Neapolitan cuisine is immense, it has a great variety of everything!
ingredients for 20 pieces (total cost about 5 € with organic ingredients)
For the dough
- 250 g pastry flour
- 175 g almonds
- 80 g superfine sugar
- 1 egg (50 g)
- zest from ½ orange
- zest from ½ lemon
- 10 g candied citrus fruit peels
- 1,5 g baking powder
- 1,5 g ammonia
- a pinch of salt
- 68 g water
- 50 g honey
for the pisto spice mixture
- 5 g ground cinnamon
- 1 g ground cloves
- 1 g star anise
- 0,5 g freshly grated nutmeg
- 0,5 g ground coriander
- 1 pinch pepper
Last year we presented you the Neapolitan Struffoli for Christmas holidays. This year it is the turn of the iconic Roccocò biscuits, an absolute must of the Neapolitan Pastry!
Roccocò are traditionally made in two versions. The first version has a particularly hard and dense texture, that the Neapolitans characterize as spacca denti, which means breaking teeth and they normally eat them by dipping in limoncello, marsala or another sweet wine. The other version is moderately hard, crispy in the outside, while in the inside it is incredibly soft and crumbly. This is the one we prefer, as we don’t drink alcohol to soak it and we’d like to keep our teeth in place. As for the taste, they are dominated by a typical Neapolitan Christmas spice mix, used in several Neapolitan pastries, the pisto, that consists mainly of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, coriander and pepper. The pisto flavour is complemented by citrus fruit and honey nuances creating aromatic explosion.
So, to make them, we first of all have to slightly toast the almonds to bring out their oils and aromas and then ground them. But before that, we need to blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute in order to easily remove their peel. Then we spread the nuts on a baking tray and we toast them in the oven at max 170 C for about 13-15 min, depending on their size and initial moisture level. As soon as we take them out of the oven, we let them cool a bit, then we finely grind 150g of them in a food processor and we coarsely chop the rest 25 g and keep them for the final decoration.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, we sieve the flour along with the spices of the pisto mixture, we add the ground almonds, the sugar, the ammonia, the baking powder, the salt, the zests and we mix them for a few seconds to blend them. We add the candied peels finely chopped and we mix again.
Then we make a well in the center and we pour the honey in (if it is not liquid enough, we ‘d better previously warm it slightly in bain marie and pour it over the mixture, once it has become lukewarm). We add the egg lightly beaten, keeping about 2 tbsp of it to use them for brushing the biscuits. We mix again till the honey and egg are completely incorporated, and them we start adding the water, little by little, until the dough comes together. It should be quite stiff, but homogeneous. As always, we can make the dough by hand in a large mixing bowl, I just find it more convenient using a stand mixer.
To form the roccocò, we divide the dough in 20 equal parts (about 35 g each more or less) and we shape them in rings. Then we arrange them on a baking tray covered with parchment paper, leaving a reasonable space between them, in order to allow them to puff and spread. We decorate the biscuits with the broken pieces of almonds, as seen in the photos and we brush them with the rest of the egg, diluted with 1 tsp of milk.
We bake the roccocò in a preheated oven at 180 o C (static function) for about 15 minutes, then we lower the temperature to 160 and continue baking for another 3-5 minutes. If you want to keep them rather soft in the inside, do not exceed 20 minutes of total time of baking. If, on the other hand, you prefer them harder, you can let them bake a 2-3 minutes longer.
We remove the roccocò from the oven and we transfer them on a wire rack to cool completely, before storing them in an airtight container. As all baked products containing ammonia, their texture will improve day by day. Enjoy!
NOTE: You can make your own citrus fruit peels. Find out how, HERE