sephardic almond fingers

Almond Fingers by Claudia Roden

These exquisite and delicate Arab pastries (Assabih bi Lozare family favorites. They feature in medieval manuscripts as lauzinaj, which were fried and sprinkled with syrup, rose water and chopped pistachios. In North Africa they are deep-fried but we have always baked them. You need the very fine filo sheets also called yuvka.

Makes about 30
2 1/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup superfine sugar, or to taste
3 Tbsp orange blossom water
1/2 lb phyllo pastry sheets
3 oz unsalted butter, melted
Confectioners’ sugar, to sprinkle on
Mix the ground almonds with sugar and orange blossom water.
Cut the sheets of phyllo into four rectangular strips about 12 x 4 inches (the size of sheets varies so it is not possible to be precise) and pile them on top of each other so that they do not dry out. Brush the top one lightly with melted butter.
Put one heaped teaspoon of the almond mixture at one of the short ends of each rectangle, or take a small lump and press it in to a little sausage in your hand. Roll up into a small cigar shape, folding the longer sides slightly over the filling midway.
Place on a buttered baking tray and bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden.
Serve cold, sprinkled with icing sugar.

• Other delicious fillings are ground pistachios flavoured in the same way with sugar and orange blossom water or chopped walnuts mixed with sugar and a tablespoon of ground cinnamon or the grated zest of an orange.
• Instead of baking them, you may deep-fry the pastries in not very hot oil and for only a very short time, until lightly colored. Drain on absorbent paper and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve hot or cold.

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