• “For me, they symbolise Christmas. I always make sure I have some to remind me of home. “

Mostaccioli

Neapolitan Christmas Biscuits

These traditional Neapolitan biscuits have been around for centuries and are normally prepared at Christmas time. The name comes from ‘mosto’ as this was traditionally used to sweeten them. They are made in the classical diamond shape and sold in confectionery shops all over the region. For me, they symbolise Christmas and I always make sure I have some to remind me of home.

I have given you a large quantity because it was always traditional in Italy to make lots and give them away to family and friends as gifts. You don’t have to make the full quantity but if you do, you can always freeze the dough. To give them more of a Christmas twist, I have made them into star shapes.

This recipe – and other delicious festive pastries – is featured in Gennaro’s Italian Bakery, available for order on Amazon.

Ingredients

Makes about 60 biscuits

1kg/2lb 4oz/8 ⅓ cups plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder, sifted
600g/1lb 5oz/3 cups caster (superfine) sugar
15g/ ½ oz mixed spice
300g/10 ½ oz/3 ⅓cups ground almonds
50g/1¾ oz/ ½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
200ml/7fl oz/ ½ cup runny honey
200g/7oz/generous ½ cup apricot jam
175ml/6oz/ ¾ cup sweet wine (e.g. Marsala, or Vin Santo)
175ml/6oz/¾ cup water

FOR THE TOPPING:

About 1.2kg/2lb 12oz dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

Method

  • Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or on a clean work surface and mix into a smooth dough. Form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill for 24 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Line a large flat baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Roll out the dough paper on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of 1cm/₁⁄₂in and cut out star shapes with a 10cm/4in star-shaped cutter. Brush off any excess flour with a little water. Place on the prepared baking trays and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • For the topping, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Make sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Dip the biscuits into the melted chocolate to cover completely and leave to set overnight on parchment paper.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

©  Gennaro Contaldo, Gennaro’s Italian Bakery (Pavilion Books).
Image credit: Dan Jones

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