eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Tag: Easter treat

Traditional Maltese Easter Figolli

Maltese Figolli

There are three cultures which have a big influence on my life, the German which I grew up with and the Maltese and the American through my boyfriend and his family. Our life is a daily mix of different traditions, habits, mentalities and languages, this is a gift to me but it also brings a lot of potential to create friction. The German and the Maltese background especially couldn’t be more different. My Northern European mind, focussing on logic and order, black and white thinking, clashes sometimes (often) with the Mediterranean mentality, its relaxed trust in life, its chilled out pace, its emotional and sometimes dramatic approach to conflicts of any kind. It can be frustrating, for both sides, but it has made our lives so much richer! It’s a challenge, testing out how much one is willing to accept that we are all different. I want to stay open for this experience which involves so much love from and for so many people and on top it is so much fun and entertainment and there’s plenty of that! When I’m together with my Maltese family, after all theses years we’re still confronted with cultural misunderstandings that bring us to tears as we have to laugh so hard. When my German seriousness clashes with Mediterranean humour, the potential for comic situations is practically never ending!

The cakes and pictures in my posts from yesterday and today couldn’t reflect the two cultures and differences in a better way. Yesterday’s eggnog sponge cake with whipped cream, its clean and minimal look, the concentrated focus on the pure taste of German eggnog meets today’s Maltese figolla which is opulent and dramatic, lusciously and colourfully decorated. It’s stuffed with various exotic flavours like orange, cinnamon and almonds. Two cultures packed in two cakes!

Maltese Figolli

Figolli is the plural for figolla coming from the latin word figura, it’s a famous traditional treat eaten on Easter Sunday in Malta. To me, it’s a bit like a big cookieish cake although every Maltese would disagree with that. Originally it was made in the shape of a woman, a man, a fish or a basket, ancient symbols of fertility like the chocolate egg which is always placed on top of each figolla. Without the egg (which is actually cut in half) it’s not an original figolla! Times changed and more shapes became popular such as lambs, hearts, stars and a few other Easter related figures. I was given a fish and a bird by my mother in law and to be honest I was happy about her choice as the dough extends quite a bit while it’s baking. I have my doubts that, if she had given me a lamb, there would have been any association left with this animal.

The decoration of a figolla is very important and involves lots of colourful sugar coating and icing. The pastry itself is made of a short crust like dough, sandwiched and filled with almond paste. There are lots of different recipes, my Maltese family gave me about six to prepare me for this experience. I was very thankful for this support but in the end I took a bit of each and added and changed after my own taste. The almond paste for example had to be exchanged with a hazelnut paste with a hint of almonds enhanced with orange zest and cinnamon. When it came to decorating the figolla I was happy to have my assisting sister in law Julia at my side to give me stylistic instructions. That’s what she does when she makes figolli in Malta together with one of her aunts.

When I wrote about my rhubarb meringue tartlets last week I had mentioned that I’m not the best decorator when it comes to pastry. After we managed to put around 1kg (2 pounds) of icing sugar in both the lemony sugar glaze and in the royal icing which is made with egg whites and used for the icing decoration, we were equipped with two thick pastes and food colouring, we were ready to start! I was prepared that decorating a figolla would be very difficult, maybe stressful but I was mistaken. It was fun and I can admit that we were quite impressed with the results. I was an inexperienced German beginner after all but thanks to our North-South European cooperation we were rewarded with two beautiful and delicious figolli!

I wish you a Happy Easter!

Maltese Figolli

Traditional Maltese Figolli

You need figolli cutters with a high rim.

For two big figolli (around 30cm x 20cm / 12″ x 8″) you need

For the dough

plain flour 400g / 14 ounces
sugar 200g / 7 ounces
a pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of fresh vanilla
butter 200g / 7 ounces
organic eggs 2

Combine the flour with the sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and work the butter into the flour until combined (there shouldn’t be any lumps of butter left). Add the eggs and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until combined, the dough will be a bit sticky and soft. Form a flat ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

 

For the hazelnut/ almond paste

hazelnuts, grated 90g / 3 ounces
almonds, grated 60g / 2 ounces
(you can also use just 150g of almonds or hazelnuts if you prefer)
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 orange
organic egg whites 2

Combine the dry ingredients and add the orange juice. In a bowl, mix the egg whites until it starts to thicken, add the hazelnut mixture and mix to a thick paste.

