Category Archives: COOKIES

VIENNESE VANILLA CRESCENTS…VANILLEKIPFERL

00vanillenkipferlWIENER VANILLEKIPFERL……a very popular Holiday cookie these are AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS.  This type of cookie is made all over the world for the Christmas season and sometimes for special occasions thru the year.  Wedding Cookies, Greek Kourabiedes, American Almond Crescents, the list goes on but at their heart they are a butter cookie made with finely ground nuts in the dough.  The nuts can be almond or walnut.  The butter is always present and in the central European countries the Vanilla Sugar is an ingredient as well.  Simply put, it’s granulated or fine granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans and is very fragrant.  So why am I focusing in on this Viennese version?  Well last Summer I visited Vienna and bought a cookbook, in German, called WEIHNACHTS BACKEREI…translates to CHRISTMAS BAKING.ho15577518_10208099303022724_1310207240_nNice looking book, i had to buy it. Cost 6.75 Euros. One of the recipes is the Viennese crescent.  I made them last Christmas using European butter and they were fantastic, so now I share this with you.  The butter I suggest to really make them over the top delicious is butter from Europe.  A little more costly for sure than U.S. butter but they are after all European butter cookies.  A few European brands are LURPAK, from Denmark, FINLANDIA from Finland, KERRYGOLD, from Ireland.  There’s also the US made in the European style PLUGRA.  They are richer than the usual American butter. If you can’t find them the cookies will still be fantastic!

VIENNESE CRESCENTS                            TAKES: 3 hours                    YIELDS: 48-60

the rezipe
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla sugar
1 TBS pure Vanilla Extract
3 egg yolks or 2 extra large yolks
1 cup Ground Almonds (or ground walnuts)
1 CUP COLD EUROPEAN BUTTER (or good quality U.S. butter)
2 TBS vanilla sugar plus 2 TBS Confectioner’s Sugar for coating
Cream the butter and the sugar, then the eggs, then the almonds and flour.All ingredients are quickly mixed to a smooth dough in your mixer and let cool for approx. 1 hour. Cut the dough into a small roll of small, coarse pieces, shape them into crescents and place on a  well greased baking tray or baking sheet. I’d use a SILPAT mat if you have them, or lightly greased parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes till firm and golden. While still warm roll in the Vanilla sugar and confectioner’s sugar blend.
If you like the taste of Almonds in this, add 1 tsp. Almond Extract while you’re mixing the dough.
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 Quantity: about  48-60 piecesbakingnight121915-025bakingnight121915-026
Let fully cool.  Store in air tight tins or in baking tins layered with waxed paper and well wrapped.fulleuropevaca-938Just to show you were I bought the cookbook, this is a roadside scene in the WIENERWALD, or the VIENNA WOODS which lie outside of the city of Vienna, Austria.  A magical land where Wiener Vanillekiperl fall out of the sky!!  Now that you have the recipe you don’t have to wait to take a trip to Austria.  Bring Austria to you own kitchen!!!
Glückliches Kochen!
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ZEPPOLE…THE ITALIAN AMERICAN STREET FEAST TREAT, MY STYLE

001The smell of the ItalianAmerican Summer…Zeppole frying in oil..big vats of them…their steam wafting in every direction pulling you closer to the stand.  You are mesmerized by the bobbing of the hand pulled balls of dough sizzling on their sides in the molten oil.  You await, impatiently for the fresh hot balls to be drained.  Then with the deft hands of a master the Zeppolaio places your hot zeppole into a paper bag, brown or white, and adds a blizzard of powdered sugar.  Next they fold the bag and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE and hand it over to you.  Your heart is pounding (isn’t it??) and you reach with childlike anticipation at what’s waiting for you in that little sack.  You reach in and without hesitation bite long and hard on one and for a moment you’re impervious to the scorching heat from the steam that’s scalding your tongue.  Who cares?  It’s worth it. Every blister is worth it soothed by the chilly feel of the powdered sugar with a sweet finish.  Deep breath, of course not with a zeppole by your mouth or you’ll asphyxiate from the sugar dust…deep breath and then another bite, damn it just eat the whole thing.  Now you’re happy.  Sound familiar?  Please don’t tell me this is a unique experience for me, lol.  I KNOW you are with me.  Now just so you know, I like them with powdered sugar which is how most street feast vendors make them, or with granulated sugar which is how many restaurants and home cooks make them.  They are great both ways, infact they are awesome with a pinch of cinnamon in the coarser sugar.  What’s a zeppole anyway?

