matt and I hit the streets, making the excuse of searching for a fashionable hat. Within 10 meters of separating from the cafe bound crew, I spotted a small patisserie and, like a mosquito attracted to bright lights, was drawn in. Matt, I am quite sure, would have been completely content oggling the deliciousness from through the warm glass windows but not me. I could smell everything from the street and was not going to pass up the opportunity to taste this moment. We sidled up to the counter where an animated and delightful woman was more than pleased to fill a small paper bag with everything that we requested with eager pointed fingers and less than stellar Catalan accents. Enamored with the experience, and full with the samples she pushed easily upon us, we hit the street munching away at the bag – marzipan and cherry cookies dipped in chocolate, traditional macarons, and panellets de pinyon (whose name I had to stalk upon returning home.) Chewy, sweet and toasty, Matt and I looked at each other with disbelief – as if the world had been turned upside down with a single bite. Pine nuts are not everyones’ forte and so I was overjoyed to hear Matt say, after polishing his cookie “was that not the B E S T thing you have ever eaten?” Perhaps so.
Thanks to you, Matt, I have an excellent memory of these little streets and a flavor to recall them easily!
Pinyon nuts, or pine nuts as they are frequently called, are in short supply these days due to weevil infestations of the farms that produce them in Asia. Those that are edible are quite pricey….but you only need about 1.5 cups to roll these delicious cookies in.
Quite accidently, these macaroons are gluten free and vegan, but moreover they are absolutely delicious and certain to whisk you (and me, and Matt) back to the streets of Figueres in seconds. Enjoy! xo – L
- 1 small (4 to 5 ounces) russet potato, peeled
- 1 pound blanched or slivered almonds
- 1/2 lemon (grated zest only)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup pine nuts
- Slice the potato and plop it into a small saucepan filled about 3/4 full with water. Bring the water to boil and cook the potato until it can be pierced easily with a fork. Then, strain the water and allow the potato to cool...just a bit. Discard all cooking liquid.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the almonds and lemon zest. Pulse until the consistency of flour. Then add the potato. Pulse until smooth and well incorporated. Let stand.
- In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to simmer (so as to dissolve the sugar.) You are going to make a sugar syrup so bring the mixture to 250F degrees. This will take about 15 minutes or so. Be careful not to overcook and use a candy thermometer to ensure that you take the syrup to the right temperature....otherwise your cookies will be soggy!
- Pour the syrup into the bowl of the processor (still containing the almond/potato mixture,) in a thin stream. This allows incorporation to be smooth and complete! Run the processor while pouring until the mixture is smooth. Let stand to cool for a few minutes before transfering to a bowl, wrapping with plastic wrap, and allowing to sit refrigerated overnight.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll the refrigerated dough into small balls and then roll in the pine nuts. Place the cookies, ready to bake, on prepared cookie sheets. Bake until toasted and golden, about 15-20 minutes.
- Allow to cool on wire racks and enjoy with a Spanish muscat or chai tea.