Hate the tedium of fussy cookies? Simplify with ricciarelli

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

I like cookies as much as the next person, but I am not much of a cookie baker. For years I tried to keep up my mother’s tradition of having large cans of assorted cookies for the holidays. Each year, the assortment declined and the number of cans diminished.

Cookies aren’t difficult to make, but I find the process tedious — creaming butter and sugar, then apportioning the dough out on cookie sheets to bake. Don’t even get me started on cut-out cookies. I’d rather make a cake and be done with it.

Then I discovered almond cookies, or ricciarelli, as they are called in Italian.

Ricciarelli originated in Siena, a city in the Tuscany region. Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, ricciarelli are loaded with almond flavor. They are a cousin to the delicate French macaron, but involving a much less fussy method of preparation.

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Ricciarelli require just three basic ingredients: almond flour, egg whites and sugar. They take minutes to put together. No creaming of butter required. They are naturally gluten free.

Below is the basic recipe for ricciarelli. If you want to make them more aromatic, add the zest of an orange or a lemon. For a more decorative cookie, you can top them with an almond or amarena cherry.

The recipe calls for superfine sugar, as it dissolves more easily in the egg whites. It’s available in supermarkets, but you can also make your own using a food processor or blender. To get the traditional craggy, crackled crust, let the cookies sit on the sheet for an hour or so before baking.

Almond cookies, or ricciarelli, are a popular treat in Italy. They’re also less tedious to make than most cookies — no creaming of butter and sugar required — and are less fussy to make than French macarons.

Italian Almond Cookies

  • 2 cups finely ground almond flour
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • About 1 cup powdered sugar

Mix the almond flour and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Lightly beat the egg whites and almond extract. Mix in the flour and sugar mixture until combined. Chill the dough for one hour or overnight.

Using a tablespoon cookie scoop or equivalent, make rounded balls. Roll the balls in powdered sugar and place on the cookie sheet. Let stand for about an hour. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Right before baking, lightly press each cookie. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Wait for the cookies to cool completely before tasting.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.