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When it comes to cookies, few do it better than the Italians! Amaretti, ricciarelli, cantuccini, and pizzelle are sweet treats with fascinating stories and unique flavors...and today, we're going to share these stories with you!
Amaretti, sometimes referred to as "Italian macaroons" due to their light, sweet, egg-white-based dough, have had a special place in the history of Italian baking for centuries. Legend has it that the first amaretti were baked in Milan in the 1700s. A young couple whipped up the first batch of amaretti di Saronno to celebrate a visit by a bishop. He was so impressed by the amaretti cookies that he blessed the couple with a lifetime of happy marriage. Those must have been quite the cookies!
Amaretti cookies range in texture from soft to crunchy, but all are infused with the distinctive flavor and aroma of bitter almonds. This distinct flavor is also used in Amaretto liqueurs. Try serving amaretti cookies with amaretto-laced espresso. It's a sure way to please the amaretti lovers in your life this Christmas and holiday season!
Ricciarelli are Tuscan cookies related to amaretti; they're made with an egg-white based dough that lends them a light, fluffy character. Texture-wise, these cookies are softer and chewier than most amaretti. Ricciarelli cookies were born from a cultural exchange between the Middle East and Italy after the Crusades. Legend has it that a Tuscan nobleman returned from the Crusades and asked his chef to make him a treat that recalled the flavors of the Middle East. Thus, ricciarelli cookies were born! Ricciarelli feature almonds which, at the time, likely would have come from Turkey.
Ricciarelli cookies are a local specialty of Siena, Tuscany. Around Christmas time, you'll find freshly baked ricciarelli lining the display cases of pastry shops across the city of Siena. Our r
Cantuccini biscuits, sometimes called biscotti di Prato, are a specialty of the city of Prato in Tuscany. Cantuccini were originally created for long journeys; their low moisture content helped keep them crunchy and fresh for long periods of time. Cantuccini commonly have almonds baked into the dough, though pistachio and cranberry are popular variations.
When dipped in a beverage, Cantuccini's crunchiness is softened and infused with delicious aromas and flavors. In Tuscany, cantuccini are traditionally enjoyed after dinner with vin santo, a Tuscan dessert wine made with white grape varietals like trebbiano. A unique wine-pairing to enjoy after Christmas dinner.
Pizzelle are perhaps the oldest Italian sweets in this list. The first pizzelle were made in Abruzzo in the 8th century and have been a centerpiece of local festivals ever since. These wafer-thin treats are made by pouring batter between two iron plates, which are then pressed and heated. Pizzelle wafers range in texture and flavor depending on the ingredients and process. Popular flavors include anise, chocolate, lemon, and more.
Pizzelle irons are molded into many shapes and patterns: family crests, floral patterns, and of course, the traditional snowflake shape.
You can have a lot of fun with pizzelle! Often, soft-baked pizzelle are rolled into the shape of a cannoli and filled it with cream. We also recommend taking two Pizzelle di Nonna and sandwiching cannoli cream, hazelnut spread, or jam in between.