Zia’s Biscotti

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Amid shelves of cookbooks and piles of recipe magazines, my mother’s house holds a small worn notebook full of recipes. The pages are torn, stained and layered with scraps of paper (usually the back of envelopes) that have recipes scribbled in ink or pencil. Sometimes there are instructions and no measurements. Sometimes ingredients and no baking instructions.

Sorting out what cookies get baked for Christmas is less about going through her recipe list and choosing and more about remembering. “Those ones with the nuts on top.” “The round ones that Comare brought over.” “Dad’s favourite.” Proper names for cookies are useless, we all just associate them with people, places or times anyway. This little biscotti recipe lives on a scrap of paper with the simple heading: Zia’s Biscotti.

Zia, meaning Aunt, could mean, well, anyone in the family or extended family. It doesn’t matter though, they came from family and have always been a staple. These biscotti are light and crumbly. I’ve tried several recipes from various books (versions with harder dough I find too dense, those made with butter seem to taste overwhelmingly of butter) but keep coming back to these ones for their simplicity and their texture. You can swap out the almonds for different nuts or other ingredients like chocolate chunks or cranberries, or even add cocoa to the dough for a chocolate version. It’s a great base that’s easily adapted.

Anyway you make them though, these biscotti are classic, just the memories we all hold dear of our family and favourite cookies.

Zia’s Biscotti
6 large eggs
500g sugar
500g flour
500g almonds
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

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By |28/11/2013|Dolce, Recipes|4 Comments

Mostaccioli

mostaccioli recipe

As spring and summer approach, my schedule gets increasingly busy. I have a number of projects that go on during the summer, plus events, the garden, etc things can get a bit stressful and I’m a stress eater. I’m trying desperately to cut down on my sugar intake and am searching for alternatives to my stress cravings to wean me off the sugar hits. (If you ever want to get rid of a bag of chocolate-covered almonds quickly, just put it near me.)

Not all desserts are meant to be tooth-achingly sweet. And old Italian recipes are prime examples of slightly sweet treats that meet the sweet tooth craving without going clowingly over the edge. As a matter of necessity  of course, many of the old recipes are sweetened by nothing more than grape must or honey, like this family favourite is. Mostaccioli were made by my grandmother and great aunts regularly and while they look like biscotti, they are soft and moist as they don’t go through the second baking process.

The word “mostaccioli” can refer to cookies, although you may find a few recipes for it that include a chocolate covering, but also pasta that is commonly referred to as “penne.” For me the name refers just to these simple Calabrese cookies that have always been on our table.

Mostaccioli
1 kg honey
1 kg of flour (or just under)
6 egg yolks
1 tsp baking soda

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By |23/04/2013|Dolce, Recipes|12 Comments

Shurabetta

Italian Snow Dessert

Last year I wrote about how the first snowfall of winter always reminds me of Shurabetta – my grandfather’s winter dessert. After a storm, my grandfather would take the cleanest, freshest snow from the backyard porch, carefully spooning it into a metal bowl and mix in a number of ingredients to make a snowcone like dessert. It was always a special treat. Shurabetta is not only a great memory to me, but represents a lot of what I’m proud of coming from a family of immigrants. (You can read more here.)

Well, it turns out that last winter there was never enough snow to actually try and make some. (I think I shovelled once the entire season last year). This year we’ve been “fortunate” enough to receive a huge dumping of snow, so much that my work closed down so I could stay home and shovel three times in one day just to keep up with it. The mounds of snow on either side of my driveway are officially taller than I am.

In southern Italy, snow was a rare occurrence and when it did come it was more granular, a different texture from what we get here in Canada. But the excitement about it was the same and when you are using what you have to get by, snow brings the opportunity for a rare treat. As in Italy, when my grandfather made this for me here in Canada, he used what he had on hand in the house. I did the same this weekend. Where he would normally use Tia Maria to help flavour his Shurabetta, I didn’t have any in the house so I turned to Bailey’s instead. He used mini chocolate chips, I only had regular. I had never made it for myself, so trying it out made me a little nervous. But when I took the first bite, I was jumping around like a 5-year-old, clapping my hands. It was exactly like I remembered it! Delicate, light and just a little sweet.

If you’re game, and you’ve got some fresh snow, you should give it a try. I’m not going to give an exact recipe this time around…it’s just too hard. It depends on the type of snow you get and also how strong you like your flavours, but here are the basics…

Shurabetta
Snow
Coffee
Honey or Molasses
Cocoa powder
Liqueur of your choosing (Tia Maria, Kahula or Baileys are good options)
Mini chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles

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By |12/02/2013|Dolce, Recipes|5 Comments

Nutella Roll for World Nutella Day

Nutella Roll Recipe

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Happy World Nutella Day! If you are unfamiliar with World Nutella Day, it’s an unofficial holiday started by the great bloggers at  Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso. It’s now a certified internet celebration! Last year at this time, this blog was just a month old and I commemorated the day with a recipe for Nutella Butter Cookies. This year I had one of the 5kg mega-bottles of Nutella leftover from Christmas baking and I needed to get it used up and quick!

Cookies made in a roll or log shape are common among old-fashioned Italian cookie recipes. I’ve had variations of this cookie but in this recipe I mixed two of my favourite things together. My mother makes this log roll with lemon pie filling in the middle and it tastes divine! I used her dough recipe and substituted the lemon filling for Nutella and it is a great alternative. The orange flavouring of the dough mixes well with the chocolate and is a play on the classic bread and Nutella snack.

