MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE, THE ANGINETTI (CIAMBELLINE)..

IMG_6361  What makes a Holiday special?  I really think it’s a mix of the present with a heavy dose of the past.  Holidays like all parts of our lives should be a blend and one should not dwell too deeply in the past because much of what was there no longer is.  Cooking is one of the easy areas to recreate those past memories and that is no more apparent than at the end of the year cycle of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.  Everything is different from the rest of the year. There are no Menorah lightings in June.  Santa does not come down the chimney in May.  Once a year we bring out decorations and treasured family recipes that connect us to our identities. My Holiday gift to you all at this Christmas time  is my Mom’s CIAMBELLINE recipe.  The proper name for this cookie is ANGINETTI and it was taught to my mom’s mother, my Grandma Maria Adelina Melito Scaramuzzi by her sister in law, my Zi’Caterina Scaramuzzi Luberto.  So this story begins with a sister in law sharing a recipe from Grassano, Matera, Basilicata in Italy with her little brother’s new wife.  My Luberto relatives call this cookie the GINETTE (obviously their way of saying Anginetti) but my grandmother who came from a different town in Italy tagged them with her local name for them, you see, this cookie is made all over Southern Italy and by all the immigrants and their families here in the U.S. and all over the world.  My Grandmother used the term CIAMBELLINE..it’s the word for wreath, something with no beginning and no end.  It’s an ancient pagan symbol of a snake biting it’s own tail, a symbol of life eternal, a symbol of the unending cycle of birth and death.  Other names for this cookies are Lemon Drop, Anisette Drop, Love Knots, Taralli (that is a generic Italian word for small cookies), Orange Juice Cookies, Italian Knot Cookies, etc.  The point is it’s all the same cookie but depending on where your ancestors in Italy came from the flavorings may be different. Our family’s recipe relies on Lemon, Orange, and Anisette.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen buying your extracts stick with 100% pure, never imitation. READ LABELS ALWAYS!! Lots of labels fool you into thinking they are the real deal.  It should be noted that while I’m writing this I’m also eating a CIAMBELLINE as well. How’s THAT for inspiration??? Now before we get started realize that this is only my way which I’m sure is somewhat modified in some way from when my Grandmother handed out this recipe to every child and grandchild.  In some she used melted butter, in others the butter was creamed. My earliest recollections were of the melted so that’s my preferred method. Here is a recipe card written by my mom for her mother’s CIAMBELLINE:1460286_237205316447776_1865507221_n  Give me a moment to wipe a tear away, I certainly miss my Mom and Grandmother, but what a great legacy to honor them by then to recreate every year in our own kitchens something that gave them great joy to share. Time to make CIAMBELLINE (or GIAMBIS as mom called them for short).

MAKES:  about 48 depending on how big you are making them

TIME: 2 hours

8 cups SIFTED UNBLEACHED FLOUR

1 TSP. KOSHER SALT

8 tsp BAKING POWDER

3 sticks MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

JUICE OF ONE ORANGE

1 cup SUGAR

7 EGGS, beaten

1/2 tsp. of ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 1/2 TSP. VANILLA EXTRACT

1 1/2 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 1/2 TSP. ORANGE ZEST

 

LARGE MIXING BOWL

First mix together the beaten eggs with the Sugar till well blended.  Now add the zests, the extracts, juice and blend well then do the same by adding the melted butter.  Make sure it is cooled.. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Now in batches sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and gently blend into the bowl until it’s a soft, not too sticky, pliable dough.  You may have to gently knead with your hands and don’t panic if it’s still a bit sticky.  To get to the right consistency simply dust a little more flour into the bowl and onto your hands and only add enough until you are at a smooth dough. Then stop and let it rest for a good 15 minutes.  Pull of the dough in small balls, like a golf ball size and roll into a rope then turn it into a knot.  Place onto sturdy baking sheets.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Remember, there’s no “set” size so no debating on this.  Make that your own preference.  Our family likes them a bit bigger than some other families do.  CIAMBELLINE cook fairly quickly and are NOT supposed to be a dark brown.  Bake for 10 minutes, check the bottom to see if it’s light brown.  A good method for a first timer is to break one of the cooked ones open to see if it’s done because the tops may look “not done” to you.  This is part of the practice makes perfect notion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s it, that’s done.  Look in the picture at how light they appear on their tops.  Yet, the interior is done.  The longer you cook them the harder their texture will be. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  If you want more color to your tops leave them in a little longer.  However, in any case these are an iced cookie.  When you are done with your last batch going in it’s time to make the icing glaze.

