If you know me personally, you know by now that my mother turned 80 on Easter Sunday. And if you are a friend on Facebook, you know that my brothers, our families, and I threw a surprise party for her on April 17.
Here’s a great picture of my mom with me and my brothers at the party:
Buon compleanno, Mamma!
And here’s a great picture of my mom and dad when they were young:
I LOVE that picture, so I had it blown up for the party.
I’d have to say the surprise was a success. My mom said she thought something was up — maybe her sisters were meeting all of us for dinner…
…but she had no idea of all the family members that were traveling to help us celebrate.
The true mark of success was when my mom told me that the party was the highlight of her 80 years! I guess we did okay.
Early on in the planning, Aunt Ann offered to make all the cookies for the party — as she has been known to do before (remember I told you about my wedding?) — and my brothers and I quickly took her up on her offer. Check out this spread:
The tri-color cookies were made by Ann’s daughter, my cousin Gina … and I hope to get that recipe for you someday soon, because they were fantastic! But the rest of the cookies (and all the extras hidden away in the kitchen to take home) were from Aunt Ann. She’d tell you she did it for her “siss-ter”!
Of all of Aunt Ann’s cookie recipes, I’d have to say my favorite is the one for pignoli cookies. And I think my brother, Ralph, would agree. I try to make them for him every year at Christmas. If you are unfamiliar with pignoli cookies, they look like this:
The cookie base is made with almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and almond extract; the batter is runny and sticky. The real challenge when making these Italian treats is rolling the raw cookies in the pine nuts before placing them on parchment paper for baking. Letting them cool before taking them off the parchment paper after they’re baked is also a challenge for me, personally. How many pignoli cookies I’ve pulled off where the underside of the cookie stayed on the parchment paper … just because I couldn’t wait for them to cool! But intact or not, they always taste good … and the end product is well worth the effort.
My most vivid memories of pignoli cookies are of eating them at Aunt Barbara’s house. (She is my father’s youngest sister; her mother was Grandma Marietta. Aunt Barb and her family came to the party, too. It was so nice to have everyone there!)
We’d sit around Aunt Barb’s dining room table after a really good meal, and out would come all the Italian pastries and cookies, including these. I would carefully choose a cookie and meticulously pick off the pine nuts, eating them one at a time. When all the nuts were gone, I’d devour the cookie, then get myself another and start again. (Who am I kidding? I still eat them this way.)
The combination of flavors — the almond with the pine nuts — is unique, as is the combination of the sticky-chewy cookie and the crunch of the nut. I truly believe this could be the perfect cookie! If you like the flavor of almonds, you simply must try one.
I offer Aunt Ann’s recipe with this post, but if you’re around at Christmas, give me a call. I can whip up an extra batch — I’m always more than willing to share — and for you, I promise to be extra patient when it comes to the cooling!