Baby steps, alright?

by lisafischoff

IMG_1717Hey remember last year when I told you about my homemade limoncello? I made it in February, let it soak until early May and promptly forgot to ever mention it again. I didn’t forget about the actual limoncello though. In May I strained it, added sugar and let it sit again for another week. After that, I stuck it in the freezer to chill and thicken and we tasted it for the first time during my graduation weekend. I had high hopes, I really did and the flavor was there but it wasn’t smooth. The tangy lemon flavor was completely underscored by an impossible-to-ignore burning sensation reminiscent of a cheap shot, (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about, we’ve all had one. yuck). The thing is, it wasn’t cheap liquor. It was 160 proof vodka. To spite the fact that every recipe I read called for either Everclear* (grain alcohol) or Devil Springs Vodka I should have known better. When the guy in the liquor store crinkled his nose at my purchase, I should have known better. When I saw the warning on the label that read “absolutely do not drink this straight you will die” (or something along those lines), I should have known better. When I opened the bottle and the smell burned the insides of my nose (why on earth would anyone try to drink this stuff straight!?), I should have known better.  When the vapors also made me cough a little bit, I should have known better. Unfortunately, I said “yuck, I hope these lemon rinds work their magic” (or something along those lines), emptied the bottle into a mason jar full of an hour’s worth of peeled lemon rinds, and stuck it in the closet until May.
It all seemed to be moving along smoothly and when it was finally time to taste it I filled a few glasses with ice and pour some icy limoncello right over it. We cheers-ed on the front porch and took a big gulp (read: tentative sips).
I was not a hit.
And by the way, this was graduation weekend; it wasn’t our first drink. I can’t imagine what it would have tasted like if it was.
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Not wanting to admit defeat, I decided it just hadn’t “ripened” long enough (read: I was making things up). I added a bit more sugar, put the cap back on and stuffed it back in the closet. Two weeks later I packed it up, brought it downstate with me when I moved and promptly forgot about it once again. That is until I decided to try pouring it in homemade pink lemonade. This wasn’t a bad option but when the lemonade was gone (too quickly) we stopped drinking the limoncello. I dragged the bottle back home with me and ultimately dragged it along on my next move to my new apartment last September. I stuffed it in the back of the freezer and once again forgot about it.
Until now.
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I was sifting through the freezer (read: praying mason jars wouldn’t fall on my head and knock me out), when I noticed the frosty bottle full of thick sunshine. It reminded me of a recipe I’d come across for limoncello macaroons. I decided they would be a nice way to use some of it up and also kill a jar of blanched almonds that are getting close to overstaying their welcome. Plus these cookies are essentially bite-sized chunks of lemon marzipan. I don’t think there are 2 words out there that sound more fantastic in the same sentence than “lemon” and “marzipan” (except maybe  “snow” and “day” or “ice” and “cream” or…nevermind).
Anyway, I whipped up a quick batch of almond paste and beat together a batch of these macaroons paying absolutely no mind to the fact that I only used one tablespoon of the aforementioned limoncello even though the reason I was making cookies was to use it up. Hey now, baby steps, alright? I have one tablespoon less limoncello in my freezer than I did when I woke up this morning. Now that’s progress. I also have forty-eight forty-five forty more cookies on my counter than I did this morning. Don’t ask me what happened to the other eight.
*Everclear is 190 proof and it’s illegal to buy or sell anything over 160 proof in New York. A quick google search told me that Devil Springs Vodka is a good substitute in a limoncello recipe and at 160 proof, totally legal (for now) if not widely available in New York. Lucky for me the liquor store 100 feet from my house in Binghamton just happened to carry every obscure type of liquor in existence. Seriously, that place had the most remarkable selection I’ve ever seen.
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Limoncello Macaroons
I rolled these in powdered sugar as the recipe called for but they would also be delicious rolled in desiccated coconut or unsweetened cacao powder.
Adapted loosely from 101 cookbooks/Makes 4 dozen

1 batch almond paste (see below)
1 large egg white
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon limoncello
zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp almond extract

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Beat the egg white, the almond paste, confectioners’ sugar, and almond extract together either by hand or with an electric mixer, until creamy, about 2 minutes.
Add the zest, limoncello, and salt and beat until combined, another 30 seconds.
Coat a clean/dry surface with a generous handful of sifted confectioners’ sugar then turn the dough out onto it. Shape and roll out the dough into two 3/4-inch thick logs, roughly 18 inches long. Cut each log into 24 equal pieces (see photo). Make sure each piece is entirely coated in sugar, tapping to remove excess.
Transfer to prepared baking sheets.
Preheat oven to 350F  degrees.
Use three fingers to gently pinch each piece of dough to form an irregular pyramid shape of you like, or you can leave them pillow shaped. Bake until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, I also like them deeply golden, it’s a matter of personal preference really, but baking for a few extra minutes will achieve this.
Transfer the cookies from baking sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.
These cookies keep well in an air-tight container for a few days.

Almond Paste

10 2/3oz almonds, blanched, peeled, and coarsely chopped
2 large egg whites, room temperature
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
just over 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Grind the almonds in a food processor until they resemble a fine powder.
In a bowl, beat the egg whites with salt until frothy.
Add the vanilla, almond extract or rosewater.
Sift in the first 1/2 cup of powdered sugar adding up to another 1/2 cup
Add just enough to form a smooth, pliable paste it will still be sticky.

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