As a child, we would buy ricciarelli in boxes at the supermarket. The cavallucci would arrive at home in a paper bag from San Gimignano, my granddad Remigio would purchase them in an old grocery store where he used to shop for everything he needed. We would also buy slices of panforte, sticky and traditional.
A few years ago I began investigating this senesità, my Sienese roots. If the Christmas meal has always been influenced by new trends, roasted salmon in the ’80s or a broth with home made cappelletti in the recent years, the sweets were always the same, those of the Sienese tradition: ricciarelli, cavallucci and panforte, you can not go wrong with these.
This year I baked panforte, ricciarelli and cavallucci in large quantities, to give as a gift, to eat after the festive meals, but especially to celebrate my Sienese roots and the tradition of past Christmases. I also wanted to celebrate the curiosity that pushed me over the years to research the recipes of my childhood and the tradition of my family, to make them part of our shared ritual of preparation to Christmas.
With the excuse of sharing once more these recipes, I came here on the blog to wish you a Christmas dusted in snow and icing sugar, long tables with family and friends, small gifts made from the heart. Celebrate these days with serenity, with curiosity and with whatever makes you feel good, next to your loved ones.
We will begin celebrating tonight, and I am already smell the panforte spices in the air!
May your Christmas be filled with love and good food!
The recipes for traditional Christmas sweets from Siena
The recipe for ricciarelli.
The origin of ricciarelli di Siena dates back to the fifteenth century: the almond paste – in the form of marzipan or Marzapanetti – was once very popular in the town and Siena was famous even outside its territory for its production. The cookies made with almond paste were reserved for the sumptuous banquet of the Lords because they were made of precious ingredients, mainly almonds and sugar. They were so valuable and refined that marzipan sweets were sold in the apothecaries shops along with drugs and the most exotic spices of the time. These are so delicate that will melt in your mouth, light as pillows.
The recipe for cavallucci.
The cavallucci are round, a bit flat on the edge and dusted with flour. When I was young, mum used to bring home a white paper bag from San Gimignano, full of cavallucci. Each time I eat these cookies, they remind me of Grandad. They are very similar: rustic and bashful on the outside, but sweet and flavourful inside, full of delicious ingredients and spices. They have the taste of the Tuscan countryside, of wood fired oven, of modest gifts made with all your heart.
La ricetta del panforte.
Panforte is a thick and dense cake of medieval origin. At first it was made by the monks in the monasteries and given as a symbolic gift in special occasions, then passed into the hands of the apothecaries: sugar, almonds, candied fruit and spices were ingredients as precious as gold, and like gold they were kept from these figures that were a cross between an alchemist and a pharmacist, in huge glass jars on dark wooden shelves. This is dense, spiced, rich in almonds and candied fruit. Do not skimp on the quality of the candied fruit, as it will uplift your panforte to another level.