Christmas Biscotti from Siracusa

I’m looking forward to a quiet, relaxing Christmas this year. During the weeks leading up to that day, I won’t be counting plates, cutlery, wine glasses, napkins, gutting rooms and borrowing chairs, moving furniture to make more room, ironing table cloths, emptying fridges, making lists and more lists, and anticipating an event for 29 or so guests. On the day, I may be sitting under a shady tree, eating some simply cooked fresh fish, followed by a few light biscotti, enjoying a conversation, good music, and a bottle of wine.

biscotti da Siracusa, Sicilia
Biscotti da Siracusa, Sicilia

Despite this once in a lifetime opportunity, or escapist retreat, the making of festive delicacies is, for me, very much part of December and still continues. Last year I enjoyed making Cuddureddi, a spicy little Sicilian tart. They were eaten in the weeks leading up to Christmas day or were given away to friends. This year, I am looking to Sicily once again for inspiration. What could be more tempting than chocolate, almond and cherry biscotti, usually found in the pasticcerie in Siracusa, Sicily?

Anaretti di Ciocccolato e Ciliege
Anaretti di Ciocccolato e Ciliegia

These little almond, cherry and chocolate bites can be thrown together very quickly and only take around 12 – 15 minutes to cook. They are soft centred, with the texture of a truffle more than a biscotto. They are gluten-free, dairy free and very moreish. Wrap a few in cellophane to give to your child’s favourite teacher, or give little gifts to loved ones during Advent. Dicembre e` un mese bellissimo, mentre il giorno di Natale puo` essere stressante!

Amaretti di Cioccolato e Ciliegia/  Chocolate cherry amaretti biscuits

  • 250 g finely ground almonds
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 50 g dark ( 70%) chocolate, grated
  • 60 g dried sour cherries, chopped
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 extra-large egg whites, ( or three medium )
  • a pinch of salt
  • 30 gr icing/confectioners’ sugar

    bisoctti ready for oven
    biscotti ready for oven

Preheat the oven to 160 c.

Mix the almonds, sugar, chocolate, cherries and lemon zest together. Whisk the egg whites until firm and add to the almond mixture with the salt. Mix well. The mixture should be damp. ( Note- if you have used two egg whites and feel that the mixture needs a bit more moisture, beat another until stiff and add it to the mixture.)

Place the icing sugar in a bowl. Form balls with the almond mixture then roll them in the icing sugar. Place them on paper lined baking sheets.

Bake until they have a golden tinge, approximately 12- 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Makes around 20 balls. Note, my edited pics make the balls look rather large but they only measure around 4 cm.

biscotti di Siracusa
Biscotti di Siracusa. Amaretti con ciliegie e cioccolato

Adapted from Flavours of Sicily, Ursula Ferrigno, 2016

For my dear friend Diane. Let’s spend next Christmas in Sicilia, cara mia.

54 thoughts on “Christmas Biscotti from Siracusa”

  1. Perfect! I have frozen egg whites, by dinnertime I’ll have made a batch of these, they sound wonderful Francesca. I am hosting Christmas this year, for 5pax only, no expectations of turkey or plum pud thankfully

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    1. And you have the dried cherries too. I am thinking of making these again with sultanas soaked in marsala and adding spices.
      Five people is about perfect. Thirty is not. My mother keeps telling me to keep it simple but it’s not the food that is the problem, it’s the finding of space, chairs, glasses etc…Last year, we also had the added drama of potential bushfire, with windspeeds gusting at over 50kph: I should have cancelled the whole thing, I was so worried, and given all the food to the chooks. Never again! This year is so blissful, I can enjoy making these little treats.

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        1. I was just thinking Sandra, that if I soak the cherries or other fruit in booze, the mixture will be wetter and the egg whites will stay at 2 medium… I know you will think of this anyway, but just planning a version in my head.

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          1. All done. I like this recipe much better than the one I posted. I soaked the cherries in dry marsala, only chopped the chocolate albeit finely and used orange zest and 1 tsp freshly ground cardamom. I was short almonds by 50g and replaced it with chestnut flour. I didn’t beat the egg whites, just added enough to make a stiff paste. I squashed my balls slightly with wet fingers then dusted them with icing sugar once cooked. Bloody delicious, thank you x

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  2. Gosh these look delicious and I love the idea of swapping out the cherries for sultanas soaked in Marsala and adding spices, really such a festive flavour, my mouth is watering at the thought. You are keeping me busy with all your delectable recipes. X

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Done that! Just a few quick points:

        – Why oh why did I forget that Italians do everything at the same time and didn’t secure enough almond flour in time? Upon immediately deciding to double the ingredients, I landed the last two packages and needed three more… The clerk wished to infiltrate a sweet concoction only one half of which was actual flour, so I said no and ground by myself instead. It’s loud, and not nearly as smooth, but I did done it.
        – Why oh why are these called balls? Mine are fully flat, not to mention fully irregular and mismatched. Just like me. 😀
        – However, they are just as yum. 😉

        Thank you for another splendid recipe!

