Ricciarelli are the most gorgeous Italian biscuits dating back to the fifteenth century and once so precious they were only sold in apothecaries. Hailing from Siena, these sweet, chewy almond biscuits covered in icing sugar now fill the windows of Tuscan cake shops all year round and most prominently over the Christmas period where they are bought by the kilo. I have fond memories of making these biscotti when I lived in Italy. Lovingly taught to me by Nonna Rosa one Christmas, the aroma of bitter almonds still lingers in my memory! Feel free to add a little extra almond extract and vanilla into your mix if you want a stronger flavour.
Makes approximately 20 ricciarelli
125g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon or orange
100g icing sugar plus extra icing sugar
300g almond meal
2 egg whites
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp of almond extract or aroma of bitter almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.
2. Place the caster sugar and lemon or orange zest in a large bowl. Rub the zest together with the sugar until fragrant and the citrus oils have released into the sugar.
3. Sift over the icing sugar and add almond meal. Mix to combine.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to stiff peaks. Add egg whites to the almond mixture with the vanilla and almond extract or aroma of bitter almonds and gently fold in until the mixture becomes a firm but moist paste.
5. Roll golf ball-sized pieces of the dough into balls and coat in icing sugar. Flatten slightly to form oval-shaped biscuits and place on a lined tray. Repeat with remaining dough. Leave ricciarelli for at least 30 minutes on the trays to slightly form a dry exterior.
6. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until just coloured. They will still be soft upon coming out of the oven, however will slightly firm up as they begin to cool. Dust with extra icing sugar and store in an airtight container.