Well it’s simply a regional Italian term for a type of fried dough THAT IS usually ring shaped or a roundish ball. Zeppole come in many varieties.  This blog will make the one’s similar to the street feasts, but other zeppole contain lemon and ricotta in the dough, some use mostly eggs and pipe it through a bag to create a French cruller like small ring.  That is a more specific type of Zeppole that is cut and filled with Italian pastry cream and topped with an Amarena cherry for March 19th’s  St.Joseph Day. It’s a very Napoletana thing. There are also many savory types of zeppole.  So take away from this that there’s more zeppole than the one you may be used to.  In other parts of the  USA Italian Americans call zeppole by different names, like Pizza Fritta, or Fried Dough.  I’m from NYC so I use our regional term.  Here’s a beautiful tray of zeppole hot out of the fryer at NYC’s San Gennaro Feast:008 Now today is Aug.15, it’s Ferragosto the Italian End of Summer celebration that coincides with the religious FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, or Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The ASSUNTA is a national holiday in Italy and it’s a popular girls’ name.  My great grandmother on my mom’s mom side was named Assunta…006 Assunta Prisco Melito, born in Castelbaronia, Avellino and died in Napoli. My grandma passed this name onto my mom, Assunta Scaramuzzi Battaglia, but she went by Susan as most first generationers did to fit in more in America.  We used to celebrate her NAME DAY each August 15, here’s a picture from the 1976 celebration.0002 A delicious Cassata from Alfonso’s in Staten Island helped make it a festive day!  Zeppole are not specific to Ferragosto but they are fun and celebratory and you CAN make them in you own kitchen in a regular pan.  Here’s how I make them…:

2 CUPS SIFTED FLOUR

1/2 TBS KOSHER SALT

1 1/4 CUP WARM WATER

2 PACKAGE YEAST

SOY, VEGETABLE OR PEANUT OIL at least 1 gallon

2 CUPS POWDERED SUGAR OR GRANULATED SUGAR

In a large stainless steel bowl add the water, salt , and yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for at least 15 minutes. It should be frothy on top by then.  Now add the flour and blend well until all the flour is incorporated.  This is almost a bread dough BUT you are not going to tighten this up or knead the dough.  Cover and let this rise for no less than 2 hours.  You should have a yeasty aroma dough that’s not quite as tight as many bread doughs.  Spongy and sort of loose.  Heat in a deep high sided heavy flameproof pot or cast iron pan (pot better, less chance of oil spillage and the ensuing disaster and/or mess.) and fill 1/2 way with the oil you’ve chosen and place on medium to high heat.  Most feasts use those large soybean oil containers. I use what I have on hand.  When the temp gets up to 350 degrees F, or when you gently place a small ball of the dough into the oil and it immediately starts to sizzle frantically your oil is ready.  Have a tray lined with paper towels ready to receive the hot zeppole.  This recipe should make about 36.  Using a damp hand pinch a small ball of dough and add to the hot oil. repeat until you are almost full in the pot, don’t overcrowd though.  Flip them as they turn golden brownish. When both sides are the same color it’s time to gently remove them using a kitchen spider or similar long handled implement that lets the hot oil drip out.  Remove the finished zeppole to the lined tray.  Now  continue to make more zeppole until you’ve used up all the dough.  Here’s when you need a kitchen assistant, it’s sugar time.  While the zeppole are still hot. add them to a bowl filled with 1/2 of the sugar. Roll the zeppole in batches in the sugar.  THEN in a paper bag, add the rest of the sugar and shake the zeppole  until they are all coated again, certainly you will do that in batches.  If needed, use more sugar. EAT. delicious.

TIPS or SIDE NOTES:  Every pan/pot and stove top are different so..while i’m giving you directions here PLEASE let your common sense guide you.  You may have the oil too hot, or too cool. So you may need to play around till you get the hang of it. PLEASE DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!! If it’s your first time HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE A PRO AT IT?? Be patient and you’ll find your way. As always, have fun cooking!!!