Nutella Roll
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Crisco
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

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By |05/02/2013|Dolce, Recipes|1 Comment

Sugar Pecan Crescents

Sugar Crescent Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Friday! Today I’m sharing the second of my favourite Christmas recipes – sugar pecan crescents. I can’t really claim that these are traditional Italian cookies, but they are tradition in my family. They’ve been a staple around the holidays since I was small, well for as long as I can remember, and they make a constant appearance on our cookie trays. And cookie trays are an Italian tradition that I love.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and enjoy your holiday celebrations. Merry Christmas everyone!

Sugar Pecan Crescents
1 pound butter
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons cold water
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (you can also use walnuts)
2 cups fruit sugar

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By |21/12/2012|Dolce, Recipes|3 Comments

Guest Post Recipe: Zeppoli

Last time our good friend, Laura D’Amelio, asked us to write for her wonderful blog (An Italian Canadian Life) we discussed growing up Italian and the tradition of zeppoli. By popular demand, we’ve decided to post our recipe for these delightful dough-balls.

This widely known Sicilian street food is served year round but it is especially popular on March 19th for the Feast of St. Joseph. As legend has it, a severe drought in Sicily, around the middle ages, had many people pray to St. Joseph to bring the rain. When the drought ended the people celebrated and made these zeppoli as a tribute to the saint. It’s suspected that St. Joseph had worked as a baker making these very delightful sweets at some point in this life.

That’s the story I grew up with anyway. There might be other variations out there but one thing is certain, these fritters are absolutely delicious.

Zeppoli can be made savory or sweet. If savory they’re usually made with anchovies or lightly dusted with salt. If sweet there are many possibilities including drizzling honey, nutella, and cannoli cream or even just lightly dusting them with sugar, which is the traditional way to eat them.

Please keep in mind that this recipe has been in our family for well over 75 years. It’s been modified only slightly over the years. In Sicily, the recipe and the preparation varies depending on which region you’re in. I have found that most families have their own special way of making these. The beautiful thing is that you can have fun experimenting and coming up with something unique and special. As you read through the recipe remember to have fun.

Cooking should be a joyous occasion. Buon Appetito!

Zeppoli Ingredients (Yields about a dozen zeppoli)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup of water
A pinch of sugar
4 tablespoons of oil
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (optional) *
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Oil for frying

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By |06/12/2012|Dolce, Recipes|10 Comments

Crostata

Crostata recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crostata is a family favourite and an easy, quick recipe that results in colourful and flavourful squares. Plus, it uses up jars of jam, which I was attempting to do to make room for new jam experiments this summer.

I say it’s easy, but I’ll be honest. My first attempt at crostata was a weak one (let’s just say I didn’t measure right). I got frustrated so I started looking at other crostata recipes, including in The Silver Spoon, but the crusts were more like shortbread/shortcrusts with butter. While I’m sure they would taste good, it wasn’t authentic to how my family and relatives cook their recipes. For example my family uses oil, probably originally olive oil, instead of butter and liquor like Anisette instead of vanilla, which they never would have had, for flavouring.

So I stuck it out and tried our family’s original recipe again. And again. And now it’s not only mastered, but memorized. It turns out it is really easy, as long as you are paying attention and measure right!

In this version of crostata, I dug out a jar of my mom’s peach-orange freezer jam and used Triple Sec (orange liquor) for flavouring the dough.

Crostata recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crostata
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
¾ cup oil
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 ½  to 4 cups all purpose flour, perhaps a little more for dusting
2 teaspoons vanilla, or liqueur or flavour of your choice
2 cups of jam or your choice
cinnamon (optional)

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By |14/06/2012|Dolce, Recipes|10 Comments

Low Fat Biscotti

Low Fat Italian Biscotti Recipe

It’s a must. There must always be biscotti in the house to snack on. These twice-baked crispy cookies are the usual Italian fare, but I’ve been looking for a recipe that’s a bit healthier than the sugar heavy recipe I’m used to (although I will post that one soon, as the taste is still my favourite). This low fat biscotti recipe is adapted from the Almond Board of California, since I prefer using a mixer and love the flavour of lemon.

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By |10/03/2012|Dolce, Recipes|2 Comments

Nutella Butter Cookies for World Nutella Day

Nutella butter cookies with pasta frolla

Happy World Nutella Day! Two bloggers Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso started the February 5th celebration of World Nutella Day in 2007 to celebrate their chocolate hazelnut spread.

I’m celebrating one of the best days of the year with a jar of Nutella and a spoon, but, I suppose, you could also use Nutella to make some cookies too. The last time I was in Italy, my relatives made these simple cookies that hit the spot. They used a “pasta frolla” a dough that is similar to a shortbread and common in many Italian desserts. There are many different recipes for pasta frolla with the ratios of flour, butter and sugar altered to better accompany different fillings (such as ricotta, nuts or fruits). This pasta frolla recipe is one of many found in Great Italian Desserts by Nick Malgieri.

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By |28/01/2012|Dolce, Recipes|0 Comments

Turdilli

Italian turdilli cookie recipe

Turdilli are a Christmas treat in our house. From my Calabrese side, they are indicative of the recipes from harder times – using what they had in the house for sweetness and flavour. In this case ,wine, coffee and honey for example. My grandparents would make these every Christmas, using a woven tool from their home town, a chestillu (I’m guessing here on spelling) to roll out the texture into the turdilli. It makes the same groves you would find on gnocchi and, in fact, that was the other thing we used a chestillu for. The end result is a sweet and savoury cookie (for lack of a better description) that is crispy fried on the outside, soft in the middle and coated in honey.

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By |02/01/2012|Dolce, Recipes|7 Comments