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Cookies from Sienna

I’m facing a dilemma, but I know I have to do the right thing. Yes, this is a frivolous food matter that is weighing pretty heavily on my mind. Silly….I know. But you haven’t had a taste of these!
You see, I just returned from Italy and brought home some wonderful foodie items like balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oils and the most amazing cookies!

Yes, I know, you’re thinking cookies are cookies and probably not something worth fussing over. But THESE cookies are heavenly!!
They are called Ricciarelli cookies and I found them in a wonderful little culinary shop in the back alleys of Sienna.
During our day exploring the Tuscan wine country, we stopped for a quick breeze through Sienna taking in the gorgeous Piazza del Campo,  which is one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. We ventured into some pottery and clothing stores as we followed the winding road back up to our car.
When I saw a gourmet food shop, of course I had to go inside. The shelves were filled with jars upon jars of truffle salsas – black truffles, white, truffle paste, oh my! I could have looked around for hours!
But keeping with our schedule and knowing we had two more wineries to hit, I quickly went to the counter to pay. Next to the register was a glass dome covering a bed of oval-shaped cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar.
I first resisted on account of the filling lunch and scoop of gelato I had just enjoyed. But on an impulse, right before the clerk hit the total button, I requested a single cookie from under the glass. I took it and my jar of truffles and headed out the door. Just as my foot hit the street, I sunk my teeth into the moist sweetness of the little golden cookie. OH MY HEAVENS!

What I worried might taste like a dry crunchy pile of  flavorless pastry turned out to be moist and rich with just a slight crispness on the edges.
Immediately, I spun around and stepped directly back into the little gourmet store. “I will take two boxes!”, I said.
The clerk smiled and sacked up two beautiful clear boxes of this magnificent confection, each wrapped with gold string and bearing the Riciarelli name on the label, which I couldn’t even begin to pronounce. But that didn’t matter one bit because this kind of delicious pastry transcends all languages. It was phenomenal and I knew I had to bring some home to share!

And thus, my dilemma. The first box, which got a little beat up in my suitcase, was shared with coworkers and then taken to a family gathering over the weekend. And it didn’t matter that they’d had a rough ride home. These ethereal treats tasted just as good broken in half or with crumbled edges as the perfectly pristine one did in Tuscany that day. But now that box is all gone. And the remaining box was intended as a thank you gift to a friend.

I’ve started to open the second box a couple of times, but stopped. I think about it a few times a day even. But I can’t do it. They were intended for my friend and there they must go! It’s almost like a forbidden love affair. Not being able to have them makes me want them more. I could possibly even sneak one from the box and wrap it up again, but that would be wrong. I will just have to think of the joy my friend will find in their wonderful, almondy goodness.

Perhaps I can get a box for Christmas. They are traditionally served during the holidays, I learned.  And I was close on my guess of ingredients. The wonderfully delicate, yet decadent little pieces of heaven are made from almonds, sugar, honey and egg whites. I swear these have a touch of fine liqueur added, too.

I’m curious if they tasted this good in the 14th century when they became popular in Sienna. Either way, this divinely exquisite Italian Biscuit was one of the edible highlight of my time in Italy. I hope I have the opportunity to experience them on future trip.

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