Biscotti di Mandorla
Sicily, and especially the South-East, is well known for the quality of its almonds that are used to make sweets such as granita, sorbet, marzipan and latte di mandorla (almond milk), as well as being used in savoury dishes or just as a stand-alone snack. The climate around the Iblei mountains and half-way up Etna offers an ideal setting for almond trees. In this climate they do not require any herbicides or pesticides since the tree is in its natural setting and that maintains a strong flavour and a very high quality.
Our recipe is for almond biscuits. This recipe embodies what we think is a large part of the success and appeal of Italian cooking. Its all about the ingredients - put together in a very simple way. The necessary ingredients are:
300gr of finely crushed almonds
300gr of icing sugar
2 whisked egg whites
The zest of 1/2 a lemon
200-300gr of almond flakes
Begin by whisking the egg whites until they are stiff enough to hold their shape. Then add in the crushed almonds, icing sugar, and the lemon zest. Mix everything in a mixer until it forms a thick, slightly sticky paste. No more liquid is required because the egg whites and the natural oil within the almonds helps to bind everything together.
Shape the biscuits in whatever shape you like. You could make small balls and roll them in pistachio nuts, you could make disk shapes and add some glace fruits in the middle. Just be careful that they are not too thick which may lead to the outside being cooked but the inside remaining uncooked. We opted for a flatter shape and rolled them in almond flakes. They then go in the oven until golden. They taste best once you've allowed them to rest for 15-20 minutes. The results are shown below...
In the interest of fairness we have to say that while these tasted fantastically good they simply where not up to the level of the biscuits we received from Sicily two days ago. Clearly there are more tricks to learn...