Easter can be a very busy time in Malta as the several parishes across the Maltese Islands are well prepared and organised to remember the passion of Christ and celebrate Easter. While the cultural calendar is quite full with processions, functions and other Easter related activities, this does not mean that our home kitchens go dormant.
Lent is a time when Christians traditionally fast and steer away from sweets and pastries. But once Good Friday has passed, everybody in Malta is trying to get their hands on a nicely baked ‘figolla’. The ‘figolla’ is a Maltese way of interpreting the classic almond frangipane in Easter-related shapes and decorated with icing and chocolate.
Below we have Sandra and Simone who keep their yearly commitment in their confectionary to prepare the much anticipated Easter ‘figolla’.
“At the moment it is figolli (Maltese traditional Easter pastries filled with ground almonds and covered in icing) season, so most of our work at the moment is in connection with figolli baking. Figolli of every shape and form. We do everything ourselves, my sister and I. We start by making the sweet pastry and mixing the filling by preparing the pure ground almonds.
In order to make a good figolla you need good pastry and the filling must be tasty and of high quality. It should neither be too hard nor too soft. If people love them they will come back next year to purchase your figolli again. The pastry must be left to set once it is done. In the meantime the almonds are prepared and finally the dough is filled, put together and baked. When this is done it is decorated.
Some prefer icing and others chocolate. Others want it personalized or prefer it undecorated and plain. We have different shapes and forms. We make small and larger ones in a variety of shapes, with the most popular being those of lambs, rabbits, eggs and hearts. With every lot we make we include a small one in the shape of an egg so we can taste it, to make sure that everything has been done well and cooked properly.
Nobody makes figolli in the same way. The Maltese love figolli. There are those who start buying and consuming figolli right after carnival. Just after perlini (sugar-coated almonds) and kwarezimal (traditional Maltese lenten biscuits) figolli and chocolate eggs follow. But I feel like the figolla’s appropriate time is during the fortnight when we celebrate Easter. In some localities, on the Feast of the Risen Christ, the parish priest invites children to take their figolla or Easter egg to be blessed.
This year unfortunately none of this can take place because of the situation we are in. But figolli sales have not diminished. A large number of families bake their own figolli at home and then distribute them to their relatives. It is a lovely tradition.
Our love of cooking came from my father that was a head chef in a hotel. This is not work for us but it feels more like a hobby. In the sense that we do not come here unhappy but we are content and happy to come to the confectionary to bake.
The secret of a good figolla? The pastry and the filling. They go well with a cup of coffee or tea. Figolli will persevere as one of the most popular local culinary traditions over time.” – Sandra and Simone