 

 

 

 

 

CANNOLI TIRAMISU’ IN A GLASS OR CUP

0tirpmi Last week I, A FOOD OBSESSION, had my first POP UP Dinner and I hope it’s not my last.  It was an amazing amount of fun, anxiety, great kitchen work, planning and working with some great people.  Through a Facebook food group I’m in, the MERRICK GIRLS WEEKNIGHT RECIPES group, my blog and my posts became known to the owner and chef of a Merrick, Long Island NY restaurant beautifully located on the water, ANCHOR DOWN SEAFOOD BAR AND GRILLE.  Chef Stephen Rosenbluth and his wife Jennifer had the idea to have me come to their restaurant on a Sunday night, create a special menu showcasing my recipes that I would cook with his wonderful kitchen staff and serve to members of the group.  FANTASTIC!!!  It would so much fun meeting all these people I’ve been in the group with for the last 2 years as well.  So I came up with a seafood menu and somehow it just evolved into a celebration of my Sicilian heritage.  Now TIRAMISU is hardly Sicilian.  It’s a Northern Italian creation most likely from the late 60’s -80’s up in the northern province of VENETO.  It’s said to be derived from the more traditional Zuppa Inglese layered dessert once very popular throughout Italy.  Growing up there was no TiraMiSu’, which translates as   PICK ME UP alluding to the Espresso which is the main flavor in the dessert.  I remember Zupp’Inglese as a child but no TiraMiSu’ which is historically correct.  America started seeing this dessert in the early 80’s or so and it took off.  If you tell me that as an ItalianAmerican in the NYC area you knew what Mascarpone Cheese was before the arrival of TiraMiSu in the 80’s i say…i don’t think so.  LOL..  TiraMiSu took over as the standard offering in all the Italian American and Italian restaurants in the USA.  It’s everywhere now.  Some versions good, some not so good.  It’s an Italian Crisp LadyFinger (called SAVOIARDI) layer, soaked in Espresso and sometimes a Liquore, then layered with an egg enriched Mascarpone and Whipped Cream layer, scented with Vanilla.  There’s some unsweetened cocoa dusted over the top and it’s chilled and sets up beautifully.  But let’s get back to what it’s doing here in my Sicilian PopUp.  I thought I’d play on the idea of a traditional Tiramisu but make it SICILIAN and a nice light ending to the meal.  I made a basic cannoli cream and added that to a wine glass. The Savoiardi were only 1/2 dipped into a syrup we made with Espresso, sugar, Marsala, Orange Peel.  All Sicilian flavors. The LadyFinger was place into the cream with the dry end up.  A drizzle of the syrup…a grating of Orange zest and a cherry completed the dessert.  Sicily in a cup…deconstructing a classic Northern dessert.  I think you have the idea now and you will want to make this for a party or dinner.  Let’s make CANNOLI TIRAMISU’!!

for 8 servings…have 8 stemmed glassed

takes..about 5 hours (not because it’s difficult, but the cream should be made at least 5 hours and chilled before making the dessert, overnight is best)

3 cups of drained RICOTTA pressed thru a sieve, or 3 cups of Impastata  Ricotta.

To drain wrap into a cheesecloth and hang over your kitchen faucet with a bowl underneath it.  This is the difference between the texture of Pastry shop Cannoli cream and loose runny homemade cannoli cream.  It’s worth the extra work.

1 drop CINAMMON OIL, or 1 TSP. GROUND CINNAMON

1/4 CUP SEMI SWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS

1 CUP SIFTED CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

1/2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

8 IMPORTED ITALIAN SAVOIARDI (LADY FINGERS)

3 TSP. ORANGE ZEST

8 CHERRIES, GLACE’, CANDIED, or MARASCHINO (DRAINED AND BLOTTED)

Using a mixer beat the cheese till smooth.  Add the cinnamon and the vanilla. Beat till blended in.  Now add the sugar slowly and when all incorporated raise the speed and beat until it’s smooth and no lumps are present.Fold in the Chip.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.

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THE SYRUP

2 CUPS STRONG BLACK ESPRESSO

2 STRIPS ORANGE PEEL

JUICE OF ONE ORANGE

1/2 CUP MARSALA

3/4 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR

WHISK together in a saucepan till the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange peel. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer until it’s reduced by almost 40%.  Let cool.anchordown22816 086

