Around Easter the windows of the pastry shops on Malta are filled with beautifully decorated traditional figolli cookies. Originally figolli were made in the shape of women, fish or baskets and symbolized fertility. They were quite large and after eating one you could easily skip a meal, even though they were not filled with almond paste as they are now. A nicely painted hard boiled egg would always be placed on top of every figolla. These days figolli cookies are usually smaller and you will find them in the shape of hearts, lambs, bunnies, butterflies and other frivolous designs. Each cookie is still topped with an egg, but luckily now it usually is a nice sweet chocolaty one!
Figolla cookie from Malta
For about 15 cookies
550 grams (5 cups) flour
250 grams (1⅛ cups) sugar
pinch of salt
grated rind of 1 unwaxed organic lemon
275 grams (1¼ cups) unsalted cold butter, cut in pieces
2 egg yolks
for the filling
300 grams (1⅓ cups) almond paste
1 egg white
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
2 egg whites
500 grams (4 cups) icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
food coloring (optional)
chocolate Easter eggs
Sieve the flour in a bowl with the sugar, the salt, the lemon rind, the butter and the egg yolks.
Rub in the butter and the egg yolks until the mixture resembles a rough crumble. I like to use my food processor for this.
Add 1 tbs of cold water and quickly bring together into a ball.
Press into a flat disc and leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 mins.
Roll out the dough to ¼ cm/⅛ inch and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. Bring the left over dough together, roll out again, cut out cookies and repeat with the rest of the dough. Make sure you cut out an even number.
In a bowl mix the almond paste with the egg whites and the orange blossom water.
Spread a teaspoonful of the almond mixture over half of the cut out shapes. Leave a little edge free.
Cover each shape with its match and gently press the edges to seal. Put the cookies in the freezer for about 10 mins. This will help them keep their shape when baked.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for about 20 mins. until light brown and done. Make the icing by beating the egg whites until frothy. Slowly beat in the icing sugar and half of the lemon juice. Beat until the icing is smooth.
Take the cookies from the oven and leave to cool completely on a rack. Divide over 2 or more bowls (depending on how many colors you want to make) and mix in food coloring. Cover well until needed.
Check your icing and mix in some more lemon juice if it has become too thick. Brush the cookies with icing and place an Easter egg in the middle. Leave to dry and set.
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