Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries (Maltese Figolli)

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

Happy Easter!

Have you been dipping, baking, decorating, egging and basket-ing already this weekend? I’ve been baking some of my old favourites this week (which I sometimes forget to do) such as these and this, but I was also eager to try something completely new for Easter.

I can recall about a year and a half ago, right around the time when I started this blog, I was chatting with my cousin Julie and Aunt Edith about some possible Maltese baked good recipes they may have (I’m always on the hunt for interesting recipes, especially those with meaning). They told me about Figolli–traditional Easter treats of 2 cookie/pastry shapes sandwiched together with a marzipan-orange blossom filling, then baked, decorated and topped with a whole Easter egg, sometimes plain chocolate and sometimes wrapped in foil. Pretty much heaven–Maltese heaven.

See, my dad and his father’s side of the family are from Malta–a cluster of islands in the Mediterranean (located between Sicily and Northern Africa). It’s one of the most historically rich spots on the map (think 7,000 years of history). That being said, I visited during my teen years, and the nightlife is incredible *ahem* and much of the culture is very current, so it’s really the best of both worlds. And they created Figolla? It truly is an amazing place.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

Why do I have no memory of ever eating Figolli? Perhaps because we lived in a town where we may have been the only people with Maltese heritage, but we did spend a lot of time visiting my relatives in Toronto where there are several Maltese bake shops, so it’s possible that I have but that it was just too long ago and I forget (kind of hard to imagine). The good news is that I now have the power to make and share them! Forever and ever. Isn’t that amazing when you grow up, become an avid baker (or cook) and realize that, if you set your mind to it, you can pretty much recreate any treat or yumminess from your childhood (or goodies you may have tragically missed out on)? It’s so liberating. So I decided it was definitely time to roll up my sleeves and try my hand at Figolli.

Easter Figolli via Sweetapolita

I’ve noticed that some recipes refer to Figolli as pastries, some cookies and some cakes, but no matter what we want to call them, they are freakin’ awesome. Now, because I’m blogging about these, and because it seems logical that I would tell you how amazing they are, or try to sell you on them, I fear that when I tell you that these are likely the yummiest pastry/cake/cookie treats I have ever eaten, you won’t believe me. Let me put this into perspective for you . . .

They are like soft, tender, lemony, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies with a pastry texture, oozing with the glorious almond goodness of marzipan with a hint of orange, and topped with a thin layer of sweet crunchy royal icing. And who can forget the little chocolate Easter egg jewel that’s nested right on top of it all. Honestly, I love decorated sugar cookies, but these are like the pimped out version (think gourmet & global pop tart, and then pray for me that I didn’t just offend every Maltese person in all the land).

And good news–I looked into it, and you don’t need to be Maltese to make them or eat them. And I bet no one would mind if you made these at other times throughout the year. Think about it, you could be the “Figolli girl” or “Figolli guy,” and trust me when I say that everyone needs a Figolli girl or guy.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

So it’s probably not a huge surprise that my cakelets went nuts for these, and so I’ve wrapped some up in fancy packaging for their Easter baskets. What was their favourite part? Yep, the little egg. But they loved the whole thing (even the marzipan, which surprised me). And then they loved it again. The girls went through their 75 animal cookie cutter collection and insisted on bunnies, which was good news to me. I’m not sure that Figolli armadillos would have had the same charm, but hey. We saw Marian’s classic bunny cookies on Pinterest and loved them, so we kept it simple and did our play on that. Bunnies? Easter? I know, I know, it’s groundbreaking over here.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

The only thing I would do differently next time is fill the pastries with more of the marzipan filling than I did–I added too much liquid to the filling the first time and was afraid if I filled any more that it would squeeze out the sides while baking, so next time I will be sure it’s thick the way it should be, and fill them nice and plump. Just because. But, super plump or not, these are really a special treat.

Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries (Maltese Figolli)

Yield: ~15 medium-sized filled pastries (2 shapes per pastry)

Ingredients

    For the Pastry:
  • 6-1/4 cups (800 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-3/4 cups (400 g) unsalted butter, cool
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 g) salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Water to bind
  • For the Filling:
  • 6-3/4 cups (500 g) ground almonds
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) orange blossom water
  • You will Also Need:
  • Royal Icing for decorating
  • Small Easter eggs for decorating (foil or unwrapped chocolate eggs)

Instructions

    For the Pastry:
  1. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter to a cornmeal consistency, or pulse in a food processor.
  2. Add the sugar and lemon zest and mix or pulse again. Mix in the egg yolks and enough water to make a stiff but pliable dough.
  3. Separate dough into 2 balls, wrap in plastic and press down gently so you have 2 discs of dough. Chill for 45 minutes.
  4. For the Filling:
  5. While the dough is chilling, make your filling. Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar (or ready-made marzipan), then add the egg whites and orange blossom water, mixing until incorporated.
  6. Assembly & Baking:
  7. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit) and then place another sheet of parchment paper on top. You can also roll dough on a lightly floured surface (I just find this parchment method the most reliable).
  8. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) until it is about 1/8" thick.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350°F. While the oven is preheating, slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Repeat with your second disc of dough.
  10. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice--you will need 2 identical pieces for each figolla. Place each shape on the lined baking sheet and spread a thick layer of the filling, leaving a 3/4" edge untouched, then cover each shape with its match, gently pressing down the edges to seal.
  11. Place the baking sheets of figolli in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Then bake until edges are light golden brown, about 15-18 minutes (this varies).
  12. Let cool on baking sheets on wire racks, then decorate each pastry with royal icing and don't forget the chocolate Easter egg!
  13. Decorating:
  14. With royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I used #3), outline the shape of the cookie (I do about 5 at a time). Let sit for a few minutes. *Cover the tip of the piping bag with a damp cloth when not using.
  15. Fill (aka flood) the cookie with the flood-consistency royal icing (same piping bag), gently pulling any open spots to the outline using a toothpick. Let sit for about a minute, and then place your chocolate or foil-covered egg directly onto the cookie (foil eggs stick beautifully and pop right off when you're ready to take them off the cookie to eat).
  16. Decorate the cookies any way you like. I added sprinkles for bunny eyes and noses, and then piped a small pink bow using pink royal icing and tip #2. After cookies have set for about an hour, you can add a bunny tail with stiff peak royal icing and a small open star tip. Let decorated pastries sit overnight before wrapping or packaging.
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[Adapted from europeancuisine.com]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Orange Blossom Water is commonly used in Mediterranean (and more) desserts, Middle Eastern cooking and more. If you can’t find it, you can substitute it with orange zest or any of these options. You can find it in my shop or Middle Eastern grocers, and more.
  • You can use ready-made marzipan for the filling and simply add the egg whites and orange blossom water.
  • For the royal icing, I have tried many recipes for cookie decorating, but for these I used the version I use most often, which is one I learned at Bonnie Gordon College years ago. Because there is so much mixed emotion among cookie decorators about not only recipes, but method, I’m going to send you over to Callye for this Royal Icing recipe and info because her recipe is very similar to the one I’ve always used, and she gets into serious detail. The girl decorates cookies (the most gorgeous cookies) 24 hours a day, I’m convinced. Maybe more. I actually don’t know how she finds a way to even blog about them, but we’re sure happy she does.
  • For very specific info on decorating cookies with royal icing, I’ve included some links below. I’ve also linked to a recipe for royal icing from Callye from Sweet Sugar Belle. To learn more about outlining and flooding cookies with royal icing, check out this post (again, from Callye).
  • To learn more about decorating cookies with Royal Icing, check out some of these other amazing cookie goddesses: Bridget, Gail, Glory, and Marian.
  • You certainly don’t need to create perfect royal icing designs to make and enjoy these cookies–adding a nice layer of the royal icing and even sprinkles are perfect. Just don’t forget to add the chocolate egg!