 

For the figolli

Set the oven to 180°C/ 355°F (fan-assisted oven) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, roll each one out between cling film (about 3/4 cm / 1/3″ thick) and cut out 2 equal figures for each figolla. Place one pastry figure on the baking sheet (this works best when you put the parchment paper on top of a rolled out figure, flip it and put it back on the baking sheet). Spread half the hazelnut paste on top and cover gently with the corresponding figure. Continue with the second figolla and bake for 25 minutes in the oven or until golden brown. Let them cool completely.

 

For the decoration

For the sugar glaze

icing sugar, sieved, around 400g / 14 ounces
lemon juice 2 tablespoons
water 3 tablespoons, you might need less
food colouring

Mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice and add the water, one tablespoon at a time until you have a thick and slightly runny paste (you may not need all of the water), if it’s too liquid it won’t stay on the figolla. Add food colouring after your own taste.

For the royal icing

organic egg whites 3
icing sugar, sieved about 600 g / 21 ounces
food colouring

Lightly whisk the egg whites, add the icing sugar a little at a time and continue beating. Stop adding more sugar when you have a very thick and stiff paste. To check the texture, fill a piping bag and press out a little drop, if it stays in shape, the icing is done. Add food colouring after your own taste.

Spread the sugar glaze on top of the figolla and let it dry for a couple minutes. When the glaze is hard, fill a piping bag and decorate with the royal icing. By experience I can say, be brave and it will look much better!

Maltese Figolli

 

Maltese Figolli

 

Maltese Figolli

 

Maltese Figolli

Eggnog Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream

Eggnog Sponge Cake

Eggnog has a bit of an old fashioned reputation but as soon as you let someone try a sip, even if it’s a doubtful gourmet, you will see a hint of appreciation in their face. It used to be a popular drink in bars, both of my grandmothers used to love it and even made their own in their kitchens. This was once a true party classic, in the 50’s and 60’s! Today, people pour it over their ice cream or cake like my mother who always keeps a little bottle of it in her fridge for this reason. Some make it for christmas but it feels like it lost its popularity. I find this unfortunate, as I have quite a soft spot for it – eggnog is creamy, smooth, sweet and eggy. I like to drink it sometimes, as a digestif, preferably out of tiny old fashioned glasses with a short stem, 50’s style to complete the image!

I believe that something that was so passionately savored a few decades ago and tastes so good is reason enough to be involved in my kitchen activities. I’m up for an easy cake with an Easter touch, a spongy cake made with lots of eggnog. A few days ago my aunt Ursula gave me two 3d cake pans and wrote down one of her recipes for a juicy cake laced with this yellow liqueur that her own mother used to like so much. I doubled the recipe and baked the dough in two lovely rabbit and chicken molds.

I prepared some whipped cream with even more eggnog while the cakes were in the oven and noticed at one point that they started to overflow. Luckily, my miscalculation didn’t do the final cake any harm. It rose and dropped off the molds like a volcano and continued to bake on the tray but turned out as spongy and juicy as the cake that stayed inside the molds.

This cake is very quick to make, after only 30 minutes in the oven, I was rewarded with a delicious eggnogy tea time treat, best when dunked into eggnog whipped cream and enjoyed with an extra shot of this special liqueur of the past, in an old fashioned glass of course, cheers to our grandmothers!

Eggnog Sponge Cake

 Eggnog Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream

For a 20cm / 8″ cake pan you need

organic eggs 4
sugar 140g / 5 ounces
a pinch of fresh vanilla
vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil) 140ml
eggnog 140ml plus one shot for the whipped cream
plain flour 220g / 8 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
whipping cream 200ml

Set the oven to 170°C / 340°F (fan-assisted oven) and  butter the cake pan.

Beat the eggs together with the sugar and vanilla till fluffy. Slowly, add the oil and and eggnog and continue mixing. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder and mix quickly into the liquid mixture. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and bake for 4o minutes or until golden brown. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. In the 2 figure molds, the cake needed just 30 minutes. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes.

Whip the cream, stir in a shot of eggnog and serve with the cake.

Eggnog Sponge Cake

 

Eggnog Sponge Cake

 

Eggnog Sponge Cake

 

Eggnog Sponge Cake

 

Eggnog Sponge Cake

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