Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Resting time: preferably overnight, otherwise at least 2 hours + 2 hours
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
A specialty of the Tuscan city of Siena, ricciarelli are delicate cookies made with fresh almond powder, sugar and egg white, dusted with icing sugar. The baby Jesus swathed in velvet.
A little history
Originally, the cookies were made in convents and herbalist shops. In Siena's historic centre, ancient shops still bear witness to the tradition with fresco-painted ceilings and gold inscriptions celebrating ricciarelli, panforti and other typical local pastries made in these shops. History also says that a Sienese named Ricciardetto (hence the name Ricciarello) della Gheradesca brought back little cakes shaped like the Sultan's slipper from his Crusade to the Holy Land.
The cookies can be made the day you wish to serve them, but you can start a day ahead so that they are even more flavorful.
The cookies will keep for several days in a cookie tin. Over time they dry out and become crisper, but they're still delicious.
The day before
- Combine the almond powder, candied orange and vanilla seeds in a bowl.
- Add the baking powder, sugar and almond extract. Mix well.
- Cover with a damp cloth and let rest overnight, or at least 2 hours.
On the day
- Beat the egg whites until foamy and mix them into the almond-sugar mixture.
- Work the mixture into a damp dough: it won't be perfectly smooth, but a bit grainy.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 150 °C/300° F.
- Shape the batter into little cylinders; cut into 3-4 cm lengths. Form into oval lozenge shapes.
- Coat with icing sugar and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave some space between the cookies. When you bake them, the dough will puff up and spread out, but even if some cookies stick together you can easily separate them with a knife a few minutes after removing from the oven.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes - the cookies should not brown, but be baked just enough to remain soft in the centre.
- After removing from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet.
- Sprinkle lightly with icing sugar and cool on a rack.
Photo: ENIT - Italian National Tourism Board
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