Tag: dessert

Amaretti Cookies (Macaroons)

Amaretti Cookies (Macaroons)

(Above: Italian Sugar Cookies. These almond cookies are brittle and crunchy and look great served in a Nora Fleming napkin holder/candy dish with a Nora Fleming hand-painted snowman charm.)

One of my favorite cookies are amaretti. I usually buy them once a year around the holidays. I never knew how easy they are to make — they only have three ingredients — until I stumbled upon the recipe in the Artusi.

 

Cookies on a floured board
These cookies only have three ingredients: almonds, egg whites and confectioners sugar. This recipe makes about 48 small cookies.

 

The Artusi is the classic Italian cookbook first published in 1891 by Pellegrino Artusi, a prosperous Italian silk merchant who collected recipes from homemakers he met during his travels all over Italy. If you want a truly authentic cookbook with recipes from the north and south of Italy that Italians still use today, get this one (the hardcover is available on Amazon).

 

Almonds, sugar, egg whites
It’s hard to believe that these cookies only require three simple ingredients.

 

Although the book is very popular in Italy — it has gone through 111 printings and most homes there have it — it wasn’t translated into English until 1996. (Full disclosure: My father and I had talked about working together to publish an English version but never got around to it.)

 

Dough rolled into the shape of a snake
Once you roll the dough into the shape of a snake, cut small pieces to make each cookie. Don’t worry that they’re too small. This dough rises in the oven creating a larger cookie.

 

The recipes are authentic and have probably been passed down through generations for hundreds and hundreds of years. Most are pretty easy and simple to make too, making them perfect for Rootsliving. However, they often refer to old techniques that I figured out could be performed quicker and easier using modern methods and in some cases, modern machines.

 

Cookies before being put in the oven
Be careful when forming these cookies. Any irregularities will be exaggerated as the cookies expand while cooking them.

 

Such is the case with this recipe that called for crushing the almonds with a mortar and pestle. I tried that the first time I made them but it was very labor intensive so the next time I made them, I used a food processor and there was no difference.

 

Cookie dough in food processor
Using a food processor, rather than a mortar and pestle is much easier and faster.

 

While making these a few times following the recipe in the Artusi, I found it necessary to make some other adjustments too:

  1. I floured a pastry board so the dough wouldn’t stick to the pastry board when I rolled it into a snake shape.
  2. And I greased (with Crisco shortening) and floured a cookie sheet before putting the cookies on it for baking. In fact, I recommend putting a good layer of grease on the cookie sheet before you flour it. One of my cookie sheets wasn’t greased enough. The cookies stuck to it and broke when I tried to remove them.

 

Cookies on a baking sheet
Be sure to grease the baking sheet well because these suckers like to stick.

 

The end result are amaretti cookies that are a little different than the ones you can get in Italian speciality stories in the U.S. The main difference is the consistency. They are even more brittle than the crunchy store-bought variety.

I liked them better but still thought they might be improved by adding an ounce or two of Amaretto liquor.  So the next time I made them I tried that and determined that just a little bit of Amaretto, about one or two tablespoons, gave them a little better, stronger, flavor.  The difference was small and so this is completely optional.

 

Cookies on a plate
The recipe in the Artusi called for making 30 cookies but I made them a little smaller and got 48. I find that most people today find it hard to commit to a larger cookie and are more apt to pick up and eat a small one (or two, or three).

 

The main thing to remember is to use only a small amount of the dough (about one teaspoon) to form each cookie. Roll the dough between your hands to form a small ball and then press down on it slightly, but don’t flatten it out. And be sure to give each cookie enough space to expand on the cookie sheet.

One batch I made, I used too much dough for each cookie, flattened them too much, and put them too close to one another on the cookie sheet. The result looked like one big cookie. Everything was stuck together. It tasted great but the presentation was awful. I also whipped the egg whites in that batch until they were stiff although I’m not sure if that caused some of this problem. What I am sure of is that you don’t need to whip the egg whites.

This is a simple recipe and my recommendation is don’t try to make it more complicated.

