ALCOHOL WARNING: This latest blog post on amaretto desserts is limited to those of legal age to consume alcohol.
People cook with alcohol for a number of reasons. It carries more aroma to our noses, adds the flavors of fermentation, and improves our gastronomical experience. Sometimes it’s used in the spectacular flambé technique, where alcohol is poured on a dish and dramatically set on fire to alter the alcoholic flavours with a stunning visual display. You want to add enough of the liquor to taste it without overpowering the dessert.
That’s right, April 19th every year we have the pleasure of celebrating the national day dedicated to the almond-flavoured Italian liqueur, amaretto. We here at Dessert Advisor aren’t about to let this halt our celebrations for desserts inspired by the drink.
Derived from the humble apricot kernel, 16th-century Italians added sweet almonds to take the edge off the bitterness of the liqueur. This gives us the name amaretto, which translates to “a little bitter”. The legend of its creation is linked to one of Leonardo da Vinci’s students, Bernardo Luini, who was commissioned by a church in Saronna, Italy, dedicated to the Madonna. His inspiration came from a local widowed innkeeper. The pair struck up a bond and upon completion of the painting, she gifted him a liqueur concoction made from apricot kernels steeped in brandy.
It took a few centuries, but they started producing the liqueur on a larger scale before it was eventually exported overseas in the 40s.
As it’s frequently used to flavour desserts, and staying on the topic of legends, let’s examine the origins of the almond flavoured macaron, amaretti. So it goes, a spontaneous Milanese cardinal came to bless the citizens of Saronna in the early 1700s. With little warning, a young couple are said to have honoured him by quickly whipping together sugar, eggs whites, and apricot kernels, to create the chewy, macaron-type cookies. Aren’t we grateful he decided to surprise their town with a visit?
Before we conclude, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some other desserts associated with the Italian treat. Take for example, amaretto zabaglione, or perhaps amaretto brownies. We also have chocolate and amaretto panna cotta, amaretto parfait, and amaretto poached pears. But let’s not forget amaretto cream pie, or amaretto-almond pound cake, and even amaretto cheesecake. The list has the potential to be endless if we don’t draw the line somewhere!