Category Archives: baking

Figolli ~ Traditional Maltese Easter Cookies

Figolli
Figolli

 

Figolli
Figolli

 

Hey, it’s that time of year again!  Time to make figolli!

There are a handful of occasions  throughout the year that my kids look forward to!  And they have to be Birthdays, Halloween, Christmas and Easter time! And this is probably because each holiday has something sweet attached to it.

Halloween Figolli
Halloween Figolli

 

The funny thing is, we have been known celebrate each occasion with Figolli.  I have made pumpkin and ghost  figolli for Halloween, Christmas Tree figolli for Christmas and even a birthday cake figolla for Dylan’s birthday.  Yes, any day can be figolli day at my house!  We love them that much!

 

 

Broken Ear
Broken Ear

Traditionally, figolli were given to kids on Easter Sunday after 40 days of lent.  They come in all shapes and sizes, from ducks and lamb to guitars and cars.  As kids we’d look forward to the broken ones because that meant we could scoff it straight out of the oven!

So get your work station ready.  It’s not a hard recipe to make.  Just time consuming so I suggest you divide the work over a few days.  I usually start with making the dough and the filling, forming the figolli and baking them on day 1.  I leave the decorating for day 2.  Then I wrap them on day 3! And best part is eating them on day 4!  They will vanish like magic…you’ll see!!

 

Dough

400g self raising flour

400g all purpose flour

400g margarine

300g sugar

juice and zest of one lemon

1tsp vanilla

4 egg yolks

milk or orange juice to bind

If you don’t have self raising flour, you can use 800g of all purpose flour and add two tsp of baking powder.

Sieve flour into a large bowl or stand mixer. Rub in the margarine to a bread crumb consistency. Add the sugar and lemon rind and mix again. Lightly mix in the eggs, juice, vanilla essence and enough milk to form a soft dough. Let rest in the refrigerator.

Filling

Almond Meal and Sugar
Almond Meal and Sugar

500g almond meal

300g sugar

4 egg whites

2tsp almond essence

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Add the egg whites and stir.  If it’s too dry, add some orange juice to the mixture.

Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry. 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. Brush edges with some evaporated milk. Then cover each with its corresponding half. Push the edges together slightly and bake for about 30 mins in a moderate oven (325-350F, 175C).

Allow to cool and decorate with chocolate or icing as desired.

Icing
Icing

Cherry On Top ~ Pastini biċ-Ċirasa

 

Pastini biċ-Ċirasa

My mum knows me more than I know myself and lucky for me, she takes what I say with a grain of salt.

IMG_9985
Success Bil-Helu 2
By Edward Calleja

She had been telling me about this Maltese Recipe Book  for months and just how good the recipes were. We’d be sharing a cup o’ coffee together over skype when I’d catch a glimpse of a tray of cookies she’d just made and every time she would say that she had followed  a recipe from Edward’s  Book!  And every time she’d say that she’ll send it to me, and every time I tell her not to.  It was a game we played quite often, with me having the last word of course!

Or so I thought because she sent it to me anyway…knowing fully well that she’d get told off for it but also that I’d love it and sure enough, my mum was right as she always is.

This book is fast becoming my go to book for Maltese Baking.  I have had excellent results with all the recipes I’ve tried so far and I thought I’d share this one with you.  These are my favourite traditional Almond Cookies.  They are a staple at weddings and baptisms and  Cafes any time of the year!

Almond Cookies
Almond Cookies

So for those of us who can’t just pop into a cafe and order a dozen or two to take home, this is a simple recipe that will definitely satisfy your craving.  One thing you have to remember is that you need to start these the night before as they need to dry overnight or from 6-8 hours!

Another thing is that even though these are easy to make, you do need a bit of muscle as the consistency of the dough does not pipe easily. So consider yourselves warned!!

 

 

The recipe makes about 3 dozen and is adapted from Suċċess Bil-Helu by Edward Calleja.

Ingredients

250g pure ground almond

250g powdered sugar

3/8 cup egg whites or the whites of 3 eggs

rind of half a lemon

1tsp almond essence

rice paper optional

cherries for decoration

Place the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Beat egg whites in a separate bowl.

