Brace yourselves, cookie lovers. Behold my latest obsession: tortoni, a humble yet complicated frozen dessert of Italian origin. I first read about it in the New York Times Magazine in February, in an article by my beloved Amanda Hesser. Haven’t read much by her in a while, and I keep forgetting to pick up her splendid cookbook/memoir/love story, Cooking for Mr Latte.
I first made this for an Academy Awards party and received the house party equivalent of a standing ovation. The almond cookie crumbs hold up to provide a crunchy counterbalance to the creamy, dreamy mousse. Let it warm up a little and it tastes even better. Because of its moussiness, it doesn’t truly melt…it just gets soft and velvety. Tis a pain in the ass, but completely worth it.
serves 8 gluttons or 12 polite friends
First, make yourself some Almond Paste:
1# 2 oz blanched almonds, lightly toasted, cooled completely
3/4 c confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
2 c sugar
1/2 c water
1/2 c light corn syrup
1/2 t almond extract
Grind almonds and 1 T confectioner’s sugar in food processor to a coarse powder. Add remaining confectioner’s sugar and salt and process to a fine powder. Dump into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Heat sugar, water, corn syrup in a saucepan over low heat, stir to combine. Once sugar has dissolved, increase heat and bring to a boil. Cook to 325F (between thread and soft ball).
Pour the syrup over the ground almond mixture and mix with the paddle attachment at low speed until combined. Cool to room temperature and mix in the almond extract. If the dough is too stiff or won’t bind, add a little boiling water.
Knead the dough until soft and elastic. Dust the counter with a little confectioner’s sugar if necessary. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Then, make the Macaroons:
[sidebar: these are more like Italian amaretti cookies than traditional American coconut macaroons or the heavenly French macaron]
2 egg whites
7 oz almond paste
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c confectioners’ sugar
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Beat lightly with a fork.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the almond paste, 3/4 cup of sugar and the salt. Pulse until combined. Scrape into the egg whites. Add the confectioners’ sugar and fold together. Let the batter sit for an hour or more.
3. Using two spoons, drop the batter onto parchment-lined well-insulated baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. (The drops should be about 2 teaspoonsful.) Bake until uniformly golden, about 18 minutes. Peel cookies from the parchment as soon as you can handle them without burning your fingers.
Finally, make the mousse that forms the business part of the tortoni:
3/4 c sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 t vanilla
2 c heavy cream.
1.Preheat the oven to 250F. Break the macaroons into pieces and toast them on a baking sheet until golden, dry and crumbly. Let cool. Grind to fine crumbs in a food processor. You need about 1 cup. (Go ahead and toast/grind all the macaroons you’ve made. Store the extra crumbs in the freezer. You’ll want to make this again, trust me.)
2. Combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the syrup reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer.
3. Meanwhile, in a mixer, whip the egg whites until they form firm peaks. By hand, whip the yolks until fluffy. In the mixer bowl, fold together the whites and yolks.
4. When the sugar is ready, turn on the mixer to medium speed and, with it running, slowly pour in the syrup in a fine thread. Reduce the speed to low and whip until the mixture cools to room temperature. Mix in the vanilla.
5. Whip the cream and fold it into the egg mixture.
6. Line the base of a springform pan with parchment. Spoon a third of the crumbs into the base. Cover with half of the mousse. Sprinkle with another third of the crumbs. Cover with remaining mousse. Top with the remaining crumbs. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
7. About 15 minutes before serving, remove from freezer. Unwrap and unmold immediately. Let it sit just a bit before cutting into wedges.