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For someone with a sweet tooth like mine, one of the highlights of a trip to Sicily is to visit the pasticcerie, or cake shops, with their shelves full of beautifully formed biscuits and cakes. Often they will have n-shaped (or z-shaped) biscuits like these.

The biscuits from this recipe will have a slightly stronger bitter almond flavour than is common in Sicily. You could say they are like baked marzipan, but it is a soft and particularly fragrant marzipan, enhanced with honey, lemon and vanilla.

Ingredients

Makes about 25

  • 30g bitter apricot kernels or 1/2 teaspoon bitter almond extract
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 110g granulated sugar
  • 2.5ml / 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 rounded tablespoon honey
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • Icing sugar for shaping and dusting the biscuits
  • Two baking sheets lined with baking parchment

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C / 250F / Gas Mark 4 (adjust for fan oven).

If using the bitter apricot kernels, cover them with boiling water and leave for a few minutes. Drain, then pop them out of their skins by squeezing them between your fingers. Grind  them finely with some of the granulated sugar. You could blitz them in a coffee grinder, making sure to shake them regularly and add more sugar if they show any signs of going oily. Or you could use a pestle and mortar. Either way you want them finely ground; you don’t want anyone biting into a lump of these, as they are very bitter.

Whisk the egg whites with the honey, lemon zest, vanilla extract (and almond extract, if using), mixing just long enough to disperse the honey. Combine gently with all the remaining ingredients except the icing sugar, to form a soft dough.

Sift some icing sugar onto the work surface.

Take 20g pieces of the dough and form into balls in the icing sugar, then roll these out into sausages about 7cm long. Gently bend these into the shape of an N, smoothing out any major cracks, and slightly pinching and curving the outside points.

Transfer to the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2cm between each biscuit. Dust liberally with more icing sugar.

Bake for about 10 minutes until slightly golden. Check half way through and turn and swap the trays between shelves if necessary.

Leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Biscotti alle mandorle amare ready for the oven

Notes

I have adapted this recipe from one in Biscotti by Mona Talbott and Mirella Misenti.

These biscuits look good on a plate with Biscotti al Pistachio, as shown below.

Mixed plate of biscotti al pistacchio and biscotti alle mandorle amare