And just for fun, here are a few interesting tidbits about Malta:

  • Maltese people have proven to be the most generous folk in the world, with 83% contributing to charity.
  • There is a good chance you’ve already seen Malta–on the big screen, that is: Many acclaimed (and even epic) films have been filmed in historic Malta, including Gladiator, Troy, The Da Vinci Code, Alexander, Munich, Midnight Express, Clash of the Titans, and let’s not forget Cutthroat Island–the movie that holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time. Ouch.
  • Britney Spears and Bryan Adams are both of Maltese descent.
  • Pastizzi (a filling of ricotta or peas in puffy pastry) are the most popular snack in Malta, of which I have had many in my lifetime. My dad brings me these almost every time he comes to my house. It was just brought to my attention that these have 416 calories each, so about the same as 2 cupcakes. Oops!
  • Prior to the May 28, 2011 Maltese divorce referendum, Malta was one of only 3 countries in the world in which divorce was not permitted (the other two being Philippines and Vatican City).

And before I go, here are some other sweet deets (Did I actually just say “sweet deets?” Oy.):

  • UK friends, watch for one of my cakes in the May issue of Crafts Beautiful!
  • I just discovered a life-changing creative aid called Creative Whack Pack. It’s like religion for creatives and offers short hits (or whacks) of insight to help with creative block or just to get your wheels turning. I downloaded the app and use it a lot. And then I use it a bit more.
  • Congratulations to my talented friend, Courtney (of Pizzazzerie) for the release of her first book, Push-up Pops! This is one of the cutest books I’ve seen, and thanks to her I now have a new way to love and crave cake!

Have a wonderful Easter, friends!

Good luck & enjoy,

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Comments

  1. says

    Rosie, these are the prettiest of bunny cookies and sound so lovely to eat! Your description of the Figolla will make it a best-seller for sure! I won’t get to make them by Easter but must archive this recipe to bake anyway another day. Thanks for sharing the recipe x

  2. says

    These are absolutely beautiful! And I’m positive they are divine.

    I have a pen-pal (email pal?) from Malta! She was one of the first friends I made through my blog. I wonder if she makes these.

    xo

  3. says

    First, a little secret… I think the only reason why I want kids is to use them as a prop to hold my food. I wish I was kidding. ;-)

    I love every element of this recipe and know these pastries would fill me with such joy.

    Happy Easter, darling!

  4. nikki says

    These are delightful Rosie and I love that they are steeped in heritage and tradition.How lovely that you can be part of it. I’ve never heard of “Figolli” but consider me the latest ambassador!
    I bought some Pastizzi yesterday which I love and had no idea they were from Malta!
    Thanks for sharing these, have a wonderful Easter with your family.

  5. Tammy says

    Wonderful, quaint and sweet! Can’t wait to try these!
    Also, where did you get that adorable dress your daughter is wearing?! I love the spring colors!

  6. says

    Adorable! I love your play on them and am with the cakelets, the egg would be my favorite part too. Although I love cookies (not sure you can tell ;-), nothing beats chocolate! Next up though, to try some Maltese Figolli, it sounds like a definite contender!

  7. JoJo says

    I am hooked! These are definitely getting added to the recipe book. Question for you: If I use ready made marzipan do I still need to add egg whites?

    • says

      Thanks, JoJo! Some recipes call for the egg whites and some don’t, but I used them. I would still use them with the ready-made marzipan just so that it loosens the marzipan up a bit, along with the orange blossom water. Hope that helps!

  8. says

    I’ve never heard of Figolli until now. You have created such a lovely post about them with wonderful photographs that I’m very curious now and will probably try to bake them at some point. Thanks for sharing the recipe Rosie and Happy East to you and your beautiful family.

  9. says

    Sigh…everything you make is so interesting and beautiful. Can I come live with you? I’m convinced that your house smells like sugar and sparkles float lazily through the air. Heaven!!

