I am not sure, but probably in Italy the Sicilian “pasta di mandorle” are the most famous biscuits of this kind, but the Ricciarelli of Siena have nothing to envy to them 🙂 they are some of the most flavorful and perfumed biscuits I ever tried, and I really love them (the Sicilian too obviously!).
It’s a biscuit typically made for the Christmas time, but nowadays they are available all year round, and they also obtained the PGI certification from EU.
They are very simple, they have to extra fats and no flour. Just almonds, sugar and egg whites, but with some honey and some candied orange peels they are the best.
The secret I think it’s mainly in the use of the bitter almonds (or apricot kernels), and in letting the dough rest for 1-2 days in the fridge, to mix all the flavors together.
INGREDIENTS (for 30-40 pieces):
- 400 g almonds
- 350 g sugar
- 50 g honey
- 120 g egg whites
- 40 g bitter almonds (or apricot kernels)
- 40 g candied orange peel
- powder sugar
- First of all peel the almonds and the bitter almonds. I suggest to do it in the evening, boil them for a couple of minutes and then it will be easy to remove the peels one by one. Let the almonds dry overnight, on a towel.
- Then on the following day reduce the almonds into a powder (it’s not needed to do it too small, it doesn’t need to be a flour), and mix them with the sugar.
- In another bowl whisk the egg whites for few seconds, they don’t need to be fluffy and firm, just a bit foamy.
- Then add the egg whites to the almonds, add also the honey and the candied orange peels cut into very small pieces. Mix together with your hands, it won’t take much time.
- Don’t worry if the dough is sticky. Roll it on your working table, sprinkle just a little bit of flour over it, and then cover it with a plastic wrap. Let it rest on the bottom of your fridge, ideally for at least 24 hours, so the flavors will blend together better.
- After this time sprinkle powder sugar on your table, and work the dough to obtain a cylinder with a diameter of about 5 cm (it’s not important to be precise here), then with a knife cut it into slices of about 25-30 grams each. Then shape them simply with your hands into pointed oval shape, and making them a bit more compact.
- Then place them in an oven tray, where you have placed a baking foil sprinkled with powder sugar. Keep a distance between them , because while baking they’ll get larger. And sprinkle other powder sugar over them, a generous amount.
- Let them rest in the fridge (or on the balcony as I did, since it was cold enough) for about 1 hour. Then bake them at 160 °C, static oven, for about 12-13 minutes, until they will start to crack on the surface.
- Let them cool down, and then enjoy 🙂 the best is with a good sweet wine, for example a Tuscan Vin Santo 🙂
- Take care while removing them from the oven tray, they can break easily. Store them in boxes, since they are quite moist inside they won’t get dry too fast.