Nothing fancy, slightly lemony, easy to make and so traditional a sight in Italy or Italo-phile countries like Malta. These little numbers appear on the street stalls come festa time and are usually sold by the weight.
As it’s been bit of a tough week what with trying to recover from bronchitis, and my beloved cat of 17 years passing away, I’ve not been into cooking to much. But, a week on, and as it’s Sunday, I needed something sweet and bright to lighten up the heaviness of the past seven days. Clouds cleared early on after a sudden thunder storm, and these little Italian biscuits beckoned for tea.
The recipe is from Nigella’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’, a bible I turn to for a lot of baking. For some strange reason, her quantities seemed awry. She wrote that it wouldn’t be a firm batter as the biscuits needed piping out. My mix was so stiff that I almost overheated and broke my hand mixer! When does one egg, even if large, manage to moisten 350g of flour? I am sure she has something amiss in her write-up; perhaps later reprints of the book have different quantities.
So, my write-up below is adapted from Nigella’s Italian Biscuits, by adding two eggs, a couple of tbsps of milk and juice of a lemon to ensure the batter would go through the piping nozzle! I have a Sicilian book with a very similar biscuit recipe but those are made entirely of almond flour and required 1kg of almonds to 1kg sugar. That recipe too sounded OTT, but I may experiment mixing some ground almonds to go half-half with the flour in this recipe next time I make it. You’ll get around 30 biscuits; they go like hot cakes. Perhaps that’s why the whole kilo amounts in the Sicilian version. After all, at festa time they do fly off the stands.
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’, p63.
- 225g unsalted butter, softenedprint button transparent
- 100g caster sugar
- 350g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- zest and juice of a medium lemon
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsps milk (may be needed to loosen the mix – optional)
- Glace’ cherries, halved.
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
- Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer til it fluffs up and goes paler and smooth.
- Add the lemon zest, juice, beaten eggs and continue beating on a medium speed to incorporate all the liquid well.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt, a little at a time, mixing in each batch well. The mix needs to be a dropping consistency, not too firm nor too runny as it will be piped to form biscuits. Add a little milk if it’s too firm still, but go easy. If you find it’s too runny, add a bit more sieved flour.
- Place a medium star-shaped nozzle in a piping bag and spoon in some mixture. Squeeze the bag to ease the mix into the nozzle. Pipe out rosettes onto a non-stick baking tray or baking parchment, ensuring they are around 5cm apart.
- Halve the cherries and place a piece in the centre of each rosette biscuit.
- Bake for around 10-12 minutes until just going golden on the edges. The centre of the biscuits should still be quite pale.
- Remove from the oven when cooked and cool on a wire rack. When cool, store in an air-tight container. They will keep well for around 3 days. You can freeze them. These biscuits are a slightly cake-consistency, rather than brittle and dry.