In Sicily these mandorla are traditionally a summer treat but with the marzipan taste I love making them over the festive period (but also pretty much all year round as almond is my favourite flavour!) They're incredibly moreish, not too sweet, chewy and are great with coffee, a glass of bubbly or for posting as little Christmas gifts.
The recipe I have followed is adapted from a battered old copy of 'Cucina Siciliana: Ricette, Sapori, Sagre' by Paola Andolina, which I found in Italy, and even though I don't speak very good Italian, I could tell from the photos that it contained some authentic Sicilian gems that I had to try at home.
300g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
2 eggs - egg whites only
1-2 lemons - zest only (depending on how lemony you like them!)
100g chopped, dried apricots (optional)
To decorate: Lemon Curd / Blanched Almonds / whatever Jam you have open! / Icing sugar to dust
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (150 fan or 3.5 gas)
- Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks (you can do the upside down bowl test to make sure it stays put!)
- In a separate bowl, mix together the ground almonds, icing sugar and lemon zest (and chopped apricots if you fancy them with a bit more bite - you can always do half the mix with, half without to try!)
- Tip the almond mix into the egg whites and stir gently to combine, making a paste.
- Prep a little bowl or plate with some icing sugar on as you'll need it to dip the biscuits in.
- Prep a baking tray covered in baking paper ready to put the biscuits on once they're made
(It's easier to do these things before you start forming the mandorla in case you get sticky hands!)
- With a bit of icing sugar on your hands (to stop the paste sticking to you) pinch a small amount of the paste and roll into a ball.
- Roll the ball in the icing sugar to coat and then either press in a blanched almond on top, or create a little well using your finger tip and fill with curd or jam. You can also pinch four sides of the mandorla to make a little cross ridge. Put it on the baking tray and repeat until you've used all the paste.
- Make sure to leave a little space in-between the mandorla as they will spread a bit in the oven as they cook.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they have gone a light golden colour.
- Leave to cool slightly before transferring them to a plate (they are very soft still in the centre when you take them out the oven).
- Get a coffee on the go, dust the mandorla with icing sugar and get ready to dunk!