Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ricchiarelli for The Cookie Crawl

Well, it's official! If they say it on twitter, it must be so: Congratulations to @Annellini Winner of GGM's Cookie Crawl and to @BigButzBBQ runner up. Thank you to everyone who voted!! Now we can move on to something else--And my congrats to BigButz!

I am participating in Gourmet Girl Magazine's Virtual Holiday Cookie Crawl!
Pizzicheria de Miccoli
via di città 95, Siena Italy
This wonderful little antica in Siena is where I discovered Ricchiarelli. They are traditional Siennese Christmas cookies, a little like an amaretti macaroon, but softer, with powdered sugar and a little orange zest flavor. Melt in you mouth delicious!
The first time I walked into Pizzecheria de Miccoli I was holding a piece of panforte (another Siena specialty, sort of a dense fruitcake), and Antonio De Miccoli, owner and proprietor, came around the small counter, took it out of my hand, threw it in the trash and sliced me a piece of his freshly made panetone. He said something about what a shame for me to think that what I had been eating was real panetone when it actually tasted like bubble gum compared to his. He was right. And I was forever hooked on his shop, and everything he served!
On that particular day he had just taken biscotti out of the oven and sliced it, ready to return to the oven. I was begging for a taste before he put it back into the oven, but he refused, and made me wait! And while I was waiting he introduced me to Ricchiarelli.
This shop is a food lover's paradise. I've returned each time we travel to Italy. While everybody else visits the Campo, and the Duomo, I hang around Antonio's counter. I've even taken part in his pesto making (Mondays, when basil is in season) in a HUGE mortar. He laughed when I said I used a food processor, and let me take a turn with the pestle.
I've never figured out how much anything costs. When he's really busy, I think he just feeds people until they can't eat anymore, and charges them whatever he thinks appropriate. That includes the never empty wine glass.
I always leave with fresh pecorino, sometimes flecked with black truffle, cookies, porchetta, prosciutto made from cinghaile (wild boar) and a food buzz that keeps me daydreaming until my next visit. I would return there right this second if I could. It's one of those wonderful experiences that IS as good the second, third and fourth time as it was the first.
Thank you, Antonio De Miccoli!
This recipe is a compilation of what I could find on google, and what I could remember!




8 oz. pure almond paste

Zest from one orange


6 oz. sugar

1/2 cup water


2 oz. powdered sugar

2/3 cup flour


2 ounces powdered sugar

2 egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking powder

Wafers to put the Ricciarelli on (unflavored edible rice paper will work as a substitute--I used a plain rice cracker)

Place almond paste in mixing bowl with orange zest.

Dissolve the sugar of 2) in the water and heat to obtain a thick syrup--about 275 degrees.

When a drop of the syrup pressed between the fingers which are then separated forms threads mix it into the almond paste, together with the powdered sugar and flour of 3). Add a tablespoon or two of whole milk, if needed to form soft dough.

Let this dough rest covered with a damp cloth for about 8 hours.

Whip the whites to soft peaks with the vanilla and sugar 4) and incorporate this mixture into the dough along with the baking powder.

Drop the dough onto the crackers, dust with more powdered sugar, and bake at 320 degrees for about 15 minutes. Don't let the cookies brown.

Buon Appetito! and Buon Natale!

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