Last year I pulled the plug on Christmas as I felt that some traditions had run their course, that our traditions needed to be rewritten. Now, as I look back on my 2016 December posts, my outlook didn’t deter me from baking some interesting Christmas sweets. Last year’s Sicilian biscotti were winners for me and mine: I gave away many little parcels of these treats. A few of my readers made these last year, with variations on the theme too, using different fruits and methods.
The first recipe includes dried sour cherries. By all means, use whatever dried fruit you have on hand, remembering to chop or cut it first. This year, I reduced the size of the balls a little, although my photos still show them looking rather large! The recipe produces around 30.
Amaretti di Cioccolato e Ciliegia/ Chocolate, cherry and almond biscuits
- 250 g finely ground almonds
- 120 g caster sugar
- 50 g dark ( 70%) chocolate, grated
- 60 g dried sour cherries, chopped
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 extra-large egg whites, ( 700) or three medium
- a pinch of salt
- 30 g icing/confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 c.
Mix the almonds, sugar, chocolate, cherries and lemon zest together. Whisk the egg whites until firm and fold it into the almond mixture with the salt. Mix well. The mixture should be damp. If you have used two egg whites and feel that the mixture needs a bit more moisture, beat another until stiff and add it to the mixture.
Place the icing sugar in a bowl. Roll the mixture into small 3cm balls, then toss them into the icing sugar to coat well. Place them on paper lined baking sheets.
Bake until they have a golden tinge, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Makes around 30 balls.
The other Sicilian Christmas sweets made were almond balls from Agrigento. They fill the room with the heady aroma of spice and honey as they cook. Like the almond and cherry balls, they are dusted in icing sugar before they are cooked. This removes the annoying dusting of sugar snow on your face and clothing when popping these straight into your mouth.
Fior di Mandorle. Almond pastries with honey and spice
- 200 g freshly ground almonds or almond meal
- 50 g/3 tablespoons of fragrant clear honey
- 100 g caster sugar
- grated zest of 1 small organic orange
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1 large, or two very small beaten egg whites
- 1 teaspoon orange liquor such as Cointreau, or vanilla`
- icing/confectioners sugar for coating
Preheat the oven to 150c.
Mix all the ingredients together and mix well till the dough is moist. Your hands are the best tools for this task.
Shape into smooth little cakes around 3 cm in diameter. Roll in icing sugar then place onto a baking paper lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack. Makes around 20.
Dear friends and readers, did you make these sweets last December? What lovely dried fruits did you substitute? I am thinking that chopped fig might go well in the first recipe.