Maltese traditional Christmas biscuits. We know them as honey rings or qaghaq ta’ l-ghasel and we now have them all year round. Usually filled with treacle, semolina and a few other festive ingredients. I have made mine with honey and not treacle this time, which was what was originally used. I hope your Christmas plans are going to be special and shared with loved ones.
Treacle is the main ingredient that is used to fill these biscuits these days but as mentioned originally honey was used. To be more precise what was used was what is known in Maltese as l-qastanija. This by-product of honey was what was produced when the newer methods to extract honey were not around. This very sweet syrup was what was used to make the honey rings at Christmas time. Malta after all is known as the ‘land of honey’ and it’s honey is amazing.
I have a recipe already on the blog using treacle but this time I thought I would try using honey. I have to admit that I think I might prefer using honey. I also omitted the aniseeds and aniseed liqueur. I also changed the pastry ingredients slightly by including an egg and also using some orange juice instead of just water to bind. A few festive spices and mixed peel was also used. Take your pick on what recipe you would like to use but why not give this a try.
This was something that was made in my family throughout the year growing up and not just at Christmas time. I think going forward I will try and make my honey rings during the festive period. They are great with a cup of tea/coffee. Friends and family will love them.
Really looking forward to Christmas in London this year with my family! I went with my girls yesterday to Borough Markets to immerse ourselves into the Christmas spirit. Lovely to see all the Christmas decorations and festive food available.
- For the Filling:
- I small jar of honey (450 grams)
- 400 ml water
- 250 grams semolina
- 100 grams white or brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water and 1 tablespoon marmalade
- Grated rind of lemon, 1 orange and 1 other citrus such as clementine or tangerine (grate on large grater setting to give the honey ring filling texture)
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- For the pastry:
- 500 grams plain flour
- 50 grams unsalted butter
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- Juice of 1 orange
- About 100 ml water to bind
- Additional semolina to dust tray
- Make the filling first.
- Add all ingredients except semolina in a medium pot and bring to a boil, stirring continuously.
- Reduce temperature to a low to medium heat and slowly add the semolina. It is very important that you slowly add the semolina and continuously stir.
- Continue to stir for about ten minutes and remove from heat once the mixture is soft to taste (not gritty). If the mixture tastes gritty the semolina has not cooked.
- Leave aside for about half an hour and then place in the fridge overnight.
- Make the pastry by mixing the flour and butter between your fingers.
- Slowly add the egg and orange juice to start to bind the mixture together.
- Slowly add the water to bind further and make a soft dough. Knead until the dough has formed.
- Wrap in plastic and also place in fridge overnight.
- The following day take your pastry and cut into 16 pieces.
- Place some semolina onto the table and roll a piece of pastry onto the table with dimensions of roughly 8 centimeters by 25 centimeters.
- Take the filling and place along the pastry(to resemble a sausage), making sure to leave room around the edges of the pastry.
- With a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pastry with water and roll the pastry around the filling.
- Form a ring with the rolled pastry by bringing the two edges together and seal.
- Make slits around the honey rings and slightly open with fingers, to allow the filling to come out during baking.
- Place some semolina on a baking tray and place the honey ring on the tray.
- Preheat the oven to 180oC and continue to do this for the remaining of the pastry and filling until you have 16 honey rings.
- Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the honey rings are very lightly coloured (not browned).