Kwareżimal – Maltese Lent Biscuit

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Kwareżimal for me is the ultimate Maltese biscuit. When I  was still living at my parent’s house, I used to love opening the cupboard and discovering that my mum had bought some Kwareżimal. To be totally honest with you, it never lasted for long as I used to devour it immediately.

Kwareżimal is a traditional Maltese biscuit that is eaten throughout Lent. Hence the name, which derives from the italian word Quaresima, the forty days of Lent. Nowadays, people tend to have various discussions on whether Kwareżimal is actually good to be eaten during Lent or not, as it has sugar. Unlike today, where the majority of Catholics who do the forty days of Lent renounce sugar, in the past, when the Kwareżimal originated, sugar wasn’t a type of food to abstain from. In fact, Kwareżimal originated during the stay of the Knights in Malta, that is when people were obliged to abstain from meat and its derivatives like dairy products and eggs. Sugar was considered to be a spice, therefore it didn’t interfere with the fasting rules. If one takes out the honey from its ingredients, this biscuit can be considered as  a vegan treat, because it doesn’t contain any animal protein, eggs or dairy products. Yet, honey does create a delicate taste to this spicy chewy biscuit!

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This year has been the first year I got to make these biscuits, and I must say they are much more easier to do than one would ever think! The recipe which I will be sharing with you here is the basic one, although it contains some tweaks as for my liking. I like a certain kind of Kwareżimal and tried to achieve that one here as much as possible, and was quite satisfied with the result. Hope that you’ll try these out if you have never tasted them as they are really versatile biscuits, which can be baked either as  large biscuits, which I will be showing you here, or else you can make them smaller!

This recipe makes about 12 biscuits (14cm long x 7 cm wide x 2 cm thick)

Ingredients:

For the Kwareżimal:

  • 50g melted unsalted butter
  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons orange flower water
  • 450g ground almonds
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g candied peel
  • 2 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon honey

For decorating:

  • Honey
  • 50g chopped nuts (preferabbly almonds)

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Sprinkle with some flour.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave.
  3. In a large bowl sift the flour. Add the melted butter and the orange flower water and combine.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the water.
  5. Start adding the water bit by bit as the dough might need less than suggested here.
  6. Knead into a dough. (The dough will be a bit sticky but that is the consistency we are looking for).
  7. Flour your hands and start shaping the dough into long biscuit shapes. Place on a baking tray, important to leave some space between each one.
  8. With a knife make some crossing lines so as to create a kind of design.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes exactly, and remove from the oven. It is important to not overcook the biscuit.
  10. While the Kwareżimal is still hot, brush the biscuit with honey and press on the chopped nuts.
  11. Let them cool and enjoy with your favourite cup of hot beverage!

You can store these in air tight containers and they can stay up to a week.

Let me know what do you think about them in the comments! And if you know of a different variation share it along, I like seeing how a recipe can have different characteristics!

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