Malta: Figolli (Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries)
Since the Maltese language has been strongly influenced by Latin and Italian, it's possible that the word figolla (plural, figolli) is a worn-down version of the word figura, a form, shape, or image. Whatever the case, around Easter time in Malta, figolli are in every baker's window, and are also sold in shops and by various organizations to benefit charities.
Traditionally they were a post-Lenten treat intended mostly for children. The oldest shapes were of men and women (something like gingerbread men and women), and also fish and baskets -- possibly a reference to ancient symbols of fertility. But later other shapes started turning up -- ducks and bunnies, cars and butterflies. Whatever the shape, figolli are brightly decorated in icing and chocolate, and the biggest ones often incorporate a whole Easter egg (real or chocolate) wrapped in foil or paper.
Click on "read more" for the recipe.
For the pastry:
- 400 grams butter or margarine
- 800 grams flour
- 200 grams sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- Water to mix
For the filling:
- 400 grams sugar
- 400 grams almonds
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom eater
- 3 egg whites
Sieve flour into a large bowl or food processor. Rub in the margarine or butter to a cornmeal consistency (or pulse until it gets there). Add the sugar and lemon rind and mix or pulse again. Mix in the egg yolks and enough water to make a stiff dough.
Prepare the filling by grinding together the sugar and almonds in a spice grinder or blender (or the food processor, though a grinder seems to work best). Add the orange-blossom water and fold the beaten egg whites into this mixture.
Dust a work surface with flour and roll the pastry out. Use cookie cutters or custom-created cardboard shapes to cut out two identical shapes for each figolla.
Spread a thick (about 1 centimeter) layer of the almond filling onto half the pastry shapes you've made, leaving about 1 cm of space around the edges of each one. Then cover each with its corresponding half. Push the edges together slightly and bake for 1/2 hour in a moderate oven (325-350F, 175C).
Allow to cool and decorate with chocolate and / or icing, making fanciful designs around the edges, and filling in faces and other features as desired.
(This is one of a sequence of Maltese recipes posted to celebrate Malta's annual Freedom Day. You might like to check the other recipes out as well.)