Food Notes & Tousim 03/12/2012

Home made Ricciarelli, classical Tuscany Christmas cake

Ricciarelli are classic orange-laced Sienese almond paste cookies that were once a Christmas delight, but are now enjoyed year-round. They closely resemble soft amaretti

900 g sugar
1.2 kg peeled blanched almonds
60 g candied sweet (as opposed to bitter) orange peel
20 g (a scant ounce) bitter almonds (substitute peach pit nutmeats or omit if you cannot find)
150 g sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) water
60 g powdered sugar
60 g (1/2 cup) flour
60 g (2 ounces) powdered sugar laced with vanilla
2 egg whites
Wafers to put the Ricciarelli on (unflavored edible rice paper will work as a substitute)

Note: an ounce is about 28 grams
Begin by grinding the almonds and the other ingredients of A so as to obtain a smooth uniform paste; this is easier if you have access to a professional quality grinder.

Dissolve the sugar of B in the water and heat over a brisk flame to obtain a thick syrup. When a drop of the syrup pressed between the fingers which are then separated forms threads mix it into the almond cream, together with the powdered sugar and flour of C.

Let this dough rest covered with a damp cloth for 8 hours. Whip the whites to soft peaks with the vanilla-laced sugar (D) and incorporate this mixture into the dough.

Dust your work surface with a mixture of powdered sugar and rice starch (or corn starch) and roll the dough out so it's about a half inch (1 cm) thick. Cut the dough into diamond-shaped cookies an inch across and two long (the Sienese cut the loaf into strips, roll them into snakes and press pieces of the snakes into appropriately shaped molds).

Once the ricciarelli are cut out they should be placed on thin wafers (Sienese use thin wafers much like communion wafers, but unflavored edible rice paper will also work) on a baking sheet, dusted with powdered sugar, and baked for about 15 minutes (or somewhat less) in a 320 (160 C) oven. You don't want them to brown.

di Aliona Avduhova