With Eid-ul-Fitr right around the corner, it’s a good time to prepare some treats for the day’s celebrations. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated when the new crescent moon is sighted. The Eid table spread in my household growing up was never without a selection of homemade biscuits, alongside my mum and grandma’s array of celebratory dishes for a day of feasting. After a little over a month of fasting between sunrise and sunset, it’s a wonderfully exciting prospect to be able to eat and indulge during the day again.
I grew up baking with my mum from a young age, making the simplest butterfly cakes and buttery Viennese whirls, to filled choux buns and pretty pavlovas. It wasn’t until a family trip to South Africa when I was 15 years old, were my eyes opened to a different realm and passion for home baking. My relatives in Johannesburg are of Indian origin. Alongside their culture for hospitality and feeding their guests until you can no longer get up from your chair, boy do they know how to bake! So much so, on my 2-week holiday, I decided to take a short baking course with a local housewife, who shared some of her sweet treat secrets with me. It was then that I had an insight into the varieties and intricacies of sweet treats in the Indian community of South Africa. Milk tart, melting moments and malva pudding are to name a few of the delights I tried. Baking seems to happen all year round, but the Eid festivities bring a whole new meaning to home baking.
Recipes don’t tend to exist in a lot of Indian households. It’s a matter of practice and passing recipes down through generations. This recipe was passed on to me by my Aunt Fatima, who (frustratingly for me) has always seemed to make everything by eye. Nevertheless, these almond crescent moon biscuits are the lightest, crumbliest and most delicate biscuits you’ll ever try.
The recipe yields quite a lot of biscuits, but once you make them, you’ll see why you’ll want this many – they’re so moreish! It’s also a heart-warming tradition to share your food and baking with your loved ones and neighbours, to get everyone involved in Eid celebrations. So on this blessed occasion, I encourage you to share!
Makes around 40 biscuits
120g cornflour, plus extra for rolling
3 tbsp icing sugar
130g self-raising flour
125g almonds, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp caster sugar
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
½ tsp almond extract
250g unsalted butter, softened
For the biscuit coating:
½ tsp red food colouring
100g caster sugar
1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sieve together the cornflour, icing sugar and self-raising flour.
3. Add in the almonds, caster sugar, vanilla bean paste, almond extract and butter, and mix well to make a soft dough (you can use a hand whisk, stand mixer or just a wooden spoon and some elbow grease). You will have a very soft dough here, but do not worry!
4. Grab around a tablespoon of dough (15g), add in just a pinch of cornflour and roll into a ball in your hands. Shape into crescent moons by placing the ball in your palm, and shaping with your thumb and index finger.
5. Place the biscuits onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving at least 1cm between each one.
6. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until very lightly golden and just firm enough to the touch.
7. In the meantime, prepare the biscuit coating. Put the caster sugar and food colouring in a large plate and, using a teaspoon, press the colouring into the sugar, pressing down to colour the sugar granules, turning them light pink.
8. When the biscuits are baked, remove from the oven and after a minute, whilst still hot, gently coat each biscuit in the sugar coating, leaving them to cool and firm up completely on a clean piece of parchment paper.
9. These will keep well in an airtight container for one week but I don’t think they will last that long!