Pizzelle Cookies

pizelle_recipe_with_vanilla

When you enjoy all four seasons in Canada, you learn that each season has its own sweet spot. Summer’s best time is the end of June when everything is in bloom but the stifling heat of July hasn’t chased you indoors. Fall is wonderful, right when the leaves turn and the cool breeze first fills your lungs for the first time in months. Winter is beautiful during the first couple of snowfalls then it comes at you with all it’s icy, cold force. Between fall and winter – those rainy, damp late November days – the skies are grey and you realize summer is long gone. So you wait by the window for the first picture-perfect snow, those big fluffy flakes that land on the window, resting just long enough that you can see the crystals in full form.

I say: why wait for it? On those grey days, I get to baking, and, well, make my own snowflakes. In the form of pizzelle. These thin biscuits are simple to make, so long as you have the pizzelle iron, and resemble snowflakes so much to me that I really only get the craving for them in the winter. The easy batter can take on flavours, the cookies themselves can be molded into shapes, and each one comes out the press unique – each their own special snowflake.

I’m trying to be positive, that is, calling each one unique. I used to try as hard as I could to get each one perfect – filled fully to the edges and not over to get each full pattern. Trying this will drive you crazy. You have to love the pizzelle for what they are – handmade snowflakes that disappear as soon as you make them, gobbled up by you and anyone you serve them to. A great staple for the Christmas cookies trays, but also a simple cookie to have around for coffee, pizzelle are popular and there’s a lot of recipes for them. But I would be remiss not to include them here on the blog. Plus, it also gave me a chance to photograph my mom’s pizzelle maker, I love it’s tarnished, well-loved look.

traditional_pizelle_recipe

Pizzelle
3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla (you may opt for other extracts like anise, almond, coconut, etc.)
1 pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

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By |11/12/2017|Dolce, Recipes|0 Comments

Cartellate (Honey Pinwheels)

Italian_cartellate_honey_pinwheels

So many readers write to me about “secret” family recipes, the things only Nonna made, or Mom developed from a previous recipe. Our most revered foods are often from the minds and hands of those we love, and this is even more heightened during the holidays.

This blog has been going for just over four years now and there’s still a favourite, secret recipe I haven’t shared with you…until today. My absolute-favourite-it’s-not-Christmas-without-them “cookie”: cartellate. These honey jewels originate from Puglia, the region that holds my dad’s home town of Monteleone, but it’s my mother who has perfected the recipe to the point that I cannot control myself around them. In my family we called them “crispelle,” but they are more commonly known as cartellate (or pinwheels). We coat them in honey, or sometimes a dusting of icing sugar, but other families soak them in vin cotto (cooked wine) or a combination of vin cotto and honey. Others still create ones that are rolled with a filling of nuts and dried fruits.

cartellate_recipe

What just boogles my mind about cartellate, and a few other Italian cookies, is just how complicated the process of making them can be to explain. As usual with traditional Italian recipes, the ingredients are simple – flour, eggs, oil – but getting to the final, delicious product will take a few steps. So be forewarned – there’s a lot of pictures in the post so you can see the full process! And here’s an interesting tip from this recipe, the one small oz of liqueur in the ingredients can add flavour to the dough, but it’s real function is to keep the oil from foaming when cooking these treats.

Cartellate
Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 a cup for kneading
4 large eggs
1 oz Italian liqueur – Anisette, Amaretto or, if preferred, Rum. If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can substitute in vanilla.
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon of sugar

Finishing:
Canola oil for frying
1 1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon water

how_to_make_cartellate_dough

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By |09/12/2015|Dolce, Recipes|7 Comments

Walnut Shaped Filled Cookies

Walnut-cookies-formed-recipe


We ended June with a celebration: our baby boy was baptised! And after the formal ceremony, feasting – of course – was in order. My sister made the cake, my mom brought trays of cookies. I had the time to contribute just one cookie, but a fancy one – walnut shaped filled cookies.

These cookies are a constant reminder of fancy events from my childhood. They would appear only at weddings or showers. They are a bit labour intensive, so anytime someone saw them on a cookie table, they “ooh’ed” and “ahh’ed” and grabbed a few for themselves. In my memory, they are the epitome of the Italian cookie form and tradition, lovingly made and unique.

The trick for these cookies is you need special baking trays. The forms can be found in Italian grocery shops and also easily found online. Try to avoid the forms that are individual nut halves, these are tough to get into the oven without tipping over. The one I have that is a full tray (see the photos) is the easiest to work with. The dough isn’t hard to make, but you do need to dedicate some time to this project, unless you buy a lot – A LOT – of forms. Either way, they are well worth it! I’m getting compliments on these cookies even a few weeks later.

Walnut Shaped Filled Cookies
1 pound butter
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dutch-processed cocoa
4 teaspoons cold water
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
Nutella for filling (as needed)

Walnut-cookies-italian-recipe


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By |14/07/2015|Dolce, Recipes|3 Comments

Italian Lemon Twist Cookies for Easter

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It’s holiday season again! It’s also my sons’ first Easter. It would be slightly more exciting if he were crawling or walking and hunting for eggs but I’ll still take the opportunity to get some classic sweets on the table to celebrate. And boy, am I going classic!

