Saturday, January 8, 2022

Ricciarelli di Siena, and homemade/recycled Christmas decorations

Ricciarelli are delicious Italian (Tuscan) almond sweets, apparently originated in the XIV century.
Making them in New Zealand is quite special, as they really give Xmas an Italian flair. Bitter almonds are one of the ingredients though, and I have not found them here, so I added just a few apricot kernels (be careful, they are poisonous so you just need a tiny amount, and they MUST be blanched). Of course this is optional, you will get great results just with regular almonds.

200 gr of almonds
about 6 to 10 apricot kernels
200 gr of sugar
2 egg whites
zest of an orange or a tbsp of candied mix citrus peels
Possibly some more ground almond if the mixture is too wet
plenty of icing sugar to roll and dust

Blanch the almond and the apricot kernels separately in hot water and remove the skin. 
Place them in the food processor with the sugar and grind to a powder. Do this in two lots, on pulse, making sure that the mixture doesn't heat or becomes a paste.

Lightly whip the egg whites, just gently, they don't have to be stiff like for a meringue, just starting to be white. Add the ground almonds and the orange zest or candied citrus peels. Mix well, if it feels too soft add a little ground almond. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The day after flour a board or working surface with icing sugar and roll the paste into thin rolls, about 2-3 cm thick. Cut and shape into biscuits, about 1.5-2 cm high. the traditional shape is like a grain of wheat, with two pointed ends. 

Place on a oven tray lined with baking paper and sprinkle with more icing sugar. Bake at 150C for 15 minutes or until the edges start to be golden. Ricciarelli should not be overcooked! Let them cool down completely before removing them from the baking tray. They keep well for a couple of weeks in a biscuits tin. 

All the decoration on this Xmas tree are homemade or recycled.

I recycled small bottles fro Italian fruit juices and crochet around them to make lights. I used recycled old wool for the crochet, and also made a few balls and little doilies. I foraged and painted the pine cones, and also spray painted some dried hydrangeas flowers. And then my usual sugar decorations, made with fondant, all white this year! Finally I recycled the crystal drops from a broken chandelier, they look classy on the tree!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

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