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        1. Hi MMM, Almond meal is sold here in Kilo packets so I never really run out, however the original recipe did call for freshly ground almonds, and so your food processor should be able to grind them up nicely. They are balls because they are rolled, and lightened with the stiffly beaten egg whites which help them puff a little. Now I must check my recipe and see if I made that clear….
          I have made two lots of these, and the ones with honey- they are all walking out the door. I am so pleased you like them. Please let me know if you want me to write the recipe in Italian, or if my method is unclear in any way… since you are such a fan of my crazy almond recipes.

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          1. Hihi, no no, you’re very clear or I’d ask, and I did make them into balls (well… spheres of some kind), but the oven flattened them. Also, Italian would not help at all, since my English is MUCH better than any Italian could ever be. 😀 (I’m Slovenian by birth.) There was a funny moment during baking when I panicked that ‘zest’ actually means the pulp, not the peel, and googled it frantically. It was peel after all… Anyway, my biscuits, balls or not, are disappearing nicely as well and you’re very welcome. I’ll link to your recipe today in my door post.

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  3. These and the cuddureddi sound absolutely lovely as does your wonderful evocations of the history behind the food, Francesca. I am always envious of the knowledge and opportunities for fascinating research that food historians have. I am away from home at the moment and I always miss not being in my own kitchen -but it has its compensations – we are by the Clarence River in Northern NSW – it’s lovely country. I so enjoyed your previous post – I have seen that garden in, I think, the ABC Organic Gardening book and I think it might also have been on tv – but your photographs of the garden are wonderful. I really want my husband to make me some of the cabbage moth butterfly guards. We had some lovely heads of broccoli this year which were just laden with the moths’ eggs. Your description of your Christmas by the beach sounds wonderful – relaxed food, good conversation, good wine – some good bread – and people you love – nothing is better than that.

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    1. Jan I am so envious- I love the Clarence River, big brown and slow, such a warm spot full of childhood memories. I must get up that way again.
      Those guards worked so well in the Dunkeld garden. Does your husband do basic welding? If not, send him off to do a course. Perhaps he and Mr T could go together. I’d like some covers too. Light and easy to lift off and put back. Sometimes we use old dog bed frames covered with light shade cloth- that can help with the brassicas and white cabbage moth. Look at hard rubbish for these old frames on legs.
      We will be at home, not at the beach, but under a big tree in our front yard, weather permitting.
      Best wishes Jan, and enjoy your holiday up there.

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  4. Planning a trip to Sicily mid 2017, if the planets align = can get everyone in our family of four calendar to agree. My husband is from a small town near Siracusa, so I will check out. They are not on my Suocera’s biscotti list. they look and sound delicious. Louise

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    1. Hi Louise, I hope those planets align for you and your family. Sicily is such a wonderful island. we spent three weeks travelling around, and my memories are still very strong ( that was in 2000). I think we may be going there late next year too.
      The biscuits worked out very well: mark two is coming next week.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Instantly I regretted choosing a bag of dried cranberries rather than cheeries last week but after reading the comments I still have a jar of sweet SA sultanas, and a bottle of of Buller Malmsey. I had planned on making a version of my customary Christmas biscuits but might raincheck them for these.
    Baking and simple food prep is my kind of Christmas… I hate the hype. Knowing I’m not alone in this is festive season balm ♡

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  6. Mine will be a quiet Christmas, too, this year, Francesca. All I’ve left to do is to prepare a few perishables for a gift basket and I’ve just now found the cookie. How could I possibly overlook amaretti with chocolate and tart cherries? Simply put: I can’t. I’ve the ingredients on-hand so now everything depends on timing. If I make them too soon, none will make it into the gift basket. Wait too long and they might not be ready in time. When you think about it, I really can’t lose, though the gift basket may suffer. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John, you are so funny. It’s true. These little soft biscotti don’t last long at all and are so easy to make. If you do share them and pop some into that gift basket, you will get lots of complements. Timing is the easy part. They mix up in a couple of minutes and cook in less than 15. too easy.

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      1. Just had to return to let you know how much I enjoyed these amaretti, Francesca. They were just as easy to prepare as you said and were a welcome addition to the biscotti tins that I gave to friends and family. . Everyone enjoyed them. Thank you for sharing a recipe that I’m sure to prepare every Christmas.

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