Sienese Almond Cookies (Ricciarelli)
These delightful cookies were a discovery from my trip to Italy a few years back. I spent a short while in Tuscany and visited some of the rural towns and villages. One of the smaller cities, major rival to Florence, is Siena. They say you're either Florence or Siena - I'm Siena. I found the city a lot more compact and a lot more authentic. It didn't seem so boutiquey like Florence, and it was nice to actually see Italian families and children walling around - I didn't see much of that in Florence, or many other places in Italy now I think about it.
While I was in Siena I tried two of their specialities - panforte, a very dense chocolate cake fortified with dried fruits which I didn't find to be very compelling. The second thing I tried, and which has blessed me since, are Ricciarelli. These angelic, pillow-soft almond cookies are a cookie like no other. They're not the 'snap' sort of cookie, they're very soft and delightfully chewy, and they have a very charming almond flavour. Typically these cookies are eaten at Christmas in Siena, though I happened to find them pretty irresistable in September too!
Sienese Almond Ricciarelli
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
- Lemon Zest
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
- 225g Icing Sugar
- 200g Ground Almonds
- 100g Whole Almonds, chopped
- Separate the 2 eggs and place the whites into a mixing bowl, whisk them with an electric whisk until stiffly whipped (you won't need the yolks, though keep them, make carbonara for your supper.)
- Add in a teaspoon of almond and vanilla extract, a teaspoon of lemon juice and a good scrape of lemon zest (or orange if its Christmas). Sift in 225g icing sugar with the ground almonds and chopped almonds. Using something bendy, or a large metal spoon - not a wooden spoon - and fold these into the egg whites. You want to do this very carefully, to make sure you don't punch the air out of the egg whites. I find the best way to fold anything in gently is to mix in a figure of 8 shape, using the spoon or spatula to cut through the mixture. This sort of mixing takes a minute or two, but your patience it worthwhile.
- Once you cannot see any lumps, place the bowl with the mixture into a fridge and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Afterwards, the mixture will have collapsed to form a sticky dough.
- Preheat the oven to 160C. Remove the dough from the fridge, and its bowl. Place onto a countertop, dusted with a little icing sugar to make sure the dough doesn't stick. Roll the dough into a sausage shape and cut little nuggets off. You should have about 12-16 little nuggets.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper, and place each dough nugget onto the tray, allowing plenty of space. Flatten them slightly with your thumb and place the tray into the oven to bake for 15-18 minutes until gently cracked and lightly golden around the edges.