These fabulously decorative little biscuits are a Christmas staple for my biscuit tins, but are also very simple, and easily made gluten free by using cornmeal rather than semolina, as in the picture below. The mixture is very similar to a macaroon, except with equal parts pistachios to almonds, and huge amounts of lemon zest. The pistachios give a lovely greenish tint, which definitely adds to the pear-like appearance when added to the patches of brown after baking. The icing sugar isn’t essential, but the biscuits aren’t enormously sweet, and it also adds to the snow covered Christmassy theme!

These might seem a bit time consuming and fiddly, but I consistently avoid baking recipes involving time consuming preparation or decorating and these are honestly a doddle. The mixture is blitzed together in the food processor (if you don’t have one then I suggest making with ground almonds and pistachios and chopping the zest very finely and kneading together), and is very easy to shape. The only stage to be careful of is pressing firmly around the clove head to make sure the clove stays in place.

I found this recipe in a magazine at my in-laws and wrote the recipe by hand, so unfortunately I can’t give proper attribution. I think I seized on the recipe as I had a couple of family members who couldn’t eat gluten at the time, so these seemed like a good option that was a bit special occasion, to make up for all the Christmas goodies they miss out on.

I particularly like to serve these with few other biscuit types, as the shape and texture is so different to most that it makes a nice contrast. Plus they’re just really cute! In terms of variations, I love the lemon flavour, but any other citrus zest is also great, and I haven’t tried, but I think leaving out the lemon and adding other spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom (the latter with some finely ground coffee perhaps) would be a wonderful option.

Almond and pistachio pears

  • 250g slivered almonds
  • 250g pistachios
  • 165g caster sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 80g semolina or cornmeal
  • 3 egg whites
  • 30 cloves
  • icing sugar to serve

Preheat oven to 170C. Combine nuts and sugar in a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs. Add lemon zest and semolina and process briefly until combined. Add egg whites and pulse, scraping the  sides if needed, until it forms a sticky mass.

Shape approximately 1 Tbs pieces of dough into rough pear shapes – see pictures above. Insert the head of a clove into the stem end of each pear, leaving the clove stalk to poke out like a stem.  Stand upright on a baking paper lined tray, and bake for 15-17 minutes until going golden at the edges. Cool on the tray and then store for up to a week in an airtight tin. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 30 These are gluten free if made with cornmeal