Tomorrow is a very special day for all Italian children, as we celebrate the day of the Epiphany and the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the baby Jesus. The night between January 5th and 6th is the night of Befana, who, in Italian folklore, is “an old woman who fills children’s stockings with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are naughty (you can find my recipe for Sweet Coal here). The stockings are filled with all sorts of sweets, nougat included. Today’s recipe brings back childhood memories of the Christmas holidays spent in Sicily at my grandparents’ house. My nonna used to often make Cubbaita and the bittersweet aroma of the toasted sesame seeds cooked in sugar and honey is forever etched in my heart. I remember her mixing the sesame seeds in a big pot and then pouring the sweet mixture onto her marble counter where it would quickly cool down… and I would impatiently wait for it to be ready so I could have a piece. I hadn’t made Cubbaita in a while, so I thought it was high time I made a batch. This is going into my kids’ Befana stockings, together with some Sweet Coal, to keep the tradition alive. This nougat must have Arab origins. The name itself derives from the Arab term Qubbayt which means made with almonds and I have seen a similar sweet sold at our local Lebanese shop. In some areas of Sicily, the same sweet is called Giuggiulena (from the Arab Giolgiolan or Giulgiulan that means sesame). I even found out that an Indian sweet called Til Chikki is very similar too, but uses jaggery instead of sugar and honey. The world is so small! Remember that being nougat, Cubbaita is a little hard, so be careful of your teeth! Enjoy!
Cubbaita - an ancient Sicilian recipe for sesame seed and almond nougat.
- 190 gms – 7 oz. sesame seeds
- 60 gms – 2 oz. almonds
- 160 gms – 5.5 oz. sugar
- 80 gms – 2.8 oz. honey
- 1 tbsp coloured funfetti
Put the sugar and honey in a pot and cook over medium heat until it reaches 130°C – 265°F.
Add the toasted sesame seeds and almonds, mix and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour into a 20x20 cm – 8 inch square baking dish lined with baking paper and level it using half a lemon.
Let it cool down a little, then cut in bars or diamond shapes and let it get back to room temperature.
Keep in an air tight container.