Perfectly crisp on the outside like meringue and soft and chewy on the inside like a macaron, these delicious authentic Ricciarelli cookies will transport your taste buds right to the charming streets of Siena (check the history at the end of the article)! Expertly crafted with just a handful of simple ingredients like whipped egg whites, almond flour, sugar, and the aromatic zest of oranges, these classic Italian cookies are the perfect balance of delicate almond and refined citrus flavor.
Often served around the holidays, ricciarelli are a type of traditional Italian almond cookie with a very distinct taste and macaron-like texture. Almost like marzipan, the base of the dough is made with a combination of egg whites, almond flour, and powdered sugar, which produces wonderful cookies with a slightly crisp exterior and a dense chewy texture in the middle.
While fragrant orange zest and fresh lemon juice are incorporated to give the almond cookies a lovely burst of bright citrus flavor. Then to finish they are coated with a generous dusting of white icing sugar for one last touch of subtle sweetness that beautifully complements both the nutty almond and citrus flavors.
However, while these traditional Italian almond cookies may be associated with Christmas festivities, they can be enjoyed throughout the year! Whether served as a sweet indulgence alongside a cup of coffee or shared with loved ones during family gatherings, these delicious cookies never fail to leave a lasting impression.
To begin, add the room-temperature egg whites, lemon juice, vanilla extract, almond extract, and orange zest to a large mixing bowl (photo 1). Then use an electric whisk or hand whisk to whip the mixture until it’s foamy (photo 2). The egg whites should still be soft and not become stiff peaks like when making meringue.
Once your egg whites are nice and frothy, sift the powdered sugar and almond flour into the large bowl (photo 3). Then use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to mix everything together into a soft paste (photo 4).
Now, shape the almond mixture into a ball (photo 5) and wrap it with plastic wrap (photo 6). Then put the ball of ricciarelli dough into the refrigerator to chill for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. Keep in mind, the longer it rests the more flavorful the cookies will be.
When you are ready, preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). The oven must be fully preheated before your cookies go in or they will not bake properly. Then line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to prevent the cookies from sticking.
First, sprinkle some powdered sugar onto a clean work surface and then place the chilled ball of dough on top (photo 7). Next, roll the dough into a long rope that is approximately 1 inch (3 cm) wide. Then cut the rope into 25 equal pieces, each weighing around 20 grams (photo 8).
Now, dip each piece of dough into icing sugar and then flatten it with your hands as you shape it to look like a grain of rice (photo 9). Then place the ricciarelli onto the prepared baking sheet making sure to leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie (photo 10).
After all the almond cookies are formed, moisten your fingers with water and then lightly wet the surface of each cookie. Then generously sprinkle powdered sugar over all the cookies to create a beautiful finish and sweet cookie crust (photo 11).
To bake, transfer the cookie sheet to the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake the cookies for 5 minutes at 300°F (150°C). Then increase the temperature to 340°F (170°C) and continue to bake the cookies for another 5 to 6 minutes until they have a cracked surface. Finally, reduce the temperature to 320°F (160°C) and let them bake for another 5 to 6 minutes.
When the almond ricciarelli are finished baking, allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for about a minute to set. Then very carefully transfer the fragile cookies to a cooling rack using a spatula (photo 12). Now, let them cool completely before serving.
To store ricciarelli, allow them to cool completely and then transfer the cookies to an airtight container. The cookies will then keep at room temperature for about a week or in the freezer for about 1 month.
These famous Tuscan almond cookies are very easy to customize allowing you to tailor them to your own personal taste and experiment with different flavor combinations. Here are a few ideas to inspire your sweet tooth!
Other traditional Italian cookies recipes for you to try it out:
While the exact origin is uncertain, almond cookies are believed to have originated in the Middle East or Mediterranean, where almonds have been cultivated for centuries. In Europe, almond cookies became particularly popular in Italy and Spain, where almonds are also abundantly grown and incorporated into recipes.
Yes! These Italian almond cookies are naturally gluten-free and dairy-free.
Almond flour is a key ingredient in ricciarelli, which is used to create its unique texture and flavor. Substituting it with plain flour will significantly alter the results.
Ricciarelli has a rich history that traces back to the Renaissance period in Siena, Italy. These almond cookies, initially known as marzapanetti, were created by skilled pastry chefs and were most associated with noble families. Yet over time, the recipe was passed down through generations and cookies became a beloved treat enjoyed by people throughout Siena.
Today, Ricciarelli di Siena are an integral part of Sienese culinary heritage and cherished for their historical significance as well as their delicious flavor all over Italy.
Amaretti and ricciarelli are both chewy Italian almond cookies, but they do have differences in their taste and texture. Amaretti cookies have a crisp exterior and a soft chewy interior with a more pronounced almond taste. Whereas, ricciarelli cookies are softer and chewier with a delicate balance of almond and citrus flavors.