November 16, 2005

Virtual Cookie Swap

I love Cookies!
So when I saw this Sugar High Friday on Domestic Goddess
I saw a woman after my own heart!
She and Alberto of Il forno are having a virtual cookie swap! Perfect timing for the holidays.
When they post all the cookies they are having a contest, Vote for your favorite three by email on their sites.. hope my Riccarelli is one of them!

I go wacko at christmas breaking out all my old recipes and making zillions of cookies. Every year I give bags to all my favorite vendors at Florence's Central Market which gives me a special place in their hearts!

One of my favorite cookies anytime of the year is a simplified Renaissance cookie called Riccarelli. Much like Almond paste or Marzipan, my version is less sweet and quicker to make.Serve with a lovely rich dessert wine, like Vin Santo from Tuscany, a Recioto from Verona or a Passito di Pantelleria and you will be in heaven!

These delicate Christmas cookies are said to be shaped like the almond eyes of madonnas by Renaissance painters.

The traditional cookies are a three day process,ground almonds are mixed with a sugar syrup and then let to rest for a day, then formed the next day and let to rest again, then baked. I find the traditional cookie to be sweeter and more marzipan-like.
I prefer instant satisfaction.
Often I will form the cookies and then bake them right before I serve them, so they are warm right out of the oven. Really special, but not traditional.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

These are the traditional Riccarelli at Nannini's pastry shop in Siena.

I have given these recipes to many people for their cookbooks and they have translate my ingredients incorrectly and they come out wrong. Good, but wrong.
The dough should not be too sticky and firm enough to form. It should not spread out when baking. If there are problems, try adding more flour.

, grinding the almonds in the food processor isn't fine enough and the almonds won't absorb the whites and will spread!

Ricciarelli (Sienese Almond Cookies)
Makes about 36 cookies.

Like all Italian almond sweets, they were called "marzipan" for centuries. They are a popular dessert treat in Italian homes.
Here's the recipe!

2 cups Almond flour or almond meal
( you may need an additional cup of almond flour if your dough is soft)
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar ( 10x , icing sugar )
1 tsp almond extract ( I use Bitter almond extract) add more for a stronger flavor.

1 cup Extra powdered sugar for rolling the cookies before baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.If you don't have almond flour you can make your own. I use a manual Swedish nut grinder,a food processor doesn't do it right.
If you are making your own almond flour, use peeled unroasted nuts for the classic cookie.

2.Add the powdered sugar.

3. Combine the baking powder with the flour and fold in.

4.Beat the egg whites until stiff and mix into the almond mixture.

5. Add the almond extract and blend until you have a soft paste.

6. Place some powdered sugar on a clean, dry surface. Form one tablespoon of dough into a small ball, roll in the sugar, and then form the traditional diamond shape, flattening the cookie with the palm of your hand.

7. Place the cookies on a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Cooking them at a lower temperature for a longer time will make a softer cookie. I like the contrast of the crunch.

One of my variations
Ricciarelli are fabulous with tiny cubes of candied orange peel or candied giner rolled into them and then dipped in chocolate.

Also great with hazelnuts or rolled in pineuts.


  1. I want to make these this weekend! Question; You call for 2 cups of almond flour, then say to grind it. If I have ground almonds already I presume I just use 2 cups of them? Can't wait to make them...but I'm not sending them anywhere!

  2. I tweeked it to correct... thanks.
    When I did a class at the Boston Musuem a few years ago, the chef made the cookies for me, grinding the nuts with granulated sugar..
    they were good, but not my cookies. More like Ossi di Morti ( another Sienese cookie called Bones of the dead.. crunchier!)

    Another time I sent the recipe to a fellow food writer to be included in a cookbook of Master Chefs of Italian cuisine,. she included it in the book, but didn't do a recipe check with me before she published.

    She is English and translated the Powdered Sugar as Castor sugar.. again another cookie! Good.. but not mine!

  3. Those look great! Can't wait to give em a whirl for the holiday season.

  4. Glad I have the true version! Will make this weekend for my lucky guests...xx

  5. Sono onestamente commossa.

  6. These cookies look and sound absolutely amazing! I love almond cookies with confectioner's sugar...and warm out of the oven? Heavenly!

