Ricciarelli - A Sienese Tradition
I don’t think I have ever made a trip to Siena without an obligatory stop at Nannini pastry shop for an espresso and a ricciarello (usually with a box of cookies to bring home as well). These delicious almond cookies are a perfect mid morning treat. They are so pretty with a dusting of powdered sugar that looks like fresh snow. You can box them up to make a gorgeous gift. I can’t believe what a perfect re-creation of the bakery made version this is. Grazie mille Domenica! (P.S. - they are gluten free!)
3-3/4 cups blanched almond meal flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 oz. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar; more for dusting
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange (about 1 Tbs.)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1-1/2 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Line 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Pour the almond flour into a large bowl and use your fingers to break up any clumps. Add the granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, and the orange zest, and whisk to combine.
In a small stainless-steel bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand-held mixer on high speed until they form soft peaks. With a spatula, gently fold the whites into the almond meal mixture. Add the honey and extracts, and mix well. The dough will be stiff and sticky.
Put the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Pinch off about 2 tsp. of dough, roll it into a ball, and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is shaped into balls, placing 12 balls per sheet. Roll each ball in the confectioners’ sugar until well coated, then return to the baking sheet and gently pinch the ball into a diamond shape. Let the cookies sit, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours to firm up and dry out a little.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until their tops have started to crack and they are barely tinged with gold around the edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and let cool completely.
Dust with more confectioners’ sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.