Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The best biscuits in the world? Quite possibly yes.

It was The Boy's birthday and keeping with the tradition of "I book, he buys" (he doesn't have the patience to wait on hold after a dozen calls, whereas I am more inclined to do just about anything to not have to buy my dinner when the choice is between me or him to pay), I scored a table at one of our favourite restaurants, Locanda Locatelli.

Ever since our first meal there, I have been obsessed with the amaretti biscuits that are served with coffee. When I say obsessed I don't mean in a "Mmm that was tasty maybe I'll have them again one day", I mean in a "I rushed home looked up the recipe in the Made in Italy cookbook and when I rang up before my next reservation asked if I could buy some" kind of way (The restaurant very kindly had prewrapped some and brought them out when we left. Needless to say we got some confused looks from people.). I majorly crave them. Part of the obsession came from not being able to find apricot kernels that the recipe calls for- I was determined to find these damn things! Lots of phoning around proved fruitless- no one sold the kernels. I could buy them on the internet but how would I know if they were the right ones since I hadn't the slightest idea what an apricot kernel looks, smells or tastes like.

Me and The Boy's next trip there came and who should be sat next to me but Mrs. Locatelli. That got me thinking. If she was here, where was he? A few minutes later, dressed in his whites was the main man. I (quietly) squealed like a teenage girl. Fortunately, The Boy shared my glee as it meant that perhaps Mr. Locatelli himself has shaved the truffle on his gnocchi (that's what the Italians call it but he and I refer to them as "Pillows of Happiness"). I kept one eye on him all night (the other was glued to every morsel that I ate). All night The Boy ribbed me asking if I was going to ask about the apricot kernels. I hemmed and hawed, did I have the guts to go up and start chatting to him? I'm not usually a star f*cker- I never wander up to celebs and ask for an autograph. It's not my style (although Sven and Nancy Dell Olio were there that night and I really wanted to tell her that she's much prettier in real life and looks nothing like a drag queen).

Another meal came to an end and we decided to have a nightcap. A couple of Bellinis later, I sauntered the two steps to the bar and asked if he could answer a question for me. Looking a bit bemused he said ok. I launched into the amaretti biscuit dilemma. I think he finally realised that I wasn't a stalker. He offered to give me some kernels and I replied that it wasn't necessary, all I wanted to know was where do I get these things.

After a twenty minute discussion on the virtues of said biscuits, he said he would get me a few so I knew what to look for. I nearly shed tears of joys when, the next day while determined to make my own, I realised that he sent me home with the exact amount needed to follow the recipe in the cookbook.

He is a very lovely man that Mr. Locatelli.

P.S. A few extra notes. A) My batch were nearly as perfect. B) He suggested going to Middle Eastern grocers to get the kernels. C) He said that you could still make them without the apricot kernels but they do add that little extra something.

Amaretti Biscuits
from Made In Italy

Makes about 35 amaretti


25g roasted hazelnuts
125g blanched almonds
100g apricot kernels
500g caster sugar
120g egg whites
icing sugar for dusting

Crush the nuts and apricot kernels finely in a food processor. Add the sugar and egg whites and process until the mixture all comes together. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag

Line 1 or 2 baking trays with waxed paper and pipe the mixture into rounds on them, spacing them out well. Dust liberally with icing sugar. Leave for 12 hours so that the mixture can dry out slightly. After this time, they will have formed a 'skin'. Pinch the biscuits lightly with the fingers to break this and give a knobbly appearance.

A good half hour or so before you are ready to bake the biscuits, preheat the oven to 180C, gas 4, then bake them for 11 minutes until light golden.


CB said...

I am terribly impressed by your sheer audacity. And am terribly jealous - these babies are gluten free. If you can bear to grab a doggy bag tomorrow or make some more, I know a welcome home for them.....

Anne said...

I have tried these and they were absolutely scrummy!

As far as the apricot kernels are concerned, there is a company called Real Foods in Edinburgh (they do mail order) which supplies organic, fairtrade, etc and which are absolutely fabulous. They have been in existence for about 30 years. Their website is www.realfoods.co.uk.

Happy hunting

Virtual Chef said...

Nice blog you have here...!

Xochitl said...

Thanks for the tip Anne. I will check them out!