serves: about 30 small cookies
Legend has it that his dessert was born in 1600 in the monastery of Clarisse Monte Sant'Angelo where there is a sanctuary dedicated to the archangel Michael. As the story goes, while the nuns in the monastery were preparing the dough for the ostie-the Communion wafer or host-some of the almonds fell in the hot honey. Not having anything close by to pick them out, they used the hosts they were making, and so the dessert was born.
In this simple dessert, two wafers are filled like a sandwich with almonds caramelized in honey. It is a treat for the faithful on the special holiday on St Michael the Archangel on Sept 29th-and even non-believers will love them.
½ pound whole unblanched almonds
wafer sheets, (from candy and cake decorating supply stores)
⅔ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
A heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet;
Spread the almonds on a sheet pan and toast them in 300° oven for 15 minutes or until they are light gold and fragrant.
Cut 60 wafers from the rice paper with sharp scissors. For square cookies, fold the sheet over at about 2-inch intervals, cut along the folds to make strips, cut the strips into squares. For round wafers, cut 2-inch circles from each strip.
Pour the honey and the sugar into the skillet and set over medium heat. Stir in the cinnamon as the honey melts and continue stirring as the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. Cook at a moderate boil for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture has caramelized to a deep golden brown and thickened noticeably.
Stir in the almonds, heat to bubbling again and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until the nuts are hot and thoroughly coated with the caramelized honey. Don't let the syrup or almonds get too dark. Turn off the heat but leave the filling in the pan.
Lay out a dozen or so wafers in a line on a cool counter or board, scoop up some of the hot honey and almonds with a wooden spoon and (carefully!) drop a small mound on each wafer-a rounded teaspoon or more. While the honey is still soft, top it with a second wafer. With a flat board, press down lightly on all at once, flattening and spreading the nut filling. Fill all the wafer sandwiches this way, a few at a time. Whenever the caramel gets too thick to drop, return the pan to low heat and warm the honey until it loosens.
When the filled wafers are completely cool and the filling is crunchy, enjoy. Store in an airtight container for a week or so.