ICING:

JUICE OF 2 LEMONS

JUICE OF 1/2 ORANGE

4 cups of CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

1 TSP ANISETTE EXTRACT

1/2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

1/2 tsp of LEMON ZEST

1/2 TSP OF ORANGE ZEST

MIX everything together till you get a nice icing consistency.  If it appears too loose, in small batches add more confectioner’s sugar. Dip the cookies on their tops into the icing and let the excess run off.  Grandma Scaramuzzi suggests that you also dip the bottoms as that will encase the cookies in the icing and keep them fresh longer.  I personally listen to her.  Place the iced cookies on racks and top them with small CONFETTI ( multi colored Non-Pareils).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  There is nothing in this world FOR ME that says it’s either Christmas, Easter, or a special occasion than the sight and smell of CIAMBELLINE in my kitchen.

Like the symbolism of Birth and Death between Christmas and Easter and the unending circle of Life that we all share, these cookies tie me into that natural occurrence.  May you all have fun baking these cookies and thank you for letting me share them with you all.

May each one of you enjoy the Holidays…however or whatever you make them out to be…Celebrate…and Happy Cooking!

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16 thoughts on “MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE, THE ANGINETTI (CIAMBELLINE)..

  1. Lynnie

    Dear Peter,
    This is a wonderful recipe, thank you for sharing it with us all. It brings back such nice memories for me too of when my Grandmother used to make them. She got the recipe from her Italian neighbor Mrs. Richetelli. We knew them as Anginettis. Reading your story brought a tear to my eyes too. Happy memories!! Buon Natalie!

    Reply
  2. Lougene Lampasona

    Thanks Peter for the recipe, I love how they write half of bottle ???? of anisette. I use Sambuca and also wasn’t sure to melt the butter as well. thanks again cuz, I’ll be posting mine when done. I see Marie made Aunt Angie;s.. those were the days….Lougene

    Reply
    1. A FOOD OBSESSION Post author

      those were the days, and we in fact have them now with our own children, and you with yours..those hand written recipes are treasures, my mom was referring to a 1/2 bottle of the anisette extract…lol…it’s a wonderful thread that connects all of us Scaramuzzis…so proud of it and loved sharing it…can’t wait to see yours!

      Reply
  3. Darlene Raiente

    The cookies are mouthwatering! My mother in law makes them but her measurements were very unstable when I asked her for the details. That might have been on purpose or not. Love the photo of the recipe card, it looks like one of my mother’s old recipe cards. Thank you for the explanation on the “doneness” issue. A first timer like me might just wait until they are light brown, that is an important detail you provided us. Love all the pics and this post! I am saving this one in my personal collection.

    Reply
  4. Dagmar Thrower

    You are so kind to share all of these recipes. I love to bake cookies for holidays… these will be a welcome addition!! Thanks to you and your grandmother!

    Reply
  5. sandra a hitik

    My all time favorite cookie. I have seen many recipes but am anxious to try your family favorite. I enjoyed reading about your family. I cook with my grandson and I hope he remembers long after I am gone as you have.

    Reply
  6. Laura vitale

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I am an avid baker and have been searching the internet for the perfect Anginetti, but none have really wowed me. I’m so happy I found your post. My grandfather was from Matera, (Vincenzo Vitale) so I knew immediately they must be good….. and what’s better than to make a cookie that has a story and actual meaning. I will post again after I make these cookies… thank you for sharing … nice to hear about our town, never really knew anyone else from Matera.

    Reply
    1. A FOOD OBSESSION Post author

      fantastic!! my grandfather’s town in Matera provincia is about 40 minutes from the town center, but i have relatives who live in MAtera also…amazing city to visit..and wonderful people and food!!

      Reply

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