By Fiona Sims
We ate these delicious, rough, buttery almond crumble-style biscuits at the end of pretty much every meal we had on a recent trip to Parma, Italy, smashing them up ourselves with great satisfaction. The best were at Ai Due Platani; a restaurant located a 10-minute taxi ride to the outskirts of town, where the meal here was worth the trip alone (famous Italian chef Gaultiero Marchesi declared these the best tortelli he had ever eaten and I won’t disagree). You can buy whole sbrisolona in bakeries around Parma, but it’s so easy to cook that many will make their own. They are perfect served alongside icecream or in place of dessert, with a glass of Vin Santo, or stronger Grappa to round off the meal. We nibbled them with popular Parma digestive Bargnolino, their version of sloe gin. You can add half a teaspoon of cinnamon to the mixture if you like, or even aniseed.
170g whole, skin-on almonds
175g plain flour
100g castor sugar
45g demerara or light soft brown sugar
pinch of Maldon sea salt
225g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
2 large egg yolks
½ tsp each of vanilla and almond extract
zest of one unwaxed lemon
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/fan 160 degrees C/ gas4 and grease a 23-25cm square loose-bottomed cake tin. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and toast them for about ten minutes, stirring them midway through baking (you want them lightly toasted). Set aside and cool completely.
Add 35g of the flour to a food processor with 110g of the cooled almonds and pulse until the almonds are about the size of small peas. Transfer the mixture to large bowl. Pulse the rest of the almonds until they are coarsely chopped, but still with a few chunky pieces and add to the bowl. Stir in the rest of the flour and add the polenta, sugars, and the salt. Stir to combine, then add the cubed butter and rub it in roughly with your fingers until well-mixed through, but still with some irregular chunks, like the almonds.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks with the almond and vanilla extracts. Add the yolk mixture to the crumble and stir it all through with your hands, until the dough starts to clump together. Transfer the dough into the buttered tin and spread it out with your fingers to even it out, taking care not to press it down – a light touch is good here. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely in the tin before removing it from the pan in rough chunks. You can store it like this in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
It’s difficult. We sympathise. Despite being an entirely different shape and size we have an uncanny ability to turn up in the same outfit (usually black) and order the same dishes. We both wear glasses, swathe ourselves in scarves and fancy Daniel Craig.
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