This recipe comes with a health warning. Ricciarelli are addictive. These almond cookies are crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle and have a delicate whiff of citrus.
A type of macaroon, they are native to Siena and the recipe is said to date back to medieval times. They are gluten-free and a handy way to use up spare egg whites if you happen to have them knocking around the kitchen.
They’re usually flavoured with orange zest but lemon works equally well. I have taken the liberty here of reducing the sugar content just a smidgen.
Traditionally they’re eaten around Christmas with a glass of vin santo but they’re too good to confine to one month of the year. Do try them – in the words of my chef friend Andrea, they are up there in the pantheon of the best Italian biscuits.
250g ground almonds
200g icing sugar plus more for rolling
1/2 tspn baking powder
Zest of 1/2 an orange or lemon
1/2 tspn almond extract
2 large egg whites
Pre-heat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3.
Sift the dry ingredients into one bowl. Zest over the orange or lemon and mix.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs whites to stiff peaks, adding the almond extract halfway through.
Fold the dry mix into the egg whites with a metal spoon, using a cutting and turning action until it’s all incorporated.
Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. Scoop out walnut-sized pieces of cookie dough, roll into a ball in the palms of your hands and then into an oval.
Put more icing sugar into a shallow bowl and roll each cookie to coat thoroughly.
Place on the baking trays, leaving room for expansion. Flatten slightly and leave for at least half an hour to dry out.
Now squeeze very gently to encourage the cracks to form and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the palest of gold.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool and harden on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. I think they’re best eaten on the day they’re made but they’ll keep in an airtight container.