Cassatine (Little Sicilian almond cookies)
- 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 10 oz butter
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
In a bowl, mix together the butter, flour and sugar until dough is smooth and uniform. If necessary, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water, then set aside for 15 minutes.
In the meanwhile, soak the almonds for a few seconds in boiling water, then drain and peel. Grind them in a mortar or in a food processor with the sugar until the mixture is fairly solid. Then, add the cocoa powder, cinnamon and lemon zest.
After 15 minutes, roll out the dough into 1/10 inch thick rectangular sheets. Place a spoonful of almond filling about 1 ½ to 2 inches apart.
Cover with another sheet of dough, pressing down with your fingers so that the two sheets stick together.
Then, cut out squares, or any other shape, using a knife.
Arrange the cookied on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook in preheated oven at 320°F for 15 minutes.
In the meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a bowl with a whisk until stiff. Then, stir in the powdered sugar and a few drops of lemon juice. Stir gently. As soon as the cookies are ready, brush with this icing.
After you have iced the cookies, place them in the oven without the heat on, but still warm to dry the glaze. Serve warm or cold.
Alternatively, if you prefer, you can sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar rather than cover them with icing.
It is strange to think that nowadays when you think of something sweet, it inevitable contains sugar, given that sugar was discovered fairly recently.
At one time, in fact, desserts were sweetened with honey and dried fruits. Sugar, although it was available in Ancient Greece and Rome, was used almost exclusively for therapeutic purposes.
Its culinary uses were introduced to Europe by the Arabs in the eleventh century, but even then, because of its extraordinarily high cost due to the difficulty of cultivating sugar cane outside the tropical regions, it was not used as sweetener, but in small doses, as if it were a spice.
It was only in the sixteenth century, when the cultivation of sugar cane spread in the newly discovered American continent, making the price go down. Sugar first appeared exclusively in the kitchens of nobles for the preparation of pastries and desserts.
Sugar did not become widespread for several hundred years. Its availablitiy grew dramatically thanks to Napoleon, who, in response to the trade embargo imposed by enemy countries against France, encouraged the cultivation of sugar beet on European soil in order to lower sugar prices. It was from that moment that the price of sugar fell, and became a food for the masses and the main ingredient of most sweets.
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