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Entries in italy (4)

Wednesday
Jan162013

Sweet Treats: White Wine Cookies Recipe

Ciambelline

I am not a wine expert. Occasionally a birthday cake or Twinkie expert, but for me, wine is something I enjoy without necessarily having a great deal of knowledge. In fact, if I may, let me share a funny anecdote which illustrates just how much the opposite of a wine expert I am.

One day, I was at a store picking out some wine. As usual, I was scanning the shelves for cool-looking labels and then doing a cross-examination of the bottle's price. If it has a cool label and is under $10, it's great in my book. Choosing one that fit my needs, I plucked it from the shelf, only to turn around and see some dude looking at me. He then said, "you just picked that because of the label, didn't you". Note that it wasn't so much a question as a statement. Yup--busted.

Ciambelline

That tale is meant to amuse you, but also to lead into the fact that when I received some sample bottles from SkinnyGirl wine, I wasn't 100 percent sure how to feel about them. My sister wanted to open and try some, so we did. To me, it just tasted like wine. It didn't taste lower calorie or anything, although technically, it is.

But there was one thing I was sure of, and it was that if I was going to use it for baking, I'd definitely have to fatten it up. Really, there's some logic to this: after all, if you're depriving yourself of all those precious calories in the wine, you'll have to make it up some other way, right? So now, you can have your wine and eat your cookies too.

Ciambelline

And after a quick google search on the subject, I knew exactly how I wanted to do this: by making Italian Wine Cookies. I found a great-looking recipe here, and was happy to discover I already had all of the ingredients on hand, except anise. I don't like anise that much (personal thing), so I used vanilla extract instead.

While it's possible that mixing with a stand mixer instead of by hand made the texture of my cookies a little different, I've got to tell you that taste-wise, they came out very well. This is an intriguing cookie--not extremely sweet, 

Ciambelline - Printable recipe here!

Adapted from Olive and Owl

Makes about 30

  • 3 1/2 cups of flour 
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of anise
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  •  a little extra wine and sugar for topping

Procedure

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

Then pour in the wine and oil and mix by hand or on low speed with an electric mixer until it becomes a dough. It will be a fairly stiff dough. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into strips about the thickness and length of your index finger, about 3 inches long and 1/2 wide. 

Ciambelline

Wrap the strip of dough around your finger and crimp the ends shut.

Ciambelline

Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 until golden and crisp. Note: these will be fairly hard--they are a dunking cookie.

Ciambelline

Not necessary, but if you'd like, mix some more wine and a little confectioners' sugar to make a glaze; also not necessary but cute, why not top with sprinkles?

Tuesday
Feb072012

Love Me Knot: The Story of the Calabrian Love Knot

Calabrian Love Knots

CakeSpy Note: I am reposting this recipe because it's featured on Serious Eats this week!


If there is one thing I love even more than a great baked good, it's a great story. And if it's a story about a baked good, well then, all the better.

So when I came across the following introduction preceding a recipe for Calabrian Love Knots in Judith M. Fertig's amazing tome (buy it--trust me--it's a great book!) All American Desserts

During the early 1900s, the height of Italian immigration...many people came from Calabria in the "toe" part of boot-shaped Italy, right across the Mediterranean from...Sicily. When women of Calabrian descent become brides, beautifully arranged platters of these almond-flavored cookies are often served at the reception.


...well, all I can say is that I had to try this recipe.
Calabrian Love Knots
It's not hard to see why these cookies are a time-honored tradition. They're simple to make, but the pleasure that they provide is tenfold: like a slightly drier and less sweet version of a sugar cookie, they taste delectable when dipped in strong coffee (or even wine!). They're truly the stuff of memories: as one Italian CakeSpy reader put it, "My grandparents had them at their wedding reception in the 40s. Nowadays only few families still know how to cook them and it is possible to buy them only in very small traditional bakeries in the countryside."

 

Now, I did make some alterations to the original recipe. First, because I happened to have a half wheat/half all-purpose flour mixture left over from a recent baking project, my batch was made with some wheat flour (we thought it tasted pretty good, actually!). And second, while the original recipe called for a light almond paste, sugar, and cream glaze, I served mine without--as hard as it is to admit this, they actually didn't need it. (Of course, if you don't believe me--and I don't blame you--the frosting recipe is written below).
Calabrian Love Knots
Calabrian Love Knots

 
adapted from All American Desserts by Judith M. Fertig
- makes about 2 dozen -
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used a half-and-half mixture of wheat flour and all-purpose, which made them a bit nuttier)
Optional almond sugar frosting:

 

 

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Directions:

 

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Either grease baking sheets or lay out some parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Beat together the eggs, oil, granulated sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Stir in the milk, almond extract, baking powder, and enough flour so that the dough becomes stiff. 
  3. Knead the dough either by hand or with a dough hook in a mixer until smooth. Pinch off about 1 tablespoon worth of dough for each cookie; roll into a rope and then twist into a pretzel shape, simple knot, or the letters of the name of your significant other. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies on to a wire rack to cool.
  5. If you're making them with frosting, go ahead and whisk the cream and almond extract together in a small mixing bowl. Beat in the confectioners' sugar bit by bit until it is smooth and of your desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooled cookies. 
  6. Either way, store in an airtight container. These cookies keep beautifully when frozen.

 For more, visit Serious Eats!