    Diva - make sure you check back for the round-ups on my site as well as Alberto's in order to vote for you favourite cookie recipes!

  7. Grazie mille!

    Does Milano have a similar cookie Typesetter?

  8. Not exactly. There are pane dei morti, which are another of these medieval-originated heavily spiced cookies, but no almonds anywhere in sight.

  9. they look beautiful, and delicious. cheers!

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  12. They are Ricciarelli.. perhaps you didn;t see the name above the recipes!

    Someone just wrote he dough came out to soft...
    bake one or two first. they should't spread... o be flat..
    so perhaps they egg whites are different in the states.
    Adding some more flour will help!

  13. julie huang11:35 PM

    sorry diva for deleting the previous posts, i'm quite new to all this...i'm just shocked to come back and saw the picture of myself there.
    but anyways thanks for the recipe agin.

  14. My mum and I make these every Christmas, i'm inspired to make them when I get home tonight!!

  15. Very nice. And very well documented. I think I might be able to replicate with your instructions!

  16. It's a great cookie even when it turns out wrong!
    but when it is done right it is really DIVINA!

  17. Hi Diva--They look and sound delicious! I have some almond meal in the fridge just waiting for a recipe!

  18. hey diva, your cookies have a new fan! i made these having tried some ricciarelli from siena and fell in love - thank you!

  19. Anonymous4:58 AM

    can almond paste be used as a substitute for the almond flour/ground almonds?

  20. No almond paste won't work.
    That is marzipan.

    what you need is ground almond flour.

    I have a nut grinder. but Bob's mill also makes it!

  21. anna marie3:51 PM

    We were in Sienna last week at a restaurant and had what I thought was Riccarelli. I then purchased a box of cookies from a grocery store to take home. What I purchased was very different from the cookie in the restaurant. In the restaurant they were cut in half and a marzipan type of chewy but not too sweet filling was inside. It was dusted with powdered sugar but was a bit more round than oval. The market cookies were crisp, the restaurant ones were slightly chewy. We are now anxiously searching for this cookie. Sound familiar to you?

  22. ann marie- have a foto?
    riccarelli come in many forms, commercial and artisan.
    crispy can be older... the crust forming more.

    Send me an email diva at

  23. My partner and I made these cookies for an presentation in our Italian class last semester. Our teacher, who is actually from Italy, was ecstatic and everyone loved them! I've made them a couple times since then just because I love them so much. Thanks!

  24. Anonymous5:39 PM

    I had these cookies in Sienna when I was over there last year.. I have been searching for a recipe that is close to what I ate. I did make these today.. But the inside was a little more crunchy than I would like. How do you make the inside soft and chewy?

  25. to make cookies less crispy-- cook less!

  26. Anonymous1:48 PM


    First baking recipe from the internet that actually works! Think I'll finely chop candied fruit and mix into chocolate and half dip the cookies.

    I used a 150g bad ground almonds... added the same weight in icing sugar. I ended up using all the egg white... but then felt I needed to add a little more flour (didn't have any more almonds) until the dough was no longer a little wet.

    Heaped soup spoon size balls.. pressed with a fork on top... yield = 10 + a tiny one, which Iv'e just eaten... yum! I also cooked mine roughly 5 mins longer than recipe called for.

    (I tried making gluten free shortbread.. recipe called for 'rice flour' & i used ground rice ... the individual cookies melted into one, I guess to ground rice not absorbing other ingrediants... won't do that again)!

    Many thanks,


  27. Thanks so much for this recipe! I've been making these every Christmas for the past 5 years, to rave reviews This year I happened to see hazelnut flour (next to the almond flour) at Whole Foods, and even found hazelnut extract, and tried a batch substituting hazelnuts for the almonds. Topped with a whole (blanched) hazelnut (from an Italian grocery!) they were really terrific! The hazelnut seems coarser, and I used more egg white (4 egg whites for 3 cups of hazelnut flour) and it was still a stiffer batter, but they came out really well. (I increased the oven to 375, but that might be a question of my oven having too variable a temp.)

  28. StanA, yes there are also hazelnut versions and i am working now on my favorite one which is crispy. basically the same batter, but cooked first on the stove and then baked! Brutti ma Buoni