- 450 gm natural almonds
- 2 small pieces gum arabic (see note)
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 105 gm icing sugar
- 30 gm clarified butter, softened
- 2 tbsp rosewater or orange-flower water, or to taste
- 8 fillo pastry sheets
- 55 gm clarified butter, melted
- ½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 65 gm blanched almonds, chopped (optional)
- For dusting: icing sugar (optional)
- 1To make the almond paste, blanch the almonds (see recipe introduction above), then peel them. Grind the gum arabic with 1 tsp of the caster sugar to a powder in a mortar or blender. Dump into a bowl. Working in batches, grind the almonds with small amounts of the remaining caster sugar in the blender until fine. Dump into the bowl with the gum arabic and icing sugar, and mix well. Add the soft butter and fragrant water and mix well. Cover and chill.
- 2Divide the chilled almond paste into eight balls. Divide each one in half and roll each ball into a 15cm-long pencil-thin cylinder.
- 3Preheat the oven to 190C. Place a fillo sheet on a work surface and lightly brush it with melted butter. Place two of the cylinders of almond paste along the lower edge of the fillo sheet, about 3cm from the bottom, and roll it up tightly, tucking in the ends. Shape into a coil and place in the centre of a lightly buttered 25-30cm ring mould set on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining fillo leaves and cylinders of almond paste, extending the coil in the shape of a coiled snake, to fill the ring. With the palm of your hand, gently flatten the snake to fill the ring.
- 4Add ½ tsp ground cinnamon to the egg yolk. Lightly brush the top and in between the coils with the egg mixture. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully invert, with the ring, onto another baking sheet. Scatter the chopped almonds on top, if using, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Carefully slide the pastry, with the ring, onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
- 5Serve warm or lightly reheated. If you didn’t use the chopped almonds, garnish the cake with a light dusting of icing sugar and a dribbling of ground cinnamon in straight lines to form a lattice pattern.
Note Gum arabic, also known as mastic, is a plant resin; it's available from Middle Eastern grocers and Greek delicatessens.The Food of Morocco ($65, hbk) by Paula Wolfert is published by Bloomsbury. This recipe has been reproduced with minor GT style changes.