Bianca: Christmas is always an exciting time for families, with each having their own traditions and celebrating with their own special Christmas recipes. Our Italian celebrations were always quite elaborate with rotating hosts, a myriad of dishes but always a pasta main, leaving little room for much else (but don’t worry, we certainly eat seconds and thirds). Another constant in our Christmas’s growing up are our Nonna Assunta’s famous biscuits. With our favourite being her ‘Rococo’ biscuits, there really isn’t anything better than one or two of these with an espresso coffee. They are baked quite hard (similar to a biscotti) so they are perfect as a dunking biscuit, word to the wise they’re like crack…or peanut butter…or Nutella!!
Now, we weren’t allowed to give away Nonna’s actual recipe, as she holds it extremely close to her heart and as I was told “It’s a secret, passed down through the generations”. Quite frankly my Nonna can be quite scary, so I’ll wait till I have her blessing. Depending on who’s around, a little working bee is generally organised as they can be quite labour intensive, my job is the egg wash and the almond placing – It’s a tough life!
Below is a recipe closely resembling Nonna’s, adapted from ‘Anna Maria’s Open Kitchen’ – http://www.annamariavolpi.com/rococo.html#.VJfHzl4AA . It is a much more ‘user friendly’ recipe as its ingredients are easier to source. But I will run through below, just how Nonna’s biscuits differentiate.
300g Plain flour
200g Ground Almonds
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
35g Unsalted Butter, diced
Grated rind of 1 Lemon
Grated rind of 1 Mandarin
1/2 cup White sweet wine
2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 for egg wash
150g Candied peel, chopped
150g whole almonds, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
pinch of grated nutmeg
250g Almonds halved
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
1) Combine flour, ground almonds, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl.
2) Add the butter and mix it with your hands so mixture just comes together.
3) Add the lemon and orange zest, sweet wine, beaten eggs, candied peel, chopped almonds, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
4) Mix well with your hands to form a soft dough. If the dough is too dry, add a little quantity of water or wine.
5) Cut small pieces of about 5cm from the dough, and roll them into thin batons about 15mm wide.
6) Transfer it to a work surface and knead very briefly with a very small amount of flour, until it is not too sticky anymore.
7) Shape each baton into a small doughnut shape and overlap the ends. Place Almond halves over joins. Transfer to oven pans lined with parchment paper. Brush the surface with egg wash (1 beaten egg, pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.
(Nonna’s super-duper fabulous Rococo are made with Hazelnuts, Nonna’s own candied mandarin skins as well has her own limoncello & mandarinchello).
It’s not exactly the type of recipe you can whip up on a whim, the mandarin skins for example are candied when they are in season, using Imperial Mandarins. The process is quite involved with Nonna hand-picking the white pith off the skins and mixing with sugar.
A very Merry Christmas to all, perhaps you don’t have the time to make a batch of Rococo but Krispy Kreme are making Christmas Doughnuts ya’ll……..CHRISTMAS DOUGHNUTS!!
Bianca, Vanessa and Alex!