There’s a moment in the film The Eagle, where our Roman Centurian hero wants to cross Hadrian’s Wall into deepest, bluest Scotland. The guard warns him that “no Roman can survive north of the wall.” I can tell you that is just not true. You just need to be attired appropriately and know how to make bridges in the kitchen.
My sister, B., who lives in Naples, recently requested that I show her how to make the classic Scottish/British sweet, Vegan Sticky Toffee Pudding. Of course, I obliged and we made it in her counter-top toaster-oven. It worked beautifully, although it took even less time to cook than in a conventional oven, so the top burnt ever so slightly. The surprise quid pro quo was vegan Roccocò that her mum, the great cook, E. de NapuleRocca, made for us. Roccocò are Neapolitan biscuits usually made at Christmas, but they’re delicious anytime (and not time consuming to make). They must be hard in consistency, so much so that I will not bite them with my front teeth to avoid chipping – THAT hard. They are delicious and a wonderful Neapolitan tradition and, if stored properly, they will keep for months. I did not make these Roccocò; nevertheless, recipe is after the photo.
- 125ml water
- 500g “00” Italian flour (or pastry flour)
- 200g sugar
- 100g agave/date/maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vegan dark cocoa
- 25g mixed spice (in Italian it is a special mixture pisto and is made of the following spices ground and blended together: 12 cloves, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, half a stick of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and one star anise – make a cook happy and bring this back with you from Italy when you go)
- 1 lemon, grated rind only
- 2 oranges, grated rind only
- a pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup soy or almond milk for the glaze
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Toast the almonds (either in a pan or in the microwave, yes, the microwave). Be careful not to burn them. Keep aside 12-14 almonds for use on the exterior of the biscuit. Grind all the spices together with the lemon and orange rinds. Separately, grind the remaining almonds to a powder. On a work-surface, create a circular mound of flour and then make a hole in the middle.
Put all dry ingredients in this hole. Slowly add the water and mix all the ingredients together to form a solid and relatively dense dough. Add more water if necessary, but remember the dough must be dense. Use your hands to form dough rings of approximately 10cm in diameter and lightly press down on the ring to slightly flatten them. Brush a bit of soy milk atop (or omit altogether if you don’t want the bit of shine that this step imparts).
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on cooling rack until fully cooled and hardened. Store them in a metal tin, not plastic (otherwise, they lose their crunch).