While for many in Australia a classic pavlova, some barbecued seafood and a 30+ degree day conveys the true meaning of Christmas, in Italy’s central region of Tuscany, Christmas comes in the form of little morsels of almondy goodness known as ricciarelli.
These almond macaron-like biscuits were first made in convents and apothecaries as it was thought that these were the only places where the appropriate spices and storage conditions could be found to make and house the ricciarelli during the 15th century. One theory of the name’s origin which derives from the word riccio (to curl) is that their shape resembles and and recalls the curled up ends of the sultans shoes, thus paying homage to marzipan’s eastern roots.
Although many hypothesise and argue about the origins of the biscuit, one thing that cannot be disputed is the universal love for this christmas treat. Ricciarelli can now be found in cake shop windows all over Italy throughout the year.
Made using a marzipan almond base with honey, sugar and egg whites, ricciarelli testifies to Tuscany’s reputation as the land of simple and honest flavours. I would even go so far as to say that their domed outer edge imitates Tuscany’s picturesque sprawling hills for which it is famous but hey, that may just be my arts degree talking.
If you would like to add a taste of tuscany to your next christmas lunch, (I know I will!) you can find the recipe for ricciarelli here.