Slowly pour egg whites in with the almonds and sugar and stir until you see it’s well mixed.  The mixture should not be too soft.

Put rice paper in the pan.

Scoop the mixture and put in a 16-18 inch piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip. Pipe the mixture on top of rice paper or silpat as shown about an inch apart.

Place a quarter cherry on top.

Let dry overnight.

IMG_0001
Let them dry overnight

Next morning preheat oven at 375 degrees and bake for about 10-12 mins until light golden colour depending on your oven.

Cherry On Top
Cherry On Top

 

Scones

English Tea Flag

When I think of England, I think of scones!! The two just go together just like Malta and Pastizzi! Kevin and I are not planners!! We knew that from the get go.  He proposed over the phone on New Year’s Eve  and we were married in March!  We did not even have any idea where we were going to live  We tried  Malta for a month and when that didn’t work out, we thought we’d see if England would be a better match.

Leaving on a Jet Plane
Leaving on a Jet Plane

We packed few bits in a suitcase, boarded Air Malta and all we knew was that we’d be landing in Heathrow in three hours!! We winged everything else after that. It was a beautiful May day and all I kept thinking was “WOW!! I can do this!!”  “I can live in England!”  “Why does everyone complain about the weather!” “What a beautiful place!”…as we drove our little rented car from London to???? It was one of the best days ever!! Just married…beautiful day…with the excitement of what lies ahead!  Whatever it was, we were going to make it work!

The Hoe, Plymouth
The Hoe, Plymouth

There were a few places we passed along the way that were possibilities and I still wonder what would’ve happened if we’d laid our hats in  Somerset or Bath.   But we kept on driving until we could drive no more! Plymouth Devon!!  Doesn’t Devon just shout out Cream Teas and Scones? We got out of the car on Plymouth Hoe and the view of The Sound with clear blue skies is still exhilarating to me to this day. We both fell in love with The Barbican and the little shops and restaurants and decided that it was the perfect place to start our new lives together.  Found a flat to rent across the street from a Greek Restaurant and made it our home! It was the stinkiest and had the most godawful decor, but it was perfect! And that was where I had my first Cream Tea experience!! A little place called Tudor Rose Tea Room  Just the whole teapot and cup and scone and jam and cream and mix it all up and you feel like the queen!

So of course, since then, I’ve been looking for the perfect scone recipe.  I’ve tried making them with milk/buttermilk/sour cream and cream and my kids  and best critics have confirmed that this recipe is one of the best ones…YET!!  I have my friend Rose to thank for sharing her recipe AND scones with me!

Scones are very simple to make and are pretty much fool proof if you follow these easy steps.  I suggest you don’t use your stand mixer for this recipe and make them by hand because the less you handle the dough, the better.

Ingredients
Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 beaten egg

Using the rubbing in method, combine and flour and butter and salt and work it until it looks like bread crumbs. Mix in the sugar. Put a well in the middle and pour in the cream and eggs and very lightly, bring the mixture together until just combined. Let it rest for about half an hour.

Also with your hands, pat the dough down to about 1 1/4″ thickness.  Using your scone/biscuit cutter, cut out and place on the prepared dish.

Bake at 375 for about 18 mins until golden.

Serve with jam and cream and tea of course…

Cream Tea
Cream Tea

Pastizzi – Camenzuli Style

Flaky Pastizzi
Flaky Pastizzi

Pastizzi ta’ l-Irkotta or Pastizzi tal-Pizelli!  Those are only two of the most popular fillings you will find because nowadays you  may find many more types of fillings…from sweet to savoury but I still think that the original are the best! Pastizzi get a bad rap because the dough contains a little more than your average fat.  Usually a basic dough has half the amount of fat as flour. The pastizzi dough has slightly more but is oh sooo worth it.

Pastizzi for Breakfast
Pastizzi for Breakfast

It is also slightly more work.  Well, when I say slightly, I mean a lot! And also slightly messier…ok a lot messier…but I don’t want to scare you away and really want you to try it, cause when you make it and taste it, you’re going to fall in love. There’s just nothing like that rich, crunchy but melt in your mouth pastry!!   And this recipe delivers! Pastizzi are also great to freeze so you can always have some on hand. Then just pop two in the toaster oven and have them for your lazy Sunday morning breakfast!

Uncle Fredu Making Pastizzi
Uncle Fredu Making Pastizzi

This recipe is one of those that has been passed down to me by my relatives who had emigrated to the US in the early 60’s which means they’d been here for 30 years before I made my appearance and had all that time to finesse everything Maltese!! I have a big family here and rest assured that there’s pastizzi at every gathering and not surprising at all, it would be the pastizzi that would be the first to disappear.

Uncle Alex Making Pastizzi
Uncle Alex Making Pastizzi

Pastizzi call for a mixture of butter and lard OR crisco.  There was a time when just the word LARD would make  me cringe and seeing anyone using it in cooking would immediately make me lose my appetite.  But here is an article I read recently that made me think differently.

Dough

  • 1lb all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 9oz water
  • 9oz lard or crisco
  • 3oz butter
Butter and Lard
Mix Butter and Lard

Make the dough by putting the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and water and let it knead for about 12 mins until you have a nice smooth dough. Let it rest for about half an hour. Cut the dough in half. Open one of the halves into a long strip as shown in the photo beneath.

Take both fats and mix them together. Divide in two. Take one part of the mixed fat and slather it all over the rolled out dough.

From the end closest to you, start stretching and rolling while widening the dough as shown. Keep doing this until you reach the other end. You’ll end up with a long rope like piece of dough.

Take one end and roll it into a spiral shape. Put some fat over the top, cover and store in the fridge until ready to use. Do the same with the other piece of dough and remaining fat.

Ricotta Filling
Ricotta Filling

 

Filling
Make the pastizzi filling by mixing 1lb ricotta, 2 eggs and pinch of salt together.

Forming Pastizzi
Take the end of the spiral shaped dough and cut about two inches off the end. Flatten it with your hand as you turn it round and round between your fingers so you can see the ridges of the dough forming. Form it into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter. Put a dollop of ricotta in the middle.

 

Ready for Baking or Freezing
Ready for Baking or Freezing.

Fold over and seal and place on a greased dish or on a silpat. Do this until you’ve used up all the dough and ricotta.

You can freeze them at this point. Or you can bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 20-30 mins until golden brown.

As with everything, moderation is the key.  Pastizzi are not the the healthiest of foods, but then neither are croissants or eclairs and it would be a shame if we couldn’t have them once in a while, so go on…have one…you know you want to.

 

Pastizzi Camenzuli Style
Pastizzi Camenzuli Style

 

Ricotta Qassatat

Qassata
Qassata

Two very popular snacks in Malta are Qassatat and Pastizzi.  You can call them cousins with pastizzi being the posher or richer of the two.  I find qassatat are the easier ones to make so we’ll be tackling that one first and then later on, we’ll try our hand at making pastizzi.

There’s all sort of different fillings you can use for the qassatat and ricotta ones seem to be the most favoured.  You can add raisins or sauteed onions or fresh fava beans with the ricotta.  These types of fillings are sought after during Lent when it’s customary to fast.

Other types of fillings include meat and anchovies, but really, you can make as many types of filling as your creativity and taste will take you.

So this is your basic Ricotta Qassatat Recipe

Dough

Dough
Dough

1 lb all purpose flour
8 oz chilled butter cut up in cubes
1 egg (optional)
pinch of salt
about 1/2 cup water

Start by putting the flour and butter and salt in your stand mixer and work it until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and water and knead until it comes together.
Take it out and knead it into a ball and let it rest at room temperature for about half an hour.

 

Filling

1lb ricotta
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (optional)

Some ricotta is more creamy than others and you might only need one egg…so use your judgement.  The filling should not be too liquidy or it would ooze out of the dough.


Put all the ingredients together and stir vigorously.

 

 

Qassatat

Roll half the dough into two long ropes about two inches thick and cut it up into two inch chunks.

Take one piece and open it up into a circle about 3-4 inch diameter depending on how big you like them.

Put a dollop of the ricotta mixture in the middle.

Take the outside of the dough and start pleating while turning the dough about an inch each time until you get to the first pleat.

Continue this until you’ve used up the dough and ricotta.

Brush on a bit of egg wash.

Bake at 400 degree oven for about half an hour depending on your oven until they’re golden brown

 

 

 

 

Hobz or Ftira biz-zejt u l-Kunserva

Hobz biz-zejt u l-kunserva

Now that we’ve mastered the Maltese Bread and Ftira, we can work on the filling!!  In Malta, our most favourite way to have the bread is with kunserva.   Hobz biz zejt u l-kunserva…nothing like it.  So that’s bread with tomato paste and olive oil.

Of course you can also go all gourmet and add anything that you like…maltese sausage, gbejniet,  which is a type of maltese cheese, canned tuna fish, chopped up onion, cannelini beans, pickled veggies, capers, olives…the list is endless…make up your own combination of your favourite things.  Parsley or Basil, some olive oil, salt and pepper and oh it’s just heaven on earth!

Bonding over Bread (Maltese Bread or Ftira Recipe)

I don’t think it would be appropriate to have a blog called Tal-Forn and not include the best bread recipe ever!  Anyone who has ever tried it has given it 5 stars and I guarantee that if you try this,  you won’t be disappointed and we’ll be bread friends for life!

Ftira

In fact, this recipe has made me quite a few friends, from around the world.  But first let me tell you a little bit about how it came to be.

When we came to live in the United States, back in 1994, there were quite a few things I missed, but nothing more than a good loaf of Maltese Bread!  I tried the fancy bakeries and the not so  fancy stores but nothing came close, so within a week of settling down, I got my first bread machine! It was and still is the most used gadget in my kitchen to date!  I’m actually on my third one which is less than a month old and a gift from my lovely family in Malta…love you guys soo much!

So I’ve been making bread for years and years but I still had not come close to the taste and texture of the Maltese Ftira that everyone falls in love with on their first visit to the lovely Island of Malta.   Every now and then, I’d do a search for nothing, but never gave up.  Then  along came fb and there it was…the recipe I’d been looking for all these years on Ilovefood.com. It was quite a detailed recipe from a Linda Speight from London!!    The thing that captured my interest  from the get go, was her first sentence, which went something like “This is much easier than it sounds…”.   Plus she had written the recipe in so much detail that I thought there was no way I could fail!  And so I set on another mission to see if this was the recipe of my dreams.

Being an avid baker, I had all the ingredients on hand and started making the starter, which I’d always found intimidating.  And the rest is history.   The best part though, is that Linda and I are best of friends.  We bonded over bread and we now chat all the time, sharing recipes and talk about food and weather and everything in between!!

Ok…so if you googled Maltese Bread or Ftira and Google brought you to my blog, you must be eager to get started and make this delicious bread in your own kitchen.  I have tried making this recipe with AND without a  bread machine and I have to admit that this ONLY works with a bread machine.

Recipe…

You have to have a starter….if you don’t, don’t worry,  it’s really easy to make your own…

All you need is a clean jar and some flour and water.

Put a tablespoon each of water and flour in a clean jar and stir with a plastic spoon or chopstick which is what I use and cover.   They say metal is not good…not sure why and I don’t ask questions. Store in a warm place away from direct sunlight.

Do this every day…each morning, add another tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of flour, and stir and cover…for seven days…and on the eighth day, you’re ready to start on your first loaf/rolls/ftira/pizza/focaccia…oh so many things you can make!!

In the bread machine pan, put

Ingredients

120gr starter
300gr cups water
(together the starter and water should weigh 420gr)

420gr high gluten flour
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt

2 tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Put everything in the bread machine on the dough cycle.  When it’s done, take out the dough and let it rest for about five minutes.  Divide in 3 equal parts.  Take each part and flatten it a bit to about 8-10 inch rounds.  Tear a hole in the middle. Cover and let it rest until double in size for about half an hour but it really all depends on how warm your kitchen is.  Bake at 425 for about 12-15 mins.  Again, it depends on your oven, so keep an eye on it.

Now that you made this, don’t forget to feed your starter every day.  Just add equal amounts of water and flour and this can go on for years!  If you need to go on holiday or just need a break from making bread, just store the starter in the fridge.  When you’re ready to use again, take it out, feed it and use it at room temperature.

Hope you enjoyed this post and if you make this bread, I’ll be very happy to hear how it turned out for you or answer any questions.  Here’s to bread!!