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These classic Italian Almond Cookies are a confection like no other. Rich and sweet, ricciarelli are almond paste cookies with crackly edges and an intense chewy texture. Naturally gluten free, these almond cookies are similar to almond macaroons.
These chewy almond confections, originated in the Middle East and were brought to the Tuscan city of Siena by Ricciardetto della Gherardesca upon returning from the crusades.
They are known as ‘ricciarelli’ because their form (traditionally an oval shape with pointed curling ends) resembled the tips of the Turkish sultans’ slippers (arricciati is Italian for ‘curling’).
These Italian almond cookies were originally known as marzipanetti because they were made with almond paste.
This particular ricciarelli recipe is based on one I found by Elisabet der Nederlanden in her cookbook, “Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season [A Baking Book].”
I’ve altered her original recipe to make a smaller batch of Italian almond cookies, using one standard-sized 7-ounce tube of almond paste, which is the way it’s normally sold.
The modification uses a slightly higher ratio of almond paste to the other ingredients which makes these ricciarelli a bit chewier than the original. My tasters loved them and the denseness of these gluten free almond cookies means they’ll satisfy your sweet tooth after just one or two cookies.
Ingredients for Italian almond cookies
- Almond Paste
- Granulated Sugar
- Kosher Salt
- Egg White
- Almond Extract
- Almond Flour
- Confectioners sugar
What is almond paste?
A very thick, sturdy paste usually made of equal parts blanched almonds and sugar with egg whites.
You’ll usually find almond paste in the baking aisle, sold in foil wrapped tubes to keep it fresh, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can also make your own.
Is almond paste the same thing as marzipan?
No. There is a difference between almond paste and marzipan — so don’t confuse the two. Almond paste has a higher concentration of almonds to egg white and sugar. It’s coarser and less sweet than marzipan, which is usually colored and shaped for beautiful molded candies. Almond paste is an ingredient that’s used in other recipes like this Apple Frangipane Tart.
Working with almond paste
You’ll want to use a food processor for this recipe. Almond paste is so thick and dense, you’ll want to break it down further before processing the ingredients in your machine.
Why? If you add a whole log of almond paste to the food processor, it will likely damage your food processor. So before you pulse the thick paste with sugar, run it along the large holes of a box grater (like you would a block of cheese). This will shred the almond paste into more manageable bits that will blend more easily with the sugar without damaging your machine.
What if the almond paste is too hard?
This happens sometimes if you’ve had a package of almond paste for a while. The paste can dry out and become hard and almost brittle, certainly difficult to work with.
Grating the almond paste on the box grater will definitely help to break it down, but you also might want to check out these tips on softening almond paste from Jaron, The Food Guy.
How to make ricciarelli
- Grate the almond paste on the large holes of a box grater and transfer to a food processor.
- Add the sugar and process for a minute or two until the almond paste and sugar are very well blended.
- Add the egg white, salt and almond extract and blend until the batter is very smooth and creamy.
- Transfer the almond paste batter to a large bowl and fold in the almond flour.
- Scoop the dough into small rounds using a 2-teaspoon to 1 tablespoon cookie scoop.
- Drop the dough into powdered sugar and coat the Italian almond cookie well with the sugar.
- Place the cookies on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake.
Use parchment paper
Normally, I love a silpat for baking cookies, but for these almond paste cookies, you need parchment paper. This dough is very sticky and while the powdered sugar helps prevent it from sticking to your hands, it won’t prevent the ricciarelli from adhering to a baking sheet, even one lined with a silpat.
Forming & baking Italian almond cookies
A cookie scoop makes it easy to portion out equal amounts, but the dough for these Italian cookies is very soft, so you’ll need to shape them into balls after scooping.
If you don’t have a cookie scoop, you can use a regular tablespoon to scoop out the dough and roll it into a ball. Just try to measure the dough to about the same time so that the ricciarelli bake uniformly and they all achieve the same crackly edges and chewy interior texture.
Depending on how large your cookie scoop is will determine how long the cookies need to bake. I used a small cookie scoop that holds about 2 teaspoons of batter and my gluten free almond cookies took about 11 minutes to bake. If you use a larger scoop it will take a minute or two longer.
How to know when Italian almond cookies are done
- Look for visual cues. These cookies will spread a little and start to get that telltale crackly finish.
- The color should be barely golden. You don’t want the ricciarelli to brown at the edges or it will become more crunchy and bitter.
- After taking the cookies from the oven, let them rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. This will allow the cookies to “set,” If you don’t let them rest, they’ll be too delicate and when you move them, they’ll bend and lose their shape.
- Once they’ve rested on the cookie sheet, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
How do ricciarelli taste?
These Italian almond paste cookies are chewy and dense with an intense almond flavor. They’re not overly sweet (which I really like) and go great with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
Tasters said :
“So GOOD! Love this gluten free almond cookie! When are you putting the recipe on your blog?”Francoise (my neighbor)
“I love the flavor, but the texture, the softness and chewiness, is the BEST!”Scott (my spouse)
Italian almond ricciarelli are wonderful anytime, but I think they make an especially festive Christmas cookie. Santa would definitely appreciate these!
More almond cookies you might like:
Almond Ricciarelli Cookies
- Food Processor
- 7 ounces almond paste
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg white
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 6 tablespoons almond flour
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar sifted
- Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°. Line a half baking sheet with parchment paper. Note: do not use a silpat as the cookies will have a tendency to stick to the silicone mat.
- Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the almond paste. Transfer to the work bowl of your food processor and add the granulated sugar. Process the the almond paste and sugar together for about 1 full minute or until smooth and evenly combined.
- Add the egg white, salt and almond extract and process until blended and smooth. Transfer the almond paste mixture to a medium bowl using a rubber spatula to scrape all the batter from the container. Add the almond flour and use the rubber spatula to mix it well into the almond paste mixture.
- Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Use a mini cookie scoop (holding 2-3 teaspoons) and scoop rounds of the dough into the powdered sugar. Gently toss the almond cookie to coat with sugar and transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet.
- Continue scooping and coating the dough and transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 to 3" apart.
- Bake for 11-13 minutes, rotating the pan 180° about halfway through cooking. The almond cookies should just barely be starting to take on a little color.
- Rest the cookies on the sheet pan for 5 minutes to set, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.