Lemon twist cookies. If you know an Italian, you probably know these cookies. Tangy, dense and not-too-sweet but still a treat. Every Nonna has a recipe like this one and, in fact, this was my Nonnas’. One way to tell this for sure: it is made with oil, not butter. Also, the ingredients include lemon zest and juice. Many modern recipes ask for lemon extract, but I’m betting they didn’t have any of that in her mountain town in Italy. Dipped in a lemony glaze and decorated (usually with sprinkles – but more about that later), you can find these on many cookie tables at special events.

Since it’s Easter, you’ll find them next to Easter Ciambelle and Easter Bread and one of those large Italian chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in brightly-coloured foil. All this probably following a meal of lamb and spinach and ricotta pie. It’s a big celebration with all the family, and all the food you would expect. To tell the truth, the kids might bring Easter baskets to fill up on chocolate eggs, but these days my basket just gets filled up with Easter leftovers and I don’t mind a bit. Double up this recipe and you’ll have plenty to share too. Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!

Italian Lemon Twist Cookies
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tsp baking powder
Zest and juice of one lemon + 1/3 cup lemon juice for glaze
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar

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By |02/04/2015|Dolce, Recipes|14 Comments

Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies)

Pezzetti-di-Cannella

Confession: I gave up sugar for lent. And I’m craving cookies.

If you know me well, you know that cookies are my downfall. And Italians have SO many good cookie recipes. The options run through my mind all day and it’s got to stop. On top of the cravings, I get emails – lots of emails – about cookies, especially during the spring.

Cost_Southern Italian DessertsSpring often means bridal showers and that means home baking for the cookie tables. I would guess this is one of the most popular times for baking each year (second only to Christmas). Have you never been to an Italian bridal shower? You can check out pictures from my own and my sisters from this previous post, then you’ll understand the allure. To help you get ready for your baking (for whatever the reason) and save me from eating cookies myself, I’ve found an easy, traditional and flavourful recipe to add to your repertoire. From Rosetta Costantino’s book Southern Italian Desserts, Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies) are the classic Nonna cookie. In fact, my husband’s eyes lit up when he grabbed a few off the tray the last time I made them, he hadn’t had them for years. Rosetta’s book is a recommended purchase for anyone who loves Italian desserts, I refer to it regularly! Enjoy the baking!

A foreword from Rosetta: My mother’s friend Yolanda Tateo shared her mother’s recipe for these cookies. Yolanda moved to the United States from Sava (Puglia) when she was in her twenties. This is one of the few recipes from home that she has kept over the years. These bite-sized cookies are perfect to have on hand for visitors or to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s worth splurging on good-quality cinnamon because it is the predominant flavouring. The recipe makes a lot of cookies; they can be stored for up to a month in an airtight container.

Pezzetti di Cannella
2 cups (264 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

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By |26/02/2015|Dolce, Recipes|3 Comments

Panettone (or Pandoro) French Toast

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

One, two, three, six….ten…..just how many panettone or pandoro do you have in your house this season? My current count is four, but I imagine more are on their way, especially when they go on sale. I can’t resist the chocolate ones. Of course, buying more panettone, on top of the ones you receive, is just an excuse to make panettone French toast!

As much as a Christmas tree or turdilli are traditional, piling up panettone is also an Italian tradition. (At least I think so!) You might find these breads under two names: panettone or pandoro (like the one pictured in this recipe). What’s the difference? Where they are made, the shape and the history of each bread differs. Here’s an account of the differences, but for this recipe either will work. This sweet Italian bread, studded with raisins, dried orange or chocolate is a typical gift between friends and family during the holidays. Usually served with espresso after a meal or during friendly visits, the breads are so popular they can tend to pile up in the cupboard or catina. In fact, in areas of the city where many Italians live, whole aisles in some grocery stores are dedicated to variations of this treat.

So after you’ve eaten a few with your coffee, what are you do to? Get creative! Use it in bread pudding. Try an ice cream bombe (here’s the recipe I wrote for Aurora Importing). The quick and easy way is this: the day after Christmas, my family has panettone French toast, making this sweet bread a breakfast treat. Other than an excuse to essentially have cake for breakfast, the best part of panettone French toast is it is totally Italian-Canadian: Italian sweet bread served with Canadian maple syrup. Perfect! Here’s how to do it at your house:

Panettone French Toast
1 panettone, sliced into 8 -10 servings
4 large eggs
½ cup milk or cream
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Butter

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

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By |26/12/2014|Dolce, Recipes|0 Comments

Easter Ciambelle (or Chiambrelle)

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

With Easter around the corner, sweets to celebrate this holiday are in order. These chiambrelle are traditional for Easter and are a perfect recipe for springtime as they feature eggs heavily in the ingredients. If you are familiar with Italian, you’ll notice the odd spelling of “chiambrelle”: the word ciambelle is used to describe any manner of ring cake and the unique spelling you see here is a reflection of the Calabrese dialect and communities that this recipe comes from.

