Figolli (Maltese Easter Biscuits)

When we lived in Canberra, our lovely friends at Church would bring us some Figolli (traditional Maltese Easter biscuits) every Easter Sunday. As they were such a favourite with all of us, when we moved to Adelaide we decided that we couldn’t be without Figolli at Easter, and so we started making them ourselves.

This has just been our third Easter in Adelaide and I’m pretty confident that we’ve perfected them by now – consistently getting a rich buttery biscuit outside and perfectly chewy almond-citrus filling. We tend to to make ours round (although by all means use any shape you like) and decorate them simply with pastel icing and topped with an Easter egg. Do yourself a favour and try them!

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Ingredients
Pastry
400g plain flour, sifted
175g caster sugar
200g butter
2 egg yolks
Grated rind of ½ a lemon

Filling
300g icing sugar, icing
300g ground almonds
2 egg whites
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2-2½ teaspoons orange blossom water

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Method
In a food processor, blitz flour, sugar & butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add egg yolks, lemon zest & sufficient cold water to bring together. Knead gently to form a smooth ball and then cover in cling film and refrigerate for 20mins.

Meanwhile, add the lemon zest, orange blossom water, egg whites & sugar to the ground almonds. Mix until combined.

Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced.

Roll pastry out to a 2-3mm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 2 of each shape (we used round & oval shaped cutters of varying sizes).

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Spread almond paste on one half and lay matching shapes on top, pressing the edges together.

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Bake for approximately 20 mins or until golden brown.

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Allow to cool before decorating with glacé icing & mini easter eggs or speckled eggs.

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Adapted from ‘The Food and Cookery of Malta’ (1999)

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Caramel & Pear Upside-down Cake

First off, I would like to apologise profusely for my extended hiatus! No, I didn’t hibernate through winter (quite), instead I was on holidays in the Greek Islands and then my time was filled with Birthdays, work & uni assessment.

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However, today I have an absolutely delicious recipe for you; one so good that only moments ago I finished gobbling up a piece and felt I had to share it right away!

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Ingredients (serves 8)
180g  butter
⅝ cup brown sugar (really annoying I know but just do one ½ cup & then half of a ¼ cup)
2 large pears, peeled & quartered (I actually used 4 small pears)
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup almond meal
1 cup self-raising flour
⅜ cups milk (again, super weird but it works!!)

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced) and grease and line a round 23cm springform cake tin.

Melt 60g of the butter in a small saucepan and then stir in brown sugar over a low heat until combined.

Pour the caramel mixture into the base of your prepared tin.

Arrange your pears on the caramel any way you like with the curved side down. I didn’t really make mine look pretty but if I wanted to impress, I would cut my pears more thinly and arrange them in a fan-like pattern.

Using electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar. Once combined, add eggs, almond meal and spices and beat until combined. Finally, add flour and milk and beat until just combined.

Pour the batter over your pears and bake in the oven for between 50-60 minutes (until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean).

Allow the cake to sit in the tin for around 15 minutes before turning out.

Serve with cream or ice-cream and a dusting of icing sugar if desired.IMG_9086

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Recipe adapted from ‘Caramel pear cake’ on BestRecipes.com.au

Torta Caprese (Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake)

This cake is my new dinner party go-to. The cake itself has it all; it’s intensely chocolate-y, rich and moist, the perfect dessert cake and between you and me, it is INCREDIBLY easy (yes, I am shouting at you). It takes very little time, dirties very few dishes and keeps well (although it never lasts long around here!) To serve, simply dust with icing sugar and top with berries and ice-cream.

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
200g butter
200g dark chocolate
4 eggs, separated
170g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g almond meal
Icing sugar, to dust
Ice cream & berries, to serve

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Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (or around 150 fan-forced). Grease & line a 24cm cake pan with baking paper.

Melt the butter and set aside.

Process (or finely chop) the chocolate until it is in tiny bits, but still retains a little texture.

Place egg yolks, sugar & vanilla in a medium bowl and beat until pale and thick. Fold in chocolate, butter and almond meal (mixture will be very thick)

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggwhites until soft peaks form. Gently fold in chocolate mixture, ensuring you don’t knock the air out.

Spoon into the prepared pan, level the top and bake for 50-60 minutes or until just firm to the touch.

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Set aside to cool in the pan, then turn out.

Serve while still warm with icing sugar, berries and ice cream. Bellissimo!

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Adapted from ‘Torta Caprese’ in delicious. ‘Wicked: Sinful desserts from your favourite chefs’.

Almond Croissants

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These cheat’s almond croissants are perfect for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. Crunchy on the outside and soft and luscious in the middle – just one bite and you’ll be hooked!

Ingredients
8 mini or 6 medium croissants
½ cup flaked almonds

For the almond butter
80g butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 drops almond essence
1 egg
1 cup almond meal
1 ½ tblspns plain flour

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Method
Make almond cream by beating butter, sugar, vanilla & almond essence with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add egg. Mix until well combined. Stir in almond meal & flour and mix well.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper, slice croissants in half lengthways & place bases on tray. Spread 1 tblspn of almond cream on each and cover with croissant tops. Thickly spread one tablespoon of remaining almond cream over the top of each and sprinkle with flaked almonds, pressing with fingertips to secure.

Bake croissants for 15mins or until golden. Serve warm. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Mum

Chocolate, Date & Almond Torte

First thing’s first, I want to apologise for my lack of blogging lately. I’ve just started uni so it’s been a bit of a challenge trying to juggle everything BUT I certainly hope to do better in future. This torte is my go-to dinner party dessert, particularly in summer.  It is relatively quick and easy, always tasty and has never failed me yet. I also love that it only uses ingredients I have constantly on hand but looks a bit exotic and special. I love it served with raspberry coulis and dusted with a little icing sugar (as pictured here).

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Ingredients (serves 8-10)
4 egg whites
165g caster sugar
200g pitted dates
200g raw almonds (skin on)
200g dark cooking chocolate
Icing sugar, to dust
Berry coulis, to serve

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Method
Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line the base of a 22-23cm springform cake pan.

Place dates, almonds and chocolate in a food processor in 2 batches. Process until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Whisk the eggwhites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form.

Transfer date mixture to a large bowl. Fold in a little beaten eggwhite to loosen date mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon batter into prepared tin and bake 60-70mins, or until torte is firm at the outer edge & moist but not wet in the centre.

Cool in pan. Dust with icing sugar and then slice torte, serving with berry coulis.

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Adapted from Delicious Magazine June 2005