The figolla is a famous Maltese figurative shape of pastry, baked during the holy week for children to be eaten on Easter Sunday.
It was made from flour pastry and decorated with an egg as a symbol of life for the family and friends. The eggs were tinted with bright peacock colours – blue, green, yellow, white, brown or reddish.
The earliest recalled Maltese ‘figolli’ were made of different shapes – a horse, star, small figure of a moor or a female held an egg or more in their hands or on their chest and a grilled basket with an egg placed in the center held by a pastry cross.
The figolla became more popular when almond ‘intrita’ filling was placed between two similar shapes of pastry and embellished with icing (‘Gelu’), or chocolate coating. A half chocolate egg wrapped in colourful foil paper is put on the figolla to make it more attractive for children.
On human shaped figolla, an oleograph depicting a head adorned in an old costume used to be stuck on the icing. Sometimes the figolla came in a shape common to Christian symbolism such as a lamb or fish.
Nowadays figolli are given as an Easter token to friends and relatives to keep up the tradition. Usually figolli are served with a good hot cup of tea or coffee.
Grab yours from Caffe Cordina or Camilleri Sweets in Valletta (or try your own!).
ONE OF THE MANY FIGOLLI RECIPES
400g plain flour, 170g sugar, 170g margarine, 2 eggs slightly beaten, 2 teaspoons anisette, 1 lemon juice, 1 orange juice, 1 orange zest
Figolla metal shapes
Natural dyed Easter eggs
Rub the flour and margarine and sugar well. Make a hollow in the center and put the orange zest, eggs. Add anisette and sufficient lemon and orange juice to make a dough. Leave the dough to stay for 1 hr. On a well floured surface roll out the pastry 2 cm tick and cut two different figolla shapes, decorate with the dye egg and place on a greased try. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
You will find other recipes explaining how to do the almond filled versions (as well as a Figolli Day) at Gourmet Worrier.
Text adapted from original by Doris Fenech.
Photograph by Brian Grech.