Marochinos (Sephardic Almond Cookies)

Marochinos (Sephardic Almond Cookies)

Try out this recipe for your Passover seder this year.

Marochinos (Sephardic Almond Cookies)
Marochinos (Sephardic Almond Cookies)

Cooking with ground nuts and nut pastes was popular in medieval Jewish and Islamic cultures across Iberia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. Jews became known in Spain for the wonderful, sweet confections made with almonds that grew well in Spain.

At the time, beaten eggs and egg whites were the primary way to leaven baked goods. These cookies, sometimes called marunchinos, are based on a recipe carried by the women when the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion forced Jews to leave Spain and Portugal. A bit crispy outside, chewy inside and totally addictive any time, they are pareve and perfect for holidays such as Passover and Tu B’Shevat.

Makes about 24 cookies
2 cups almond meal*
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
5 large egg whites
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 24 whole raw almonds or almond slices
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
*Almond meal can be purchased already prepared, usually from unpeeled almonds. It is not as finely ground and powdery as almond flour, but still has a little texture to it which gives the marochinos a good texture. You can make your own almond meal by grinding whole raw almonds (peeled or unpeeled) in your food processor to a texture a bit like fine sand.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make sure the oven racks are in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease the pans.
Use a whisk to combine almond meal, sugar, salt, and cinnamon, if using, in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg whites and extract about 20 seconds just until foamy. Add the almond mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon for about 10-15 seconds just until the mixture is well blended, being careful not to overmix.
Drop the mixture by the teaspoonful about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, using another teaspoon to help drop each cookie. Use the back of a spoon to gently round the edges and just slightly flatten the top of each cookie. Gently press one whole raw almond or an almond slice onto the center of each.
Bake for about 15 minutes, then switch the baking sheets to the other rack, also turning each around 180 degrees for even cooking. Bake about another 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown on bottom. Don’t overcook or the cookies get too dry. Cool on the baking sheets a few minutes, then transfer to a rack and cool completely. Marochinos keep up to a week in an airtight container in a cool, dry place with the layers of cookies separated by waxed or parchment paper. They also freeze well when packed this way. If desired, dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

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