The invention of amaretto has received an amorous Renaissance treatment. In the early 18th century, a Milanese bishop or cardinal surprised the town of Saronno with a visit. A young couple, residents of the town, welcomed him and paid tribute with an original confection: on the spur of the moment, they had baked biscuits made of sugar, egg whites, and crushed apricot kernels or almonds. These so pleased the visiting bishop that he blessed the two with a happy and lifelong marriage, resulting in the preservation of the secret recipe over many generations.
2 cups whole unblanched almonds, toasted
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites
2 teaspoons almond extract (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and butter and flour it.
2. Combine the almonds, sugar, flour, and salt, if using, in a food processor. Process to a fine, crumbly powder. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the egg whites and almond extract, if using.
3. Drop the cookie batter by the teaspoonful onto the cookie sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 20 minutes, or until dry. Let cool slightly on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.