makes about 5 dozen pieces
Here’s another sweet that, like figs stuffed with almonds, is usually made around the holidays in Calabria. It is simply a caramel syrup with sesame seeds stirred in, poured onto a counter to cool in a thin layer, and cut into bite-sized candies. A smooth, nonporous surface like marble, granite, or stainless steel is best for the cooling; avoid porous wooden surfaces or Formica.
- 1¼ cups sesame seeds (about 6 ounces)
- scant 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons butter
- extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup toasted slivered almonds
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
You will need a rimmed baking sheet; a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan; pastry brush and sturdy metal spatula; parchment or wax paper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the sesame seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, and place it in the oven. Toast the seeds until light golden, shaking them on the baking sheet occasionally, about 8 minutes. Let the seeds cool on the sheet.
Put the sugar, honey, butter, and 2 teaspoons water in the saucepan, and set it over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon frequently as the butter melts and the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a boil. Simmer until the syrup is a deep-caramel color, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, brush a nonporous work surface (such as granite, or stainless steel) with olive oil; coat the metal spatula with olive oil as well. When the caramel is done, turn off the heat, and stir in the sesame seeds, almonds, citrus zests, and cinnamon. Pour (and scrape) the molten candy from the pan onto the work surface, and quickly spread it into a even rectangular layer, about ½ inch thick. Allow it to cool and firm up for a minute or two, to firm up but not harden.
With a serrated knife and a straight edge, slice the sheet of candy into 1-inch strips. Then cut diagonal slices 1 inch apart. Divide the strips into diamond-shaped pieces. With a metal spatula separate the pieces, and arrange them in a single layer, not touching, on trays lined with parchment or wax paper, and let them harden completely. Store them in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between the layers.