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These almond cookies are unbelievably toothsome and very easy to prepare. A few ingredients make such an extraordinary treat.
Give it a try: it will be love at first taste!
Their origin is unknown, yet, Pellegrino Artusi (one of the most talented Italian chefs ever) included ricciarelli in his book “Scienza in cucina e arte del mangiar bene” in 1891; they are considered as a sort of marzipan sweet.
What are ricciarelli like?
Chewy marzipan cookies, they make an ideal sweet to please your family and friends at Christmas, most of all in Tuscany.
As I don’t live in Tuscany- here in Italy habits greatly vary according to the local traditions, I usually don’t have them only at Christmas but all the year long.
Melt-in-your-mouth embracing delicacies, ricciarelli taste sugar and almond paste. They may be paired with a thin host or a wafer.
Three ingredients- almonds, sugar, and egg whites are gently combined until an even dough which must rest for twelve hours and then it is shaped into oval (rice grain like) cookies.
Why should you eat these cookies?
Why? Because they are super scrumptious. The significant quantity of sugar and almond paste makes these cookies everything but light! But they are worth.
One after the other you won’t be able to stop eating them, completely seduced by plenty of powder sugar! Believe me!
The genuine recipe from Siena and a few simple variations
Siena is a very well-known town in Tuscany; Palio (the most traditional horse race in Italy) and three cookies are its diamond tips. The genuine recipe si quite simple, but the ingredients are not common. If you wanted to replicate the original recipe, you would need sugar, almonds, candied orange, flour, wheat stark, powdered sugar and host or wafer.
According to the original method, the almonds, candied orange, flour and some sugar should be crushed in mortar with a wooden pestle. Then a syrup with water and the remaining sugar should be prepared and added to the dry mixture; the dough should rest for eight hours. Egg whites sugar and baking soda are beaten until very stiff peaks and added to the dough which is kneaded into a smooth ball. The dough is rolled out using a mixture of water and flour; then one inch cylindrical cookies are shaped and baked.
I usually opt for bitter almond extract which is much easier to find at the supermarket, and I replace candied orange with lemon zest.
No problems with finding the ingredients. The result? Similar to the original recipe and amazingly tempting.
Watch out for these steps:
- If you have to prepare the almond flour, try not to heat the shell fruit. So, mix some sugar with the almonds, it favors the grinding process. Pulse intermittently not to heat the blades of the food processor;
- Be careful with the baking: ricciarelli should result white and pale. They usually harden when they cool down;
- Don’t be afraid of using baker’s ammonia, its terrible smell will vanish during the baking, but it’s much better than baking power and baking soda at making your cookies light and crumbly;
- You may well replace almond flour with whole almonds: bake or boil them for a few minutes, move their peel and grind them in a food processor. Likewise, toast whole almonds in the oven for about 10 minutes at 50°C (122°F), let them cool down and freeze for 30 minutes. Yet, almond flour makes smoother ricciarelli than whole almonds do.
- Host helps the cookies with keeping their shape and favor a more even baking. You may not use it, but flour the surface of the baking tray. You may replace host with rice paper.
Ricciarelli: simple and toothsome almond cookies
- 300 gr unshelled peeled almonds or almonds flour
- 250 gr caster sugar
- 1 XL Egg white
- 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder, or baker’s ammonia, or baking soda
- 20 gr wheat or rice starch
- 30 gr vanilla powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 bitter almond extract (extra: to enhance the natural taste of the cookies)
- the peel of half a lemon or 15g of candid orange
- powdered sugar
- hosts or rice paper
- Finely grind the almonds with 200 g of sugar (if you use almond flour combine it well with the sugar) the candied orange or the grated lemon peel;
- Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl and combine well with a wooden spatula;
- Prepare the syrup in a small non-stick pot: pour the remaining 50g of sugar and the 3 tbsp pf water;
- Melt the sugar over low medium heat, swirling the pan (do not stir with a spoon as the syrup will form naturally);
- Turn off the heat when the syrup starts to set (it must not get toot things or golden);
- Pour the syrup into the dry mixture and combine well;
- Sift in powdered sugar and starch, then the baking powder (or the baker’s ammonia, or baking soda);
- Combine well; don’t panic if the dough falls apart- that’s good;
- Cover the dough with a damp tea-towel and set aside to rest at room temperature for about 12 hours; if you are in a hurry, make a cylinder and wrap into cling film, and refrigerate for 4 hours;
- Beat the egg white to stiff peaks;
- When the white is fluffy and shiny add the powdered sugar and the almond extract;
- Take the dough and smash it with a wooden spoon;
- Pour the white egg mixture and combine with upwards motions until a smooth even soft dough;
- Transfer onto a pastry board dusted with powdered sugar;
- Shape one or two 4,5cm cylinders;
- Cut 1cm thick slices, gently roll and flatten the sides in order to give the cookies their natural distinctive shape: a sort of uneven diamond shape;
- Similarly cut and shape the hosts;
- Fix the small pieces of dough in order to fit the hosts, place the cookies onto the hosts;
- With your finger gently curl the tips of the ricciarelli, they should look like rice grains;
- Arrange the cookies onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper;
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar;
- Let sit in a fresh place for about 1 hours (we are about to bake them!);
- Bake in static oven at 140-150°C for about 25-30 minutes until their natural cracked texture;
- Ricciarelli must result pale and white, so keep the baking process under control because when the sugar starts to crack, the cookies may get too golden;
- Take them out of the oven transfer onto a cooling rack with a spatula. Do not touch them with your hands as they will fall apart; serve completely cold.
Ricciarelli: Italian almonds cookies (time saving recipe)
- 250 gr almond flour
- 300 gr white sugar
- 1 tbsp liquid honey
- grated peel of ½ lemon
- 1 white egg
- 1 tsp vanilla powder
- powdered sugar
- In a bowl, combine sugar, almond flour, honey, lemon peel (I use very little: ricciarelli must not taste lemon), whipped white egg (you may need to add another one to make the dough compact; keep in mind that the cookies must be fluffy, not crunchy).
- Combine well all the ingredients until a soft and moist dough.
- Dust a pastry board with powdered sugar and roll out the dough 2cm thin.
- Shape the cookies with a knife and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 120°C (248°F) for about 15-20 minutes. If you have added a second egg white it will take longer (20-30 minutes).
- Check the cookies carefully during the baking because traditional Ricciarelli must be pale golden.
How can you store ricciarelli?
They keep fresh up to a week in an air-tight container; yet enjoy them best without two days.
Do not freeze these delicacies as texture and taste are spoilt when defrosted.