Now add a small amount of the syrup to the bottom of the 8 glasses. Into each glass fill 1/3 of the way with the cannoli cream.  One by one, dip 1/2 of the SAVOIARDI into the Syrup and let the excess run back into the pan.  Now place it into the glass on top of the cream.  When finished with all 8, garnish with a drizzle of the syrup, divide the orange zest over the 8 cups, and add a cherry to finish.anchordown22816 006Now serve!!  It’s a tiramisu’ idea with the flavors of Sicily…who doesn’t love CANNOLI???? The happy diners at the PopUp all enjoyed their desserts.   It was a pleasure cooking with Chef Rosenbluth and staff and a pleasure working with and finally meeting the Girls of the Merrick Girls Weeknight Recipe Facebook Group.  You can find the group and join it on Facebook at :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MerrickGirlsWeekdayRecipies/

And you can dine at ANCHOR DOWN SEAFOOD BAR AND GRILLE in Merrick LI :

http://www.anchordownny.com/

 

Tell Chef Stephen, Jennifer, Chef Jason and Murph, Christian, Bev, and  Megan you read about them on my blog!!!

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PIGNOLI COOKIES, A GIFT FROM SICILY

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Memories taste sweet and one of the sweetest memories I have is of my Mom’s PIGNOLI COOKIES.  Hers were not unique but they were hers and that’s what makes them special. I treasure her recipe box which was really not how she cooked, only certain things were committed to a written recipe.  Her cooking was mostly recipes in her head…I wonder where I get that from.  This was one of her written ones..the PIGNOLI COOKIE which is the GRAND PRIZE if you landed the one or two that are in all ItalianAmerican cookie platters at the end of a special occasion.  Almond paste and Pignoli, the two main ingredients have always been wildly expensive.  Most bakeries today sell them for 29.99-35.00 @ lb. Making them at home is much cheaper, but not cheap.  Here’s Mom’s recipe card:aipignul As with all her written recipes, they are incomplete.  Her philosophy was , if you know how to cook, you can fill in the blanks.  So there you go.  I wanted to make them and went by memory.  Too lazy to look for Mom’s card.  I remembered it right down to the measurements…pretty scary.  I did add 2 other items away from Mom’s recipe, one was 3 tbs. of sifted Unbleached flour and 1/2 tsp. of Pure Vanilla (have we had this talk yet..go to your pantry..if your extract says Imitation, throw it out…buy a bottle of PURE Vanilla. Why are you cooking with fake stuff?  Unless you are baking everyday in big quantities the additional cost of the real item is not a burden.) The flour just helps stabilize the mixture, the vanilla I use in baking like one uses lemon in savory cooking.  It seems to carry the other flavors and enhance them.  That almond essence is just fantastic in these chewy almond macaroons (yeah, they are a form of macaroon).

So what’s the history of this cookie?  Marzipan is a very well loved and used ingredient in European confections, North, Central and Southern.  In Italy the region that Marzipan or PASTA REALE really is King is Sicily.  Certainly the Salento and Puglia have their share of Almond Paste treats, but in Sicily it’s almost a religion.  Almonds are a crop for the region and Sicilians include almonds in both their sweet and savory foods.  No one knows for sure where this pignoli (which is another hallmark of Sicilian cooking) topped almond macaroon came from.  The cookie is also made with slivered almonds on top.  Since all research I’ve read points to Sicily, I’m going with that premise.

Notice 2 things in my pictures that I don’t want you to do.  First is the foil on the baking sheet.  I had no Silpat, no parchment paper.  I improvised with lightly greasing a foil lining. In a pinch it works, but you SHOULD use silpat or Parchment.  The texture will be better.  They are also just a touch darker than they should be.  I received a work related call while I was baking them and that extra 2 minutes in the oven created a crispy sort of bottom.  They should be soft yet browned so, shut your phone off when you are cooking or risk a potential disaster.  Had I not pulled them out when I did they would have become AMARETTI, those toasted almond macaroons, delicious, but not what I was making. Seconds count in cooking and baking!!!

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                         YIELD:  18 COOKIES

8 oz. ALMOND PASTE, cut into small pieces then broken up with a mixer into small pieces

2/3 CUP SUGAR

3 TBS. SIFTED UNBLEACHED FLOUR  (omit this is you are looking for GLUTEN FREE)

2 BEATEN EGG WHITES at ROOM TEMPERATURE

1/2 TSP. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1 CUP PIGNOLI (PINE NUTS)

CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR FOR DUSTING (Check the labels as not all Confectioner’s Sugar is Gluten Free if you are in need of this to be GF, if not, omit)

SILPAT or PARCHMENT PAPER  (Mom used Waxed Paper, but I think Parchment is a better choice)