  10. says

    These cookies look adorable (and delicious)! I too, have never heard of them, but they may be getting added to my “to bake” list. :)

  11. Carmela says

    E viva!!! Finally, a recipe for Figolli. My mother in law makes these every Easter (mind you, it’s always ONE giant almost 8×10 sized cookie) and I usually eat about 3/4 of it without even batting an eye..it’s like eating chips…I can’t stop! However, either out of spite or out of pride, she refuses to give me the recipe. Think I might spring these little puppies up on her one day to surprise her and on the way, I’ll stop by the Maltese Junction (as I do every 2 weeks) to pick up my pastizzi. You wouldn’t happen to have a recipe for those, would you? LOL! Thanks for the recipe :)

    • Sara says

      If you go to the normal pastizzeriji they usually sell the pastries .. and they’re really not that expernsive :) sahha! :)

  12. Sweetsugarbelle says

    What a wonderful surprise to come back to!!! I’m so interested in filled cookies lately! I love the simple beauty of all your creations, Rosie, a talent that I may never master! Ps-I’m a huge fan of random facts!

  13. says

    These are the cutest and prettiest bunny cookies I’ve ever seen. You always manage to outdo yourself. And these are probably as delicious as they are detailed and beautiful.

    If I grow up to be a baker, I hope it’s you.

  14. Kate Vuaran says

    Good Lord i could eat about 12 of those, how amazing! Thank you so much for sharing all your goodies with the world, I cannot tell you how it brightens my day :)

  15. says

    Hi, I have done a post Easter blog post and raved about your Figolli biscuits. Just loved them! Could I use one of your photos as illustration if I link it back to your post? let me know. thanks x

  16. Renee says

    Oh my goodness I had completely forgotten about these wonderful treats. In 1999 after finishing grad school, a dear friend of mine invited me to visit Malta. At the time his mother was the American ambassador to Malta and so we were treated to the most wonderful culinary experience of Malta which included these pastries. Your post brought back a lot of great memories (yes the nightlife/party scene can compare to Vegas shhh) so thank you for sharing.

  17. Claudia says

    What a surprise to see these on your blog! I am Maltese and I can assure you that in Malta Easter is synonymous with Figolli. Everyone makes a bunch of different shaped ones and on Easter day they are swapped between family, friends, neighbours etc. It’s so much fun tasting all the different ones! Yours look yummy too :)

  18. MusicCityMissy says

    I can’t wait to try these. But I am also very intrigued by the pastizzi. Any chance you have any recipes for them?

  19. Sara says

    I’m a big fan …. I’m also from Malta, we also cover the figolli with brown or white chocolate .. it gives the figolla more taste, it’s a pleasure seeing our traditional recipes on this site :D cheers – if you would need any recipes I woud be more than happy to foward you some home-made, straight from Grandma’s kitchen recipes :)

  20. says

    SHUT UP!!!! My dad is from Malta, too! I have been lurking on your blog for a few months now…I stumbled upon it when looking for a cupcake recipe for my daughter’s birthday. Anyway, love your blog, love your recipes! And now I love you! Who knows? We may be long lost cousins or something. :D I’ve never tried Figolli before, but now I totally will. Thanks, Rosie!

  21. says

    Hi I was going through your marvelous blog and I happened to notice this post about Figolli. I was really surprised. I m Maltese and love to make Figolli and eat them too :) Your Figolli are so pretty and am sure they tasted heavenly.

  22. Sam says

    Just wondering if you have any ideas of what other fillings you could use in these?? They sound wonderful, and would be a nice change-up instead of the usual sugar cookie, but my kids have nut allergies, so the almond is out for us!

  23. Tracey P. says

    Thanks so much for the recipe – I am half Maltese also on my Mom’s side (maybe we are related-lol)and miss having Figolli for Easter – My Great Uncle was the only one in the family who made these every year and he passes away a few years ago. Will try making them – I am sure your recipe will do it justice – You description certainly did :)many thanks – love your website name too!

  24. Katja says

    Hi from Malta! Easter is soon on its way and everywhere you see are Figolli!!!! Yours look amazing and I’m sure they taste great too!! If you want other Maltese recipes visit this site : http://www.ilovefood.com.mt/ They have some yummy traditional recipes!!

