Learn the mythology behind Sicilian almonds and then make a soft, lightly sweetened almond cake.
Photos by Giuseppe Giustolisi
WHAT IS THE MYTHOLOGY BEHIND THE ALMONDS?
Phyllis, the Thracian princess, fell in love with Demofonte, son of Theseus, landed in her kingdom for a stopover while sailing to Troy. Demofonte, forced to continue his journey with the Achaeans, to fight in the Trojan War, never returned from Phyllis. She died in despair. The goddess Athena, moved by the love story, turned the girl into an almond tree. Demofonte was not dead, and when he learned that the girl had been turned into a tree, hugged the tree. The tree, to thank, made to appear from its branches beautiful flowers.
AVOLA ALMONDS. WHY THEY ARE SO SPECIAL:
Sicily is not only a land rich in artistic heritage (with 7 UNESCO sites). It also has culinary treasures that make valuable its cuisine.
A perfect Mediterranean climate and fertile soil are two of the main features that allow, in the largest island in the Mediterranean, the cultivation of well-known products in the world as citrus fruits, pulses, nuts (to name a few).
Eastern Sicily, for example, is rich in pistachios and almonds, two basic ingredients of Sicilian cuisine (both savory and sweet). If the pistachios are present in the area of Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, with the small village of Bronte, known worldwide for its fine pistachio, quality almonds are grown mainly in Avola, in the province of Syracuse.
Situated between two beautiful tourist destinations, Syracuse and Noto Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Avola is a city rich in artistic heritage of Baroque, Neoclassical and Art Nouveau. It is also known for its wine “Nero D’Avola”, whose origin is linked to the town’s vineyards.
Avola is the home of famous almond sweets as the granita, torrone (nougats) and the Sicilian cassata. All these sweets are made with a particular variety of almond-called Pizzuta. This name comes from its shape elongated and sharp. The Pizzuta is considered the queen of almonds and, for this, is chosen by the high quality pastry. The shell is hard and smooth with the pointed end. The seed is large and flat with a rough surface. It has rich flavor and delicate notes at the same time. This variety, from the same family of the peach tree, was selected from botanist Giuseppe Bianca from Avola in the 19th century.?The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity has elected this almond as a presidium.
- 300 g 9 oz whole almonds, chopped
- 150 g 11 oz white Farro flour, sifted
- 15 g ½ oz organic baking powder
- 8 tbsp coconut sugar
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive or 8 tbsp cold pressed sunflower oil
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas 4).
- In a blender, finely chop the almonds. Add the Farro flour, baking powder, coconut sugar and beaten eggs. Mix the ingredients until the dough is creamy.
- Grease a cake mold with olive oil, and pour in the dough.
- Bake for 45–50 minutes until golden.
Veronica is a born and raised Italian. She inherited her love for travel, passion for cooking and natural, sustainable, healthy slow food from her parents. Her works have appeared in 'Vegetarian Living', 'Veggie Magazine', 'Lifestyle food', 'Australian Good Food & Travel Guide', 'Chickpea' and 'Free from Heaven', among others. She is the author of "Panini: the simple tastes of Italian style bread"; 'The Rustic Italian bakery", "The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen" and "A Modern Italian table", published by New Holland Publishers Australia.