Let’s start baking.  Pre heat oven to 325 F.  To the already mixed up Almond paste (you can use a food processor too) add the sugar.  Mix well, Then add the flour.  Mix well. Should look like this:pignoli 001 Now add the eggs and vanilla and mix just until the mixture comes together. It will be a sticky dough so don’t be alarmed at that.  It should hold a small ball shape.  Empty the nuts into a bowl.  Now, roll 18 equal sized small balls, i guess a teaspoon full is good.  Eyeball this folks, just keep them equal size. That’s also how things bake properly and at the same time.  Dip one side of the ball into the bowl of Pignoli.  Then place them on the Silpat or Parchment Paper lined baking sheet.  Use heavy baking sheets if you can.  Less chance of burning will occur. When they are all lined up, with room in between place them into the oven on the middle rack.pignoli 002 looking at the foil is killing me.  But, honesty in cooking and blogging so there you go.. DON’T USE FOIL!! Bake them for 15 minutes.  Then place them in the top rack and bake for addition 5 minutes only.  USE YOUR HEADS HERE!! If they look too brown or brown enough don’t do the 5 extra minutes.  Every oven is calibrated differently…so use the common sense adjustment for making these.  Your eyes are your biggest cooking implement.   When you remove them let them sit for 3-4 minutes, then gently transfer them with a spatula to a cooling rack.  Let them cook for 1/2 hour.  pignoli 004  My phone call created those over toasted pignoli on the cookies and the darker ring around the base.  No phone calls.. Let it ring. That’s what voicemail is for.  Now dust them with Confectioner’s Sugar.  pignoli 005  If not serving them right away no sugar dusting until you are serving.  MAKE SURE THEY ARE STORED IN AIR TIGHT CONTAINERS!!!  You will get that wonderful soft and chewy texture then.pignoli 022 Like that!!  Even with my extended accidental baking time they were wonderfully PIGNOLI COOKIE textured.  I can hear my Mom exclaim ” AI’PIGNUL”  spoken as Ai PEENYOOL…dialect Italian…  That makes this blog and recipe much more personal for me, and so, for you too.  You are baking an HEIRLOOM recipe, as much as that overused buzzword can be thrown around, it makes perfect sense here.  With anticipation I would watch my Mom remove the Marzipan (Almond Paste) from the plastic covered tubes (Odense was the brand she used) and steal a chunk or two of it before she continued with the rest of the recipe.  Food memories make for better tasting food.  GRAZIE MOM for this gift, her recipe is like a million others but I have the proof in my hands and her handwriting.  And now I pass it on to you.  Happy Baking!  Happy Eating!!

 

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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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PIZZELLE SANDWICHES FILLED WITH CANNOLI CREAM FOR THE HOLIDAYS

001  PIZZELLES, a crisp, lightly ANISETTE scented wafer cookie that finds it’s way onto many a table of homemade treats at the Christmas Holiday Season.  It’s a great presentation and once you’ve mastered the PIZZELLE MAKER002 technique you can bang these out by the hundreds.  The maker (iron) is essential and if you are a fan of these treats it’s a nice investment.  Very kid friendly  for those holiday family cookie making kitchen events.  Most makers start around 39.99 or so and can be purchased in a single iron or in the double iron (worth the extra money) and can be found on line or in specialty kitchen stores. So what’s the PIZZELLE all about?  It’s Italian and they are made all over Italy today as well as in Italian-American homes.  However, they do have a precise point of origin and that is the ABRUZZO in Central Italy.  The Abruzzo is a region that straddles the North and the South in terms of culinary traditions but I’ve always felt that it favors the South in it’s foodways.  The powerful pagan mixing with Catholic traditions is a driving force in Italy and there is much talk that the pizzelle is a traditional sweet that originally was part of the feast of one of two saints. The cult of San Domenico in Cocullo or the cult of Beato Roberto in Salle both claim the pizzelle.  I’ll go with the San Domenico story because of this:002 You’re not seeing things, apparently S.Domenico is a magnet for snakes (I’m a fan of the cheesy movie SNAKES ON A PLANE too so this is right up my alley) and they are used in the annual Procession of S.Domenico di Sora every May slitthering up and down the statue.  Another example of snakes as the evil serpent and S.Domenico as the one who restored the area to good clean living.  AND..the pizzelle was created to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.  Don’t quote me as this is one of many legends regarding the crispy pizzelle but chances are somewhere in the history books there’s something to how and why they were originated.  The Anisette flavoring which is so popular may not be part of the original flavoring.  That might have simply been a non flavored wafer since there are now ones made with Vanilla, Anisette (my preference), Cinnamon, Lemon, Orange, Chocolate..the usual Italian suspects.  Since I’m giving you a recipe with Anisette, and then giving you a Sicilian cream to fill it with this version clearly is not authentic nor is it Abruzzese but like myself, an Italian-American mix.