Tuesday
Jun072011

Pass the Torchetti: Torchetti Cookies from Cle Elum Bakery, WA

The other day, I found myself in a magical land called Cle Elum.

Now, don't ask me how to pronounce the name of the town--but do ask me what I ate there, because I did find a magical place called Cle Elum Bakery.

I ate something called Torchetti, that's what. This is a traditional Italian cookie which I learned more frequently goes by Torcetti, which means "little twist"--which, you know, describes them pretty well. Physically they resemble Berlinerkranser or Calabrian Love Knots, but texture and taste-wise they are different; where aforementioned cookies are crumbly and buttery, these biscuits are more hearty and sturdier in texture with the addition of yeast, more like lightly sweet biscuits than butter cookies.

As I learned from this segment,

The recipe itself is very old, indicated by the use of yeast, not baking powder, for leavening.  These cookies are from the Piedmont region of northern Italy.  Turin, Piedmont's capital, was also Italy's first capital.  The city preserves remarkable architectural and cultural treasures.

They're a very nice snacking cookie, no matter what you want to call them or how you want to spell it.

Of course, if you can't make it up (or over?) to Cle Elum, you can try this recipe (adapted from Taste of Home):

Torchetti (or Torcetti)

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Additional confectioners' sugar

Procedure

  1. Place flour in a large bowl; cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla and 2 cups of the crumb mixture; beat until well blended. Gradually beat in remaining crumb mixture.
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead for 3-4 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down; divide into six portions. Shape each portion into twelve 6-in. ropes, about 1/4-in. thick; roll in confectioners' sugar. Shape each rope into a loop. Holding both ends of loop, twist together three times.
  4. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Roll warm cookies in additional confectioners' sugar. Cool on wire racks. 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct202009

Chow Bella: What Kind of Sweets Do Italians Eat?

Cuppie in Rome
When I think of Italian sweets, I immediately think of the Little Italy-style bakery, with rows of cookies by the pound, breads stacked in the back, and various cakes and pastries out front. But what kind of sweets do Italians--you know, in actual Italy--really favor? While conversing with Cake Gumshoe Elisa, who is based in Italy, while she noted that "Italy has 20 regions and everyone has its particular baked goods", she dished up some of the things you might expect to see at her Italian dessert table; I've put together a little explanation of what they are (with a little help from Wikipedia). 

CakeSpy Note: Please note, however, that the photos are mostly from my (American) archives, so they should be viewed as a mere reference and might not necessarily look the way they would in Italy!

 

Amaretti: This little cookie is a holiday tradition in Italy (and beyond) which has a delightful story: "In the early 1700s, a Milanese bishop or cardinal surprised the town of Saronno with a visit. A young couple, residents of the town, welcomed him and paid tribute with an original confection: on the spur of the moment, they had baked biscuits made of sugar, egg whites, and crushed apricot kernels or almonds. These so pleased the visiting bishop that he blessed the two with a happy and lifelong marriage, resulting in the preservation of the secret recipe over many generations."

Brutti ma Buoni: Literally translated as "ugly but good", these craggy little cookies are made using a mixture of nuts, egg whites, liqueur, and a bit of cocoa . You can find a recipe from Mario Batali here.

A Cannoli! In Seattle! From Remo Borracchini
Cannolo alla Siciliana: What we would call a cannoli here in the US (as in, "leave the gun, take the..."). These little sweeties consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta cheese (or alternatively, but less traditionally, sweetened Mascarpone) blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, rosewater or other flavorings.

Dolce Italia, Queens, NYC
 Cassata: The cassata siciliana consists of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese, candied peel, and a chocolate or vanilla filling similar to cannoli cream. It is covered with a shell of marzipan, pink and green pastel colored icing, and decorative designs. The cassata is finally topped with candied fruit depicting cherries and slices of citrus fruit characteristic of Sicily. 

EATS Market Crostata
Crostata: A crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart, and a form of pie. It is traditionally prepared by folding the edges of the dough over the top of the jam/marmalade filling, creating a more "rough" look, rather than a uniform, circular shape and topped with various jams, pastry cream or fresh fruit. A typical central Italian variety replaces jam with ricotta mixed with sugar, cocoa or pieces of chocolate and anisetta; this is called crostata di ricotta. In terms of recipes, doesn't this one from Herbivoracious sound fantastic?

Pandoro (or pan d'oro): This one is fairly similar to panettone in that it is a traditional Italian sweet yeast bread, most popular around Christmas and New Year. What defines it? Well, it is generally more cakey and less fruit-heavy than panettone, and it is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed-star section. And--deliciously enough--"Modern taste sometimes calls for Pandoro to have a hole cut into its bottom and a part of the soft interior to be removed, the cavity is then filled with chantilly cream or vanilla gelato. Cream or gelato can be served as a garnish to pandoro slices." You can find a recipe here.

Panettone: This is another traditional holiday treat. Simply put, it's "a soft, north Italian yeast brioche with candied fruit, usually prepared for Christmas"--but it's steeped in tradition and lore which you can read about here, if you're so inclined; you can find a recipe here.

Tiramisu at Dishes, Grand Central Market
Tiramisù: This treat is not baked, but it sure is delicious, made of savoiardi (otherwise known as lady finger biscuits) dipped in espresso or strong coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, mascarpone, and sugar, and topped with cocoa.

 

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