Delicious Maltese Gluten Free Figolli

Date: 13 Apr 2014 Author: Jacqui Categories: Easter, Food, Holiday Specials, International Cuisine, Sweets & Treats 0

photo 2(19)

I really am not what you would call a Sweets or Desserts person, I prefer savory over sweet, but Figolli are one Maltese Sweet that I cannot do without!  Ever since I was a kid, I remember my mother and my sister every Good Friday (and Good Friday for a reason) would make the figolli. Why Good Friday? Because we used to fast and that would mean I could not touch or lick any bowls etc … The smell emanating from the kitchen was seriously heartbreaking.  After they cooled they would frost them with plain or coloured icing and I remember trying to guess what they were sometimes as some used to grow and loose their shape whilst baking! I used to always choose the Easter Basket as it was the biggest with more to eat!

Therefore, I never ever made a figolla in my life as I always depended on mum and sis to make them.  Up until diagnosis …

The first time I made them was last year.  Being the first time in GF Baking, I used commercially prepared GF flour mixes you find in stores.  They came nice when baked, but could detect that familiar GF taste.

This year, with a bit more experience than I had last year, I decided to adapt a popular recipe and make my own mix.  A tweak here, a tweak there and yes …!  The result was surprisingly very good.  Maybe it is in my imagination but whilst baking, I thought hmmm there is that GF smell again, but seriously when I tasted the pastry … sooo good! It is not hard like biscuits but soft and really melts in your mouth.  So yes, I recommend you try it out for yourself!  This also appeared on the Sunday Times Easter Supplement today.

With his permission and based on the excellent reviews, I have adapted Manuel Xuereb’s Recipe for the Figolli.

Converting a normal recipe to a gluten free one, at least for most of them, is not as simple as just swopping flours. Gluten Free flours behave differently to wheat flours. GF Flours do not bind and do not absorb like wheat flour. Manuel has used 7 egg yolks and that would have been too much liquid and adding more gf flour would not have solved the problem. So with a bit of tweaking and using flours that have more taste and protein than the basic starch-containing GF flours, I have come up with this. Apart from a GF mix, I have used Almond meal and Coconut Flour, the latter being a highly absorbent flour. This, to keep the same amount of eggs. 18g might sound a little but for one cup of GF flour, you normally replace that with 1/4 cup of coconut flour (4tbsp/35g). In fact, when baking with Coconut Flour you have to use a lot of eggs since it is highly absorbent. Measurements have to be accurate, so do use a digital scales when baking GF.  Also, It might cost more than the average figolla pastry but then again, Easter comes but once a year!

I have divided Manuel’s recipe by half to try it out first and also because it is too tempting otherwise with so many figolli in the house! I got 4 large figolli out of it. I am also putting the measurements in brackets should you wish to double it.

The result was delicious. It tasted like normal figolla pastry. With the addition of the other natural flours, there is no GF aftertaste! I have also added a couple ingredients which you can omit or substitute.

For the Figolli Pastry

  • 250g (500g) GF All Purpose Flour*
  • 180g (360g) Almond Meal/Flour
  • 18g (35g) Coconut Flour
  • 2tsp (3 1/2 tsp) GF Baking Powder
  • 150g (300g) Castor Sugar
  • 225g (450g) Butter
  • Zest of 1 lemon & 1 orange (2 of each)
  • Juice of 1 (2) orange (I replaced this with a dash of Amaretto)
  • 4 (7) egg yolks

* my mix has Xanthan Gum in it, check yours, if not, you need to add this. 1/4-1/2 tsp per cup of flour. If you would like to use my GF mix, please find this on the GF Flour Mixes tab.

For the Figolli Filling

  • 500g (1kg) pure ground almonds
  • 400g (800g) icing sugar
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 (1) tsp orange flour water


Mix the flours together in a large bowl of a stand mixer and add the baking powder and sugar.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until it starts looking like breadcrumbs. Add the lemon and orange zest, the fresh orange juice or Amaretto and egg yolks and keep mixing until the dough comes together.  Using a rubber spatula, tip the mix into a freezer bag, mold slightly with your hands through the plastic bag and place in the fridge to chill for not less than half an hour.

2014-04-09 11.38.58The Flour Mix

photo 1(15)The Ingredients for the Pastry

photo 2(18)The frozen butter cubes with the flours

photo 3(16)Pulsed till it resembles fine breadcrumbs

photo 1(14)The Pastry

photo 2(17)The Pastry ready to be chilled.
Meanwhile prepare the almond filling.
Place all the ingredients together in a large bowl and combine well.
photo 3(15)
From here onwards, follow Manuel’s normal figolli making instructions.

Once the pasty has chilled, and you have prepared the almond filling you can start preparing the figolli. (This GF pastry was not a difficult pastry to manage, but do be gentle when working with it).  Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface, to a thickness of about 3/4cm. Using shaped figolli cutters, cut figolli shapes out of the pastry (you will need 2 pastry shapes for each figolla). Carefully place the figolli pastry shapes on baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Next, you need to roll out the almond filling, the same as the pastry, cutting out one shape per figolla. Brush half of the pastry shapes lightly with water, and cover each piece with the almond filling.

photo 1(12)

Brush the almond filling lightly with water and cover with the remaining pastry shapes. Each figolla will have a pastry top and bottom, with the almond filling in the middle. Bake the figolli in the oven at 180C, for 35-40 minutes, depending on their size.
photo 2(16)
When the figolli are cooked, remove the baking trays from the oven and allow the figolli to cool down completely before removing them of the baking trays.

photo 3(13)

For best results, decorate the figolli the following day, using chocolate, marzipan, icing and silver dredges.

photo 1(13)In Process

photo 2(19)Finished

photo 3(14)In Process

photo 1(16)Finished

photo 3(17)Finished

When the figolli are decorated and the icing is set, wrap them up in cling film to keep them fresh. Please note that GF figolli might not remain fresh for 3 weeks as normal ones. Do like we did … eat them! :)

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