Ricciareli, Italian Almond Cookies are deliciously soft and chewy cookies with a distinctive crackled surface. A typical Sienese Christmas cookie.
In a food processor, pulse together the blanched almonds with 3/4 cups of the powdered sugar until fine in texture.
Add in the remaining sugar, lemon zest, almond extract, the vanilla bean seeds and pulse together until very fine. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites with a fork just until foamy.
Add the beaten egg whites to the almond mixture, 1 teaspoon at a time while stirring just until you've achieved a stiff dough.
Dust your hands and a flat work surface with a little powdered sugar and roll out the cookie dough into a log about one inch and a half in diameter.
Wrap with cling wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Slice the cookie dough into 24 equal portions and roll each into a ball.
One at a time, slightly flatten each ball between the palms of your hands while forming into an oval shape.
Place the shaped cookies onto the prepared baking sheets while spacing them 2 inches apart.
Dust generously with powdered sugar.
Bake one sheet at a time in the preheated oven for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the sides are pale golden in colour.
Take care not to over bake them. They should look dry and not overly dark.
Allow to cool completely before removing from the baking sheet as these cookies are very soft and fragile when removed from the oven.
Enjoy with your favourite sweet wine or Vin Santo.
They keep well for up to a week at room temperature sealed in an air tight container.
Place the almonds in a pot of boiling water and allow to simmer for about 60 to 70 seconds. The almonds will start to rise and bob on the surface. The skin will have a shriveled up appearance.
Drain the almonds and run under cold water then pat dry with a clean dish towel.
One at a time, gently press on the almond between your thumb and index finger to release the nut from its skin.
Allow the blanched almonds to dry at room temperature, on a clean dish towel, before proceeding with the recipe. This can also be done overnight.
If your pressed for time you can dry the almonds in a low heated oven for 5 minutes or so.