Lent (Fastenzeit), or Quaresima as it is known in Italy, is the time from Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch) to Easter (Ostern). It is a period of six and a half weeks (or 40 days, not including Sundays) during which Christians remember the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus Christ. This year Lent began on Febrauary 17th and lasts until April 3rd. It is a time of reflection and asking for forgiveness, and when Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus’s resurrection at the feast of Easter, which comes at the very end of Lent and which is the most important day in the Christian calendar. Easter celebrations mark the resurrection of Jesus after his death at the cross, and are a celebration of his life.
During Lent, as a sign of sacrifice and to test their self-discipline, many people decide to give something up that they love or treasure – like meat, chocolate, sweets, alcohol or even using social media. Other people decide to take up something, like volunteering, sports, gardening, or a new hobby or project.
In the early centuries, fasting rules were strict, as they still are in Eastern churches. One meal a day was allowed in the evening, and meat, fish, eggs, and butter were forbidden. The strict law of fasting among Roman Catholics was dispensed with during World War II, and only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are now kept as Lenten fast days. However, many Catholics still choose to observe a meatless fast on Fridays during Lent.
Although Lent is generally seen as a time of sacrifice, Italians for example, have found a number of delicious ways to indulge in sweet treats during the Lenten season, and Quaresemali Romani (Roman Lenten cookies) are traditional cookies made without butter and with only egg whites (except, of course, for the optional egg wash), they are only one example of numerous recipes for Italian Lenten cookies.
Many regions, towns or families have a unique specialty, and Lenten cookies can be found throughout Italy. Apart from the Quaresemali Romani, there are, for example the cocoa meringue alphabet cookies that hail from the lovely city of Florence, called Quaresemali Fiorentini.
With respect to the recipe that I would like to present today, Quaresemali Romani are full of natural almonds, they are crispy on the outside with a slightly soft interior. The candied orange peel (either store bought or, even better, homemade) not only adds some chewiness (depending on how small you dice the peel) but also a nice warm citrus flavor. If you use store bought, it is a wonderful to use organic, as organic candied orange peel is often the most flavorful choice - I know that it can prove difficult to find certain ingredients but it is certainly worth a try, especially when a recipe has but a few ingredients.
These cookies are quite similar to Biscotti – they are many variations of Biscotti, or Cantuccini as they are referred to in Tuscany. The famous twice-baked cookie is traditionally served alongside espresso or Vin Santo. The Vin Santo is a sweet Italian after-dinner wine. Although the traditional version of Biscotti is made with almonds, nowadays, more modern recipes call for other types of nuts, dried fruits, spices or chocolate.
Quaresimali keep well when stored in an airtight jar or box and they are also perfect for dunking into afternoon espresso or tea.
Quaresimali Romani (Roman Lenten Cookies)
(yield: about 24 cookies)
- 300g natural almonds
- 200g superfine (caster) baking sugar
- 16g pure vanilla sugar
- 65g white spelt flour OR use AP (plain) flour
- ¼ tsp Ceylon cinnamon
- 40g candied orange peel, minced (if possible use organic or homemade as it has a more pronounced orange flavor)
- finely grated zest of 1 organic/untreated orange
- 1 egg (L), organic or free range (separate egg white and egg yolk)
- 1 egg white (L), organic or free range
- 1 tsp water
- Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F) and line one baking sheet with parchment paper (or silpat mat).
- Pulse the almonds in a food processor until chopped to a medium size or chop them by hand.
- Transfer the chopped almonds to a bowl and add the sugar, vanilla sugar, flour, cinnamon, candied orange peel, and orange zest. Stir with a fork to combine well.
- In a small bowl whisk together the two egg whites and add them to the almond mixture. Mix the ingredients until you have a sticky dough (best done with your hands).
- Divide the dough in half, roll each portion into a log, place logs on prepared baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with the water and brush the egg wash over the tops of the dough logs.
