are my breasts too small for you?


You're out, you're trying to have a good time, and you innocently order a cup of tea. And what else do you get? Grim reminders.


Somewhere around here I've written about ricciarelli before: the very Sienese cookies made from almond flour and egg whites.

When we lived in Siena, there was a baker right around the corner from us who made them fresh every day--well, wait. This was Italy, remember, so it wasn't every day of course, it was Tuesday mornings between 10:20 and 11am, Thursday afternoon from 2:30 to 4:15, and Saturday morning before 5am, or something like that.

About every two weeks or so I'd manage to stop by when they were open, and I'd buy a little box of these guys. They were kind of not like anything else I'd ever eaten at the time, although the more experienced me would now say that they're quite a bit like the cookie part of a French macaron. Not quite as light, and firmer on the outside, but with a similar taste and chew.

Since we left Siena, I'd pretty much given up on ever tasting them again outside of Siena's city walls: we run into quite a few Italians these days, and almost none of them (Tuscans included) have ever heard of them.

But one of the best things about having a chronic masterbaker in the house is that it's difficult to predict what will come out of your oven. While I was making chili con carne and pozole de pollo verde (pozole of green chicken? I don't really have time to look up the name), Ze Mara was, incredibly, making ricciarelli.

And even more incredibly, they tasted almost exactly like my memory of the Sienese version. That never happens!

Here's a recipe adaptation in progress, currently plagiarizing this unusually well-written recipe, but I hope to finish my ever-so-cheap-and-flimsy modifications soon. We found almond flour at our local Turkish/Moroccan market, much cheaper than than at the BioMarkt or Natuurwinkel.



3 cups almond flour
1 1/3 cups fine raw sugar (the original recipe specifies superfine)
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
zest of 1 orange, minced
2 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract

Line a baking sheet with baking or parchment paper. In a good-sized bowl, mix the almonds with the sugar, 2/3 of the powdered sugar, the baking powder and the orange zest. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then stir them into the almond mixture. Using a hefty wooden spoon, mash the mixture to a wet, sticky mass and then stir in the vanilla extract.

Sometimes I find that when I don't really have it in me to totally re-write a recipe from scratch, it can be almost good enough to use my bad German accent, like so. Vis ze dough you are forming ovalish shapes about 2 inches long, rolling zem in ze remaining powdered sugar, and flattening zem slightly until ze are 1/2 inch thick or zo. Zen you are putting zem onto ze parchment-lined baking sheet from our first sentence, leaving enough room for zem to be expanding ever zo zlightly.

OK, all those Zs are murder on tiny_a's tiny keyboard. Ctrl-Z is "Undo", and the Ctrl key is just underneath the Shift key, so half the time I'm trying to make a capital Z, I accidentally Undo the last sentence I typed, a sequence of events which has just now officially gotten old.

Sift the remaining powdered sugar over top of everything. While the really authentic recipes have you leave the uncooked batter alone 24 hours (or longer) before baking, we found that an hour or two is enough: leave the cookies at room temperature for as long as you can manage so that they dry a little before baking.

Eventually: preheat the oven to 140C. Bake cookies for about 30 minutes, or until they are barely golden and a little firm on the outside. This is very important: the insides should still be soft. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Makes 25-30 cookies.


As a bonus, here are a couple of photos for your entertainment. The first is for those of you who might find some hilarity in my Y2K fashion sense. Below that is an irrelevant photo of Mara in Bologna that I've always liked.

No comments: