It may be a biscuit that is made traditionally during the Christmas season in Naples but there is no reason why you should not make it during the rest of the year. And, truth to be told, they are sold all year around in all Neapolitan pasticcerie so why not make them at home, too?
So what’s the deal with these biscuits? Roccocò are hard rock biscuits that happen to be vegan: no eggs or butter or milk or other fat (except for the egg wash, which you can skip).
Because the biscuits are quite hard, it is always a great idea to dunk them in a drink. Coffee and tea are the obvious choices but not the traditional one. In fact, roccocò are usually dunked in a glass of vermouth, white wine, marsala or – dulcis in fundo – my absolute favourite, prosecco.
My stepmother-in-law had some and she absolutely loved it! She can be a bit on the demanding side when it comes to food – she knows what she likes and it can be tricky to introduce her to new tastes. So these biscuits must be really outstanding, given that she even asked for the recipe! This blog post is definitely for Sue and all the other people who asked for it.
Right, time to explain how to make these stars.
Makes about 20
For the dough
- 500g all-purpose flour
- 400g caster sugar
- 400g almonds with peel on (250g to grind and 150g whole)
- 12g pisto (a mix of spices, which you can replace with ground allspice)
- a pinch of salt
- 1 medium-sized orange zest
- 1 medium-sized lemon zest
- 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 50ml warm water
- 2g baking ammonia (alternatively baking powder or baking soda)
- 25g honey (optional)
- 70g of candied orange peel, cut in small pieces
- 2 beaten egg yolks to wash the surface
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line two large baking trays with parchment paper. Set aside.
Toast the almonds. I usually place them in a wide frying pan and heat them on low-medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, turning them occasionally to prevent them from burning. Let them cool down.
Once they are no longer warm, add 250g to a mixer and grind them (into small pieces, but not to a powder consistency). Set the other 150g aside.
In the stand mixer box, add the sifted flour and baking ammonia. Then add the ground almonds, the sugar, the spices, the citrus zest and the candied orange peel pieces and a pinch of salt (at this stage you can add the honey, too, if you wish).
Using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer, combine thoroughly.
With the paddle still on, gradually add the water and the orange juice. As the dough starts to come together, add the rest of the almonds, too.
The dough will be very sticky and not easy to handle – but don’t lose hope! When everything seems to have come together in a compact dough (it might take 5-7 minutes or up to 15, depending on how powerful your mixer is), transfer the dough onto a floured surface.
Knead the dough a few times with your hands to make it more compact.
Split the dough into 40-50g portions. Roccoco’ can be bigger or slightly smaller – it is down to personal preference.
Roll each portion of dough into a cord of about 2cm in diameter. Combine the two ends to form a ring.
Push the rings from the edge towards the inside and flatten them a bit.
Place each ring on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Brush each roccoco’ with egg wash.
Bake for 20 minutes (25m on some occasions) or until very lightly browned. If you overbake them, they will be so hard you won’t be able to eat them, and if you underbake them, they will be too soft. There is a fine balance which you will get right once you’ve baked these biscuits at least once. Ovens vary massively so it is hard to tell exactly. You will need to find your own ideal time.
Once they seem ready, take out of the oven and allow to cool on baking trays for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
You can store them in a biscuit tin for up to a month and they will keep as fresh and tasty as the first day you made them! That makes them ideal treats to give to those you love.