  25. says

    Rosie, this is simply too cute. I was just browsing the web today as I found your blog. Marzipan is my world – my great grandfather founded a marzipan company in Denmark 100 years ago and I’m now selling it to the US and Canada through my site http://www.odense-marcipan.us. If you’d like to try some of it, please just let me know. Happy Easter..I’ll be trying these with my kids for sure.

  26. Victoria says

    These are the prettiest figolli I have ever seen! I am going to follow your decoration tips when I make them next week for easter. Might try a chocolate version too, will try your method but substitute the royal icing for melted chocolate? Hopefully it works!

  27. Kay says

    These look delish! It sounds like the marzipan recipe will yield a lot! How many store bought marzipan logs will I need for this recipe?

  28. Susan says

    Hi Rosie,

    Big thanks for your recipe, I have made figolli many times but this one is the best!!
    I too am Maltese and love seeing our traditions given a tweak.

    L-Ghid it tajjeb!!! Happy Easter

  29. Rachelle Andrade-Rozario says

    Hi Rosie
    I am across the world from you in India and you inspire me with your cakes.
    I love the internet that lets me connect with someone with so much of passion to bake and create such beautiful edible cakes.
    you inspire me. Thank you.

  30. Leann says

    It was such a surprise when I stumbled on this post! I am Maltese and bake figolli every year for Easter, although sometimes I prefer covering them first with chocolate and then use royal icing for decoration. Excellent blog! Thanks for sharing. :)

  31. says

    The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive
    a thirty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation.
    My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to
    share it with someone!

  32. Vincent says

    I do Figolli every year. I found that if you bind the dough by evaporated milk instead of water, it will give you a better texture. Besides if you leave the Figolli for a length of time the milk does not turn them mouldy like water does. Figolli can be stored in a freezer for 4 months or even more. Let them thaw properly before consume them.

  33. Rebekah says

    So cute! One tip I have for using royal icing is to press the tip into a large marshmallow when you’re not using your icing. (A stale one works even better!)

  34. Leonie says

    Hi,

    Thanks for this delicious recipe! These look so lovely and i decided to make them for Easter. I was wondering if i can bake them 2-3 weeks in advance and store in an air-tight container and then decorate a few days before Easter? Or woulc the cookie get soggy and the filling go dry? Would be very grateful for feedback.

    Happy Easter!

    • Shirley says

      Perhaps two weeks is a bit too long – what I do is I prepare the pastry and freeze it and then bake and decorate on the same day, only a couple of days before they are to be given out and eaten.
      The recipe in this blog is truly authentic (I am Maltese and have eaten figolli before I learnt how to walk and I love baking them now!). Some relatives of mine use self-raising flour but that is sacrilege when preparing a basic biscuit dough.

  35. magdalena says

    HI … i follow your site and never seen these :) My husband is of Maltese heritage
    this year I am attempting to do the Figolli with my 4 year old… Now I know this is not traditional but she can not have nuts… any suggestions to what else i can put in the cookie? was thinking of honey roasted sunflower seeds… as texture might be similar? chocolate? Jam? thank you

    Mags

    • Alexia says

      Magdalena – Yes I am sure that they will come very tasty filled with jam (just like jam tarts) or chocolate. Not sure about the honey roasted sunflower seeds though. I am Maltese and have been making Figolli every Easter for the past 20 years. I love making them and they are so addictive. I’ve bought all my ingredients and should start baking tomorrow. Can’t wait! :)

  36. Mary Rose Aquilina says

    OMG i love your baking and have started following you regularly… Now I understand why I am attracted to your baking… i am Maltese and your Figolli post has just caught my attention while looking for your perfect sugar cookie. I wanted to,check it out to try a new sugar cookie recipe for MY figolli this year. I have been making them seiously for the last 5 years and change the design evey year…i will try your recipe for sure… Its not too from mine but I love the way yours keep their cut shape… Looking forward to trying it out…

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