Let’s start with the cream, enough to make 25 or so Pizzelle sandwiches.

1 1/3 cups SIEVED RICOTTA (drain it thru a Cheesecloth for at least 5 hours, or find a fresh made type, use whole milk Ricotta, if your Ricotta is thin or loose it will affect the creme and not be suitable for a sandwich between 2 crisp pizzelle.  The way to correct the excess moisture is by sieving it, not difficult, Cheesecloth though is needed)  If you have access to small amounts of IMPASTATA then you are in really good shape, that’s the low moisture Ricotta used by the pros for Cannoli and ravioli but tough

1/2 cup CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

DROP OF CINNAMON OIL, or 1/2 TSP. GOOD GROUND CINNAMON

1/4 TSP. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1 TBS. GOOD SEMI SWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS

Blend everything except the chip till thick.  Then fold in the chips. Chill for at least 3 hours, covered.

For the PIZZELLE..I use the Williams Sonoma recipe with a few tweaks:

FOR 25 PIZZELLE , YOU NEED TO DOUBLE THE RECIPE FOR THE 25 SANDWICHES

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus
    more for brushing
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. ANISETTE EXTRACT (LOOK FOR PURE ANISE EXTRACT ONLY, chocolate, lemon, or orange are also fine to use)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the 8 Tbs. melted butter, the vanilla and lemon zest and whisk until blended.Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour and baking powder. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in two additions, folding each addition just until blended.Heat a pizzelle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Brush lightly with butter and spoon about 1 Tbs. of the batter onto the pizzelle maker. If any batter oozes out, cut it off immediately. Cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until golden brown. Transfer the pizzelle to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Makes about 25 pizzelle.
when the pizzelle are completely cooled, ASSEMBLE right before serving or the wafers will get soggy.  Simply and gently spread no more than 1/8 inch of the creme between the 2 pizzelle.  Dust with extra powdered sugar when serving.  An awesome Holiday /Winter Dessert especially because they evoke fresh twinkling snowflakes.
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You can certainly made as many or as little as you want and only fill some.  The key is to not have a loose filling and not to overfill.

PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOM COOKIES, YOU KNOW, THE ONES WITH THE CHOCOLATE KISS ON TOP

162885_1500720160349_5853202_n   December is here and for many it means COOKIE baking time.  COOKIES and lots of them.  Today (Dec. 4) is National COOKIE DAY so here’s one of my favorites of the season, the PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOM, that sort of chewy (when I don’t over bake them that is) cookie topped with a Chocolate Kiss, ok, no product sponsors on my blog, but they are Hershey’s Kisses. The recipe too is from the Hershey website with just a few tweeks I’ve made, like swapping out the shortening for butter.  I personally don’t use shortening because of it’s Hydrogenated oil processing but that’s up to you.  Unless you are dealing with peanut allergies in the house, these are a great family recipe to make.

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Why do the end of the year Holidays, that time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s bring out the excess?  I guess it’s just a time to shake off the rules you try to live by through the year and have a little fun and celebrate with TONS of cookies…and booze. Again, that’s up to you but there are a few wines that can be paired with Peanut Butter cookies..Port, Banyuls, and Madeira, some nice Mediterranean dessert type wines.  OR, my choice would be a frothy hot chocolate or ice cold glass of milk.  Just some suggestions for that cookie bake swap night you plan on having (or not).

MAKES: about 4 dozen               TIME: 25-30 minutes

  • 48 HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons REAL vanilla extract, please, use the real stuff, not the imitation, The taste difference is huge.
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt
  • Additional granulated sugar(optional)

    LET’S BAKE!!

    1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

    2. Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

    3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

    4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

    That’s it..the use of Shortening, Margarine or Butter will be up to you but the more puffy and cracked looking versions are made with Shortening, just a disclaimer there.  You can see that my butter based ones are a bit flatter. Taste is about the same, although the butter always add better all around flavor.  Margarine I avoid like the plague, I don’t like the product or the taste.

    Hope this satisfies your sweet tooth for National Cookie Day~!!

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