My mom remembers these as a child at her uncle’s wedding in Italy, as people traditionally got married in the spring. My mom prepared them for my own wedding as well and they are a must-have at Easter. In Italy they were baked in outdoor stone ovens.

This isn’t a super-sweet dessert, but rather a good accompaniment to an after-dinner coffee. This recipe has a icing sugar coating, but originally, when sugar wasn’t readily available, they would have been coated with stiff-beaten egg whites mixed with a bit of regular sugar.

Easter Ciambelle (or Chiambrelle)
12 eggs
2 ounces milk
2 ounces vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking power
5-6 cups all purpose flour

Icing
6 ounces milk
2 tsp butter
4 cups of icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon zest

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

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By |11/04/2014|Dolce, Recipes|14 Comments

Chocolate Salame

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For Christmas, I’m offering an extra recipe this week – it’s a little something fun to surprise your friends and family with when you bring out the desserts during the holidays!

I’ve been wanting to make a chocolate salame for the past year and when I found myself with a few extra egg yolks after completing another recipe, well, there was no time like the present and I’m thrilled with how it turned out after a little testing.

While not traditional to my family, I remember eating sweet treats like this when I tagged along with my grandparents and parents visiting friends, family and neighbours throughout the holidays. The hint of alocohol underlying a deep chocolate taste makes this classically Italian to me.

I’ve seen modernized versions of this recipe where the cocoa is replaced with melted chocolate and all sorts of nuts and fruits are mixed into the dough. Tying on the decorative string to make it look like a salame is a great addition to the surprise. Feel free to adapt, that’s half the fun. A warning about using raw egg yolks: when eggs aren’t cooked there is always the risk of salmonella. To avoid this, be sure to use clean, pasteurized, properly refrigerated grade A eggs.

Chocolate Salame
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, soft or melted and cooled
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces Amaretto di Saronno (or rum, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, etc.)
1 cup crushed dry biscotti (you can use store-bought cookies or I used leftover Zia’s Biscotti)
1/2 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
Powdered sugar for decorating

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By |19/12/2013|Dolce, Recipes|2 Comments

Turdilli di Paolina

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We’re so close to Christmas and baking is in a frenzy. I can see that many people are searching for turdilli recipes and my family’s turdilli recipe, which I featured last year, is very popular.

But there’s more than one way to make this traditional Calabrese fried cookie. Turdilli, also called tordilli, turdiddri or turtiddi depending on your dialect or how you want to spell it, almost always have the same base: flour, yeast, eggs and wine or flavoured alcohol. Then different families get a little crafty, kneading in their own flavourings (like orange zest) or additions (like dried fruits) or switching up the honey coating for fig syrup. Our family recipe, for example, includes coffee, cocoa, cinnamon and walnuts.

But if you don’t like those flavours, and want something more simple or that can be easily adjusted, then I have the turdilli recipe for you. This basic recipe is light on flavourings and creates pale-coloured turdilli. It can act as a base for any flavours or additions you want to mix in. My mom originally picked up this recipe from a great-aunt sometime ago who, we think, got it from a friend. The heading in her notes is “Turdilli di Paolina.” Who’s Paolina? Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s just say she’s a great-aunt to all of us, sharing her recipe so we can all enjoy. We adapted it a little bit ( of course the original recipe said “as much flour as is needed”) and it does make a lot (a lot!) so be sure to cut the recipe in half before starting out on your first try of this!

Turdilli di Paolina
6 eggs
2 cups oil
2 cups water (to boil)
1/2 cup warm water
1 envelope dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
13 cups cake and pastry flour, plus an additional half cup to flour the board when kneading
1 tablespoon liqueur or vanilla
Vegetable or another light-flavoured oil for frying
Honey for coating
(note: I’d recommend cutting this recipe in half)

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By |16/12/2013|Dolce, Recipes|14 Comments

Torrone

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The Christmas season invariably starts with some baking in an Italian household. Mine is no different. I’ve been on the lookout for a recipe that somewhat resembles a “torrone” that my grandfather used to make for Christmas. In his basement kitchen he would mix up all sorts of ingredients and while we were never quite sure of the recipe, it always tasted good. After some trial and error, my mother and I discovered this recipe is a base of what my grandfather was cooking up. I imagine he also added some cinnamon and maybe even chocolate when he got creative but this is a pretty good start.

It isn’t your typical torrone you pick up at the store: a white nougat framed with wafers. It’s a homemade kind typical of southern Italy including Calabria and Sicily that is dark and more like a brittle. (“You know we were short on eggs back then,” is my mother’s explanation. You need eggs to make the nougat type which my grandmother always told me were traded for other needed food staples.)

Try it with hazelnuts or peanuts or even sesame seeds as a filler. Since it’s a type of candy, North American recipes would tell you that you need a candy thermometer. That may be true, but I’ve never seen a Nonno or a Nonna use one. If they can get the feel down for this recipe, so can you and I.

Torrone
300 grams almonds (lightly toasted). Use 150 grams whole and 150 grams chopped in half.
220 grams of sugar plus extra for coating
3 tablespoons of honey
100 grams unsalted butter

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By |05/12/2013|Dolce, Recipes|Comments Off on Torrone