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Mix together the molasses (or treacle), granulated sugar, butter (or margarine) and whole eggs with a balloon whisk in a bowl.
Process or pound 7oz/200g of the almonds to a fine powder and add them to the mixture. Mix in the wine, cocoa powder and all the spices including the pepper. Mix the salt with the milk and blend this in also.
Add the flour gradually until the mixture reaches a thick consistency that is not too stiff; use your hands to knead it. Cover the bowl with cling film and put it in the refrigerator to rest overnight. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4, 350°F. Butter one or more baking sheets.
Roll out the biscuit mixture one piece at a time into thick cylinder shapes with a diameter of 6cm/2 1/2 in. Cut each cylinder into neat circles about 2-2.5cm/ 3/4-1in thick. Push a hole about 2.5cm/1in in diameter in the centre of each one – you can do this very easily with your thumb or alternatively use a very small pastry cutter. Arrange the biscuits on the baking sheet(s) in neat rows about 4cm/1 1/2in apart.
Process or pound the remaining almonds and blend them with the confectionerÕs sugar. Beat the egg white until just foaming and combine it with the almond mixture. Brush the biscuits with the egg white mixture using a pastry brush and scatter with the sugar crystals.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet(s) with a spatula. Cool on wire racks and store in tightly closed biscuit tins until required. The biscuits will be quite soft after baking and will gradually harden as they cool down. It is when they cool, that the flavour of the molasses or treacle emerges.
9oz molasses or treacle 250g
9oz granulated sugar 250g
2oz butter or margarine, softened and cubed, plus extra for greasing 50g
2 eggs, beaten, and 1 egg white
9oz unblanched almonds 250g
6tbsp very sweet wine (such as Sauternes or Moscato)
4oz unsweetened cocoa powder 100g
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground cloves
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp finely ground black pepper
1tbsp warm milk
14oz-1Ib plain white flour, sifted 400-450g
2tbsp confectioners sugar
2-4tbsp sugar crystals