Since I saw the lovely Silvia Collica make Ricciarelli recently (see here for the recipe and video) I have been playing around with the recipe for this very moorish traditional Italian biscuit.
I love almonds in biscuits, and realise that many nationalities – mine included being Maltese – will have their own versions similar to this one. But what has fascinated most is this biscuit’s origins, and the different recipes and methods I chanced upon from a wide variety of incredible bakers right across Italy.
Put simply, Ricciarelli is a gluten free almond biscuit, coated in icing sugar and shaped into an oval before being baked to create a crackly and rough exterior. The centre is soft, with a slightly firmer exterior, so that it melts in your mouth when you bite into it. Ricciarelli are generally consumed during the festive season with a good strong cup of coffee (which hugely appeals to me!), or a small alcoholic beverage at any time of day or night.
Ricciarelli originated from the township of Siena (like the Siena cake I love making at Christmas time … see here ), where it is believed to have been introduced in the 14th century by Ricciardetto della Gherardesca upon his return from the crusades.
Many Ricciarelli recipes state that the oval shaped biscuit should sit on a baking tray for a period of time before baking to create a crust (much like a French macaron), which helps to create the traditional “crackle” effect. However, I found that by placing the mixture into the fridge for a couple of hours before shaping not only helped with handling the mixture (it is very sticky), but also gave me the “crackle” effect when baked.
When I initially trialled Silvia’s recipe using almonds that I milled myself in the Thermomix the recipe didn’t work … they were so tight and solid, and not soft and moorish like they should be. When I reviewed Silvia’s video I noted she used commercial almond flour which I suspect made the difference, but I wanted to use my own almonds so therein started my endeavours to adjust the recipe. During my research I found many recipes use the same weight of almonds to sugar, but I found that by milling my own almonds, and adding just half the sugar, I got the result I wanted.
So I do hope you decide to try this recipe at some stage, and perhaps like this version too xo
- 300g blanched almonds
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 150g raw caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes, or ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 60 to 70g egg whites (from 2 eggs) – no more otherwise mix will be too soft
- 120g Icing sugar for coating
- Place almonds and zest into TM bowl and mill 6 seconds / speed 7, scrape around bowl and mill again 2 seconds / speed 7 (you want the almonds to be fine but still have some texture)
- Add sugar, vanilla, salt and egg whites to TM bowl and mix 10 seconds / speed 5
- Remove almond mixture to a separate container – this is a very sticky dough so Turbo x 1 to scrape the rest of the mix out
- Cover the container, and place mixture into the fridge for two hours before shaping into biscuits
- When ready to bake, place icing sugar into a small bowl
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees, fan forced, and line two baking trays with baking paper (I use large baking trays so can get all the biscuits onto one, still allowing for 6cm space between biscuits … so if you have a large tray this may apply to you too)
- Dip your ice-cream scoop or spoon into the dough, then drop that dough into the icing sugar (the dough is sticky, so it is easier to handle once it has been coated in the icing sugar … if using a scoop you may wish to wash and dry it half-way through shaping the biscuits, and if using a spoon use a second one to push the dough off the first spoon to save using your hands which will become sticky)
- Coat the dough generously in the icing sugar before picking it up and shaping it into a thick rectangle (it does not need to be perfect … these are very rustic looking biscuits which is part of their charm)
- Place dough onto baking tray, leaving 6cm between the biscuits to spread a little during baking
- Place tray into oven and bake 10 minutes, rotate tray and bake for a further 6 to 8 minutes until cookies are cracked, and lightly golden around the edges (cooking time will depend on how big you have made the biscuits, but if using a 25ml scoop then this timing is perfect)
- Cool for 10 minutes on tray before placing onto a cooling rack to cool completely
- Store biscuits in a sealed container for up to two weeks