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In Puglia almonds are a common choice of nuts to include in pastries and cookies. Pasta di mandorle (almond paste) is often used in cookies here such as amaretti. Mixed and crushed with mascarpone, ricotta or fruit and in torte, they are a versatile nut. They are grown in the south of Italy and used in sweet and savory dishes.
Almond oil is extracted from both bitter and sweet almonds and the seed of the bitter almonds are used to make almond oil and almond flavorings used in confections. Pure almond extract can be purchased at any market, but almond oil is much harder to find. Some Internet sites such as King Arthur Flour and Italian specialty stores carry it. The intense flavor of almond oil makes a very big difference in baked goods especially this cookie. When using oil vs. extracts, you use just a few drops; a little goes a long way.
It is natural to consider that Ricotta and almonds would be married together into a delicious soft biscotti flavored with almond oil. Almond ricotta biscotti are delicate cookies but with an intense aroma. We always include it on a “Torta di Biscotto di Nozze” because they are so perfect for a biscotti wedding cake.
I decorate them with a thin slice of almond on white confectionary sugar frosting flavored with almond oil. I love the way the caramel exterior outlines the white interior of the almond. Adding Ricotta does reduce the amount of time these biscotti can be frozen. The most I would keep them in the freezer is about 2-3 weeks. They are best eaten fresh and last a week or so in a container that doesn’t hold in moisture. Freeze them before frosting and let them completly defrost before frosting them.
Ricotta Mandorle Biscotti
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes @ 350º F
Yield: 4 Dozen
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter
1 lb. Ricotta
2 teaspoons almond extract
BASIC Confectionary Sugar Frosting
1 cup confectionary sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons milk
2 drops of lemon juice
2 drops extract or 1 drop almond oil (if using oil taste before adding another drop)
48 almond slices
Sprinkles or jimmies (optional)
Food coloring (optional)
Cream the butter then add the sugar and eggs. Beat the mixture for 1 minute and add the dry ingredients. When all the ingredients are well blended, mix in the almond extract and ricotta and thoroughly blend. Form the dough into a ball and cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Flour your hands, which you may have to do from time to time to keep the dough from sticking. Form balls about the size of small golf balls and place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake them for 15-20 minutes at 350º F or until the bottoms are brown. Allow them to cool completely before you frost them.
Add lemon juice and extract to the confectionary sugar. Slowly add in the milk until all confectionary sugar is mixed in and frosting is smooth. It should not be too thin or it will drip off the cookies and dry transparent. The frosting should be thick enough so that it sits on the top of the cookie.