- Bake until golden (about 20 minutes). Cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes.
- Using serrated knife, cut logs diagonally into twelve slices each.
- Arrange slices, cut side down, in a single layer, on the baking sheet, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until dry. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely - you can store them in an airtight container.
Quaresimali Romani (Fastengebäck römischer Art)
(ergibt zirka 24 Stk.)
- 300g ganze ungeschälte Mandeln, grob gehackt
- 200g feinster Backzucker
- 16g Bourbon Vanillezucker (2 Pkg.)
- 65g Dinkelmehl (Type 630) oder Weizenmehl (Type 405)
- 40g Orangeat, sehr fein gehackt (am besten Bio-Qualität oder sogar selbst gemacht)
- Abrieb von 1 Bio-Orange
- 1 Prise feines Meersalz
- ¼ TL Ceylon Zimt
- 2 Eier (M), Bio od. Freiland – davon 2 Eiweiß und 1 Eigelb
- 1 TL Wasser
- Den Ofen auf 175°C vorheizen und ein Backblech mit Backpapier auslegen.
- In einer großen Schüssel die gehackten Mandeln mit dem Zucker, Vanillezucker, Mehl, gehacktem Orangeat, Orangenabrieb, Salz und Zimt mischen.
- In einer kleinen Schüssel zwei Eiweiß verquirlen (am besten mit einer Gabel).
- In der Mitte der Mandelmischung eine Kuhle machen und die verquirlten Eiweiß hinein gießen. Dann alles mischen, erst mit der Gabel, dann mit den Händen, solange bis alle Zutaten gut durchfeuchtet sind.
- Den Teig halbieren. Aus den zwei Teigstücken jeweils eine zirka 28 cm lange Rolle formen. Die Teigrollen im Abstand von 8cm auf das vorbereitete Backblech legen und leicht flach drücken.
- In einer kleinen Schüssel ein Eigelb mit dem Wasser mischen und die beiden Teigrollen damit bestreichen.
- Die Teigrollen im vorgeheizten Backofen auf der 2. Einschubleiste von unten zirka 25 Minuten vorbacken, aus dem Ofen nehmen und 10 Minuten abkühlen lassen. Dann mit einem Sägemesser schräg in etwa 1 cm dicke Stücke schneiden. Kekse mit
- einer Schnittfläche auf das Backblech legen und noch einmal bei 175°C zirka 8 bis 10 Minuten goldbraun backen.
- Die Kekse auskühlen lassen und in einer geschlossenen Blechdose aufbewahren.
Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a local/regional radio station, where, throughout the years, I present festive bakes that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German) HERE
The various recipes of my series can be found here:
- in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
- for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
- for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
- for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
- for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
- for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
- for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
- for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
- for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
- for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
- for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
- for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
- for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE)
- for New Year's Eve a New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
- for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
- for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE)
- for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE)
- for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE)
- for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
- for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
- for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE)
- for Pentecost/Whitsun (Pfingsten) festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE)
- for St John's Day (Johannistag) these sweet St John Cakelettes (Johannisküchlein) (HERE)
- for St Margaret’s Feast Day (Margaretentag)the delightful teacake called St Margaret’s Cake (Margaretenkuchen) (HERE)
- for St Hildegard's feast day these wonderful spice cookies called Cookies of Joy (Nervenkekse)(HERE)
- for Michaelmas (Michaelistag) buttery Sablés du Mont-Saint-Michel (Buttergebäck)(HERE)
- for Halloween a moist and fruity traditional Irish tea cake called Barmbrack (Irischer Teekuchen) (HERE)
- for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) some Sweet St Martin's Pretzel (Süße Martinsbrezel)
- for Valentine's Day (Valentinstag) a festive Valentine's Day Linzer Tarte (Linzer Torte)
- for Lenten season (Fastenzeit) the delicious Quaresimali Romani (Italienisches Fastengebäck) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.