Try making your own chewy, soft Italian almond cookies, flavoured with Amaretto liqueur. Considering I ate most of them straight off the cooling rack it’s lucky that this recipe makes 30!
Often called soft amaretti biscuits in the UK, these Italian almond cookies with a cracked outer shell and a soft, chewy centre are a delicious treat which you will find in the supermarkets around Christmas time.
Whilst, they make a delicious biscuit at Christmas, when you have your own recipe for amaretti cookies, there is no need to wait all year to enjoy them. You can have these chewy cookies baking and ready any day of the year.
What are Ricciarelli Cookies?
In Italy, you can find different types of Amaretti cookies, that have their own regional take and will mostly fall into two categories; The Amaretto di Saronno, which is more hard, crunchy and has internal honeycomb-like structure to the biscuit centre. This is usually the type that you will find on the supermarket shelves in the UK. It has a longer shelf life and is often twice baked, similar to cantucci biscuits.
Then there is the softer, more marzipan-like version, the Amaretto di Sassello. Which is the umbrella term that this recipe falls under.
Ricciarelli biscuits are a type of soft amaretti biscuit originating in Siena, Tuscany, during the 14th century.
Traditionally, both types; hard and soft, have a cracked surface and a round or oval shape and are made using a mixture of egg whites, sweet and bitter almonds, sugar and apricot kernels. Amaretti biscuits are eaten around Christmas time, usually accompanied by a dessert wine such as Vin Santo.
Ricciarelli, commonly known as soft amaretti biscuits in the UK and sometimes referred to as Italian Macaroons, were traditionally made and shaped into ovals 1 or 2 days before baking, coated in powdered sugar and then left out to dry. Leaving ricciarelli to dry out before baking, creates the rough, crackled surface that is particular to amaretti cookies.
Both types of amaretti biscuits are usually gluten-free, as they contain no flour or other gluten product.
- Egg Whites – Eggs should be as fresh as possible and at room temperature. Ensure that there is no yolk present in the egg white at all, since this will affect how the eggs whisk.
- Powdered Icing Sugar / Confectioners Sugar – Usually called icing sugar in the UK and powdered or confectioners sugar in the USA.
- Ground Almonds – Do not substitute for almond flour, these are not the same thing and can vary greatly between brands.
- Vanilla Extract – You can use a vanilla pod in its place if you want to.
- Amaretto Liqueur (optional) – 3 tablespoons are needed. If you don’t want to use alcohol, a good substitute is almond extract, use 1 tsp of almond extract in place of the Amaretto and lower the dry ingredients by 25g.
How to Make Ricciarelli
This particular recipe combines ground almonds with egg whites and sugar and is flavoured with Amaretto liqueur and vanilla extract.
The method to making the amaretti pastry is a little like making your own pavlova. You whisk the egg whites until they form peaks and then carefully mix in the rest of the ingredients. Amaretto liqueur is optional, you can add 1 teaspoon of almond extract instead if you would prefer these to be alcohol free or omit it entirely. If you choose to omit the liqueur, I recommend to decrease the dry ingredients slightly by omitting 25g of the powered sugar.
You biscuit pastry needs to be sticky but shouldn’t be wet. They won’t be able to dry out and form the shell if the mixture is too wet nor will you be able to shape them. If you find that this is the case, I recommend to increase the amount of sugar and almonds slightly until you have a workable dough that you can shape by hand but isn’t overly dry or crumbly.
Shape the almond paste with your hands, make a roll and being to divide it to create little balls, which you can then shape into ovals. Place them on a baking tray and flatten the surfaces a little.
Once you have shaped and prepared your amaretti biscuits on a baking tray, leave them to air for at least an hour until the surface has dried out and formed a shell, you can then dust them in powered sugar and bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes.
Although, it is more traditional to leave these biscuits out for a very long time before baking, you don’t need to leave them out for 2 days. However, the time can still vary, which will be down to the humidity of the environment in which they are being prepared.
I don’t recommend doing this as almond flour in it’s type and content can vary between brands. This could produce very different results to using ground almonds. However, if you want to experiment, you can.
You can substitute amaretto for almond extract. Just lower the dry ingredients slightly by omitting 25g of powdered sugar.
These biscuits should be stored, once cooled, in an airtight container for up to a week.
Ricciarelli: Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies
- 3 Egg Whites
- 350 g Powdered Sugar plus extra for dusting
- 350 g Ground Almonds
- 0.5 tsp Vanilla Essence
- 3 tbsp Amaretto Liqueur optional
- Preheat the oven to 160C.
- Whisk the egg white until firm and forming soft peaks.
- Mix the sugar and ground almonds together in a separate bowl and carefully fold into the egg whites.
- Add the vanilla and amaretto and fold in gently to to make a paste.
- Cover and leave the mixture to chill in the fridge for an hour.
- Remove the mixture from the fridge, dust your work surface with icing sugar and create a roll from the paste. You can make two rolls or more for easier manageability.
- Cut the roll into small sections and shape into oval or round balls.
- Place each ball on a lined baking tray leaving some room between each one to allow them to expand when baking.
- Flatten each ball slightly and leave to air for at least an hour until a shell has formed.
- Dust each biscuit in powdered sugar.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving or storing.
Recipe Notes and Guidance
- The cookies will be soft immediately on removal from the oven, give them a couple of minutes on the baking tray before moving to a cooling rack, to allow them to harden slightly.
- If your cookie dough is too wet, you can add more of the sugar and ground almonds as needed. The dough should feel sticky but not wet and unmanageable. The recipe is only a guide for this amount as it can differ between brands.
- You can substitute the Amaretto for Almond extract. Use 1 tsp of almond extract instead and lower the dry ingredients by 25g.