Tuscan Christmas biscuits
The shops in Siena are full of these biscuits at this time of year but they are easy to make and a freshly baked batch of these biscuits makes the house smell warm and inviting. We’ve made them gluten-free so everyone can eat them. Serve with coffee in the morning or dessert wine for dipping after a feast. They also make a great gift in a box tied with ribbon.
Sienese almond biscuits
Makes approximately 30 biscuits
400 g (14 oz/4 cups) ground almonds
2 teaspoons almond extract
175 g (6 oz/scant 1¾ cups) icing (confectioner’s) sugar for the biscuits, plus 100 g (3½ oz/generous ¾ cup) for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
175–200 g (6–7 oz) egg white (about 4 large egg whites)
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F/Gas 3) and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Combine the ground almonds, almond extract, icing sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
Beat the egg whites in a separate clean bowl to a soft foam with a whisk and add to the mixture a little at a time. Depending on the dryness of the ground almonds you might need to adjust the amount of egg whites.
Stir it in with a large wooden spoon to form a thick paste – the mixture should be sticky but not runny.
You may have a little egg white left, which you can just discard. Put the extra icing sugar for dusting in a separate bowl.
Take two dessertspoons and form about 36 quenelles (raised oval shapes) by transferring the mixture between the spoons, then drop them gently into the bowl of icing sugar to coat them.
Remove each quenelle gently with a slotted spoon and place them on the lined baking sheet, spaced apart and still covered in icing sugar.
Bake the biscuits for 20–25 minutes or until lightly golden.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.
They can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container.
Taken from ‘Tuscany – Simple Meals and Fabulous Feasts’ signed copes available here.