Sugar Free Low Carb Sicilian Almond Pebbles are a unique Italian patisserie speciality. Pizzicotti, as they’re known in Italy, are neither cookies, nor biscuits. Or fat bombs, or truffles. These little morsels are unlike anything you’ve ever tried. The taste is reminiscent of marzipan, but without the sticky, sickly sweetness. The consistency is that of a moist nut paste in a crispy skin, chewy but somewhat brittle. You have to taste them to really appreciate how special they are, as no description could ever do them justice.
I first came across them in Sicily, the beautiful and sunny island off the Southern cost of Italy, not far from the African continent. I was on my honeymoon, many years ago and way before keto. My husband and I, both self-confessed sugar addicts, could not get enough of the variety of sweets and savoury delights that Italy is so deservedly famous for. On our walkabouts, we would stop and gawp at every beautiful display on patisserie windows, often ending up going inside and choosing something that caught our eye. Pizzicotti were one of our favourite sweet nibbles.
I know I probably extol the virtues of Italy’s gastronomy a tad too often. I assure you it’s not just because of my Italian heritage. Most people associate Italy with pasta and pizza. But it has so much more to offer, with its incredible wealth of culinary traditions. It is home to some of the best patisserie chefs and chocolatiers in the world. If you ever visit Italy, don’t miss peeking through the windows of bakeries and sweet shops. And try not to drool too much.
The ketogenic lifestyle has obviously precluded me from being able to replicate many Italian creations. But with almonds being the star ingredient, and no flour necessary, it was just a matter of time before I remembered these exquisite Sicilian morsels and made my own version, the Sugar Free Low Carb Sicilian Almond Pebbles.
All the best Sicilian patisseries and café shops serve Pizzicotti, usually alongside a frothy espresso. Although you’ll find them in other regions of Italy, the original and finest Pizzicotti are made in Sicily from local almonds.
Where the Northern region of Piedmont produces the best hazelnuts in the world, Sicily is home to the finest pistachios and almonds on the planet, thanks to uncontaminated soil composition and perfect weather conditions. Avola almonds are very sweet, plump and intensely flavoured. They make an almond nut butter that is insanely good. The nuts are very expensive, which is understandable. They grow naturally and sustainably, with variable annual yields that depend entirely on weather and pest attacks. And they’re harvested and processed manually, which is a labour-intensive, costly process.
Outside of Italy, Avola almonds are not easy to find. If you make Pizzicotti, try and source the best quality almonds you can get, as the ultimate result will depend on them. I have provided links in the recipe for the almonds I buy in winter while I’m in England. In the summer – which I always spend in Italy – Avola almonds are a must for me. The taste difference in my Sugar Free Low Carb Sicilian Almond Pebbles is instantly discernible.
TIP. If you only have skin-on almonds, blanch them in boiling water for 1 min, drain them, and pop the skin off by squeezing between your fingers. Soak up any remaining moisture using kitchen paper towels. Roast them for 15 minutes at 150C fan, and let them cool completely. Now you have blanched almonds.
How to Make Sugar Free Low Carb Sicilian Almond Pebbles
You know me. I hate washing up unnecessarily. This is another one-bowl recipe. Two if you count the food processor bowl. Which may not be required if you opt to use pre-ground almonds. Natural, whole, blanched almonds are easy to blitz into a fine flour or paste, and taste way better, so that’s my preference. But if you want to use ground almonds, no problem. You’ll still end up with delicious Pizzicotti.
Just put the ground almonds and all ingredients except icing ‘sugar’ into a bowl. Mix by hand until you end up with a ‘dough’ ball. Now just take a small amount and form a small ball. Dip it in icing sugar, pinch it and place it on a tray or plate. Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough and made 15 pebbles. Leave them in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Next: bake, cool, roll in icing ‘sugar’ again and they’re ready. Super easy. And yes, they are quite sweet, but they need to be, if they’re to mimic the original recipe.
By the way, I’ve called them pebbles because that’s what I think they look like. But it isn’t a direct translation. Pizzicotti derives from the Italian word ‘pizzico’, which means ‘pinch’. The Italian name relates to the fact that you pinch them after coating them with icing ‘sugar’.
I bet you cannot wait! Here is the recipe. Don’t forget to let me know how your Sugar Free Low Carb Sicilian Almond Pebbles turn out. I’d love to hear from you.
- Yield: 15
- Serving size: 1
- Calories: 99
- Fat: 8.5g
- Net Carbs: 1.5g
- Protein: 4g
- 250g whole blanched almonds (U.S. option HERE)
- 90g erythritol (for U.S. option, click HERE)
- 2 tsp pure stevia powder(for U.S. option, click HERE)
- 2 large egg whites
- ½ tsp almond extract (for U.S. option, click HERE)
- ½ tsp lemon extract (for U.S. option, click HERE)
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 45g Sukrin icing 'sugar' or Make your Own
- put almonds in food processor and pulse until a granular, dry paste is formed (not butter-like).
- add all other ingredients except icing 'sugar' and pulse again a few more seconds.
- scoop the mixture onto a work surface and knead it to ensure all ingredients are well combined.
- put icing 'sugar' in a separate bowl.
- wearing disposable gloves, take a blob of the 'dough', roll it between your palms to form a 3.5cm (1.5") truffle-size ball, and set it on a plate or tray.
- repeat until you have obtained 15 balls.
- dip each ball in icing 'sugar', coating all around, and transfer to a lined baking tray, then pinch with thumb, fore and middle fingers, to give it a non-uniform, pebble-like shape.
- refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- pre-heat oven to 180C fan and bake pebbles for 12 minutes or until they start to become golden.
- let cool, roll in icing 'sugar' and serve.
The first icing 'sugar' coating gives them the crispy external texture; the second coating is for decorative purposes.
These Sicilian Pizzicotti are meant to be very sweet, marzipan-like.
Store them in a sealed container and keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.
Metric kitchen scales are an inexpensive yet invaluable gadget to enable accurate measurement of ingredients. Store them upright in a cupboard or over your worktop and they'll only take up a tiny bit of space. Click HERE for the ones I use in the UK. For U.S. option click HERE.
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