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Fragrant and sweet, it is the king of Christmas treats. There is neither a fair nor a town festival where it is not sold, together with nougat and other typical delicacies of the Christmas season: dried and candied fruit, such as figs, dates and so on... The delicious almond brittle is a longtime favourite family treat and one of the most typical Christmas delicacies in Italy. Its origins date back to the 13th century.
It is supposed to derive from the Arab cuisine, where it was made with almonds, honey, sugar and spices. It has been mentioned in the historical archives of parishes all over Italy since the Middle Ages as one of the most popular sweets prepared and sold at country fairs. Made with typical ingredients that have been grown in our country for centuries, the almond brittle is usually served at the end of a meal, after coffee, but is also ideal for a snack, as a small delicacy providing for an immediate supply of healthy energy. It is made all over the country, but in the municipalities of Sestola - in the province of Modena - and San Marco dei Cavoti - in the province of Benevento – almond brittles are even used for the creation of nativity scenes and fanciful artworks!
Ingredients (serve 6 people)
300 g (10.6 oz) of sweet almonds
150 g (5.3 oz) of sugar
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of water
30 g (1 oz) of butter
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
To begin with, soak the almonds in boiling water for a couple of minutes, so that you can peel them easily, then pat them dry and place them on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 180 °C (356 °F) and toast the almonds for about 5 minutes. Chop half of the almonds up with a knife or an electric mixer. Melt the sugar over a very low flame with a tablespoon of water, honey and lemon juice. When the sugar has melted and it has taken on a golden brown colour, turn off the flame, add the almonds, the butter and stir. This is a crucial stage: as recommended by Pellegrino Artusi – a celebrated gastronomer - keep cooking over a low flame till the mixture takes on the amber colour of cinnamon. While it is still warm, pour it over a marble surface, that you will have sprinkled with oil, or over baking paper and roll it out into a thin layer with a spatula or a knife, after pouring a little oil over it. Cut your brittle into the shapes you prefer (usually rectangles or lozenges) and let it cool. If you want to make it even more delicious and fragrant, cut a lemon into two halves and press a half over the surface of the brittle. A sweet Christmas to all of you!