Here’s the (slightly altered) recipe from the Artusi:

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Amaretti (Macaroons) (From the Artusi)

December 7, 2018
: 48 cookies
: 1 hr 30 min
: Easy, but you need to be careful

By:

Ingredients
  • Almonds (1 1/2 cups, plus 1/8 cup)
  • Egg whites (2)
  • Confectioners sugar (3 cups)
  • (Optional: Amaretto liquor, 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Flour (for dusting)
  • Shortening (to grease cookie sheets)
  • (Optional equipment: Food processor)
Directions
  • Step 1 Put almonds in a food processor with one of the egg whites and process until fine (about 10-20 seconds).
  • Step 2 Dump mixture into a large bowl (add the optional Amaretto if you’re using it) and mix in half of the sugar with your hand.
  • Step 3 Add half an egg white and stir with your hands. Add the rest of the sugar and stir with your hands. Add the remaining egg white and mix with your hands.
  • Step 4 Grease two cookie sheets and flour them by sprinkling flour on them and dumping the flour out so that both sheets are completely covered in flour. Be sure to put a good layer of shortening on the cookie sheets before sprinkling the flour because these cookies like to stick.
  • Step 5 Roll dough into the shape of a snake on a lightly floured board. Cut the snake into small pieces. Roll those pieces into a ball in your hands and then press down on them slightly before putting them on a greased cookie sheet. (Note: Take care to round the cookie edges because any irregularities will be enhanced when the cookies rise and expand while cooking.)
  • Step 6 Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven.
Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.”  

My friend Antoinette (who was born in Italy and is one of the best cooks I know) brought these to my house for a dinner party. They’re so good, it’s hard to stop eating them. And then when she told me how easy and fast they are to make I had to try it.

 

Nutella on a wonton wrapper and a spoon
All you need is a 1/4 teaspoon of Nutella for each cookie, maybe even a little less.

 

These cookies can be made well in advance. The cookies come out crunchy and sweet. And it’s very hard to stop eating them.

With only three ingredients — wonton wrappers, Nutella, and vegetable oil — these are a breeze to make. You put a dab of Nutella in the middle of a wonton wrapper and then fold it over so you have a triangle. Then you press down on the edges, being sure to get any air bubbles out.

 

A jar of nutella and some uncooked cookies.
Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread, very popular in Italy.

 

Some other recipes recommend sealing the edges with a beaten egg, but I found this wasn’t necessary. I also suggest making up a bunch of these before you start deep frying because the frying goes very quickly and you need to pay attention so that the cookies don’t burn.

 

Nutella cookies frying
Pour about 1/2 inch of oil in a good frying pan and don’t take your eyes of the cookies.

 

Be sure to control the heat too. You don’t want the oil to start smoking. If you see it start to do that quickly turn down the heat or even remove the pan from the flame (if you’re cooking with gas). You want the oil to remain clean and you want the cookies to be lightly brown.

 

Nutella cookies draining on a paper towel.
Transfer the cookies from the frying pan to a plate lined with a paper napkin so they can drain.

 

One final note: I always believed there were many similarities and/or opportunities to blend Italian cooking with Chinese cooking and this recipe proves it.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

September 20, 2018
: Easy

You can make these at a moment's notice and are great to bring to a party. Just be sure to keep a close eye on them so they don't burn.

By:

Ingredients
  • Nutella (buy a small jar)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vegetable oil
Directions
  • Step 1 Put a dab of Nutella (less than a teaspoon will do) into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper over so that it creates a triangle. Press down the edges until they stick.
  • Step 2 Heat about an inch or so of vegetable oil over high heat in a good skillet (I used a cast iron skillet).
  • Step 3 Drop three or four wonton cookies into the oil and cook on each side for about 30 seconds or less (just until light golden brown). Remove cookies to a plate lined with paper towels so the oil can drain.
  • Step 4 Put cookies on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over both sides. I used a sieve to sprinkle the sugar evenly.

 

La Tourte de Blettes: A Pie for Dinner or Dessert

La Tourte de Blettes: A Pie for Dinner or Dessert

(Above: La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie. But don’t let that fool you. This can be served as a sweet dessert or the main course for a light supper.)

Here’s a savory sweet pastry from our Southern France meal plan. I made this from a recipe card I picked up in the market in St. Remy last summer. Although there was an English translation, it wasn’t that good and so I had to figure out a few things, including the conversion of some measurements from grams to ounces.

Apple, swiss chard pie, without top crust
The torte before the top layer of dough was put on.

I also used a 10-inch round springform pan instead of an 11 x 8 x 1 inch tart pan (who has one of those?) and so there was leftover dough to make a few apple turnovers.

Brush in milk bowl

(APPLE TURNOVER BONUS: If you have left over dough, simply roll it out. On one half, add peeled and sliced apples with some brown sugar, cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a slice of butter. Roll over other half of dough to cover apples. Seal edges. Brush with cream or milk. Prick with fork to create several steam holes and cook in a 350 oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Makes a nice after-school or after-work snack).

Although the mixture of ingredients may sound strange — mixing swiss chard with raisins and parmesan cheese — they work well together to create a dish that can be served as a main course with a salad or as a dessert. It’s a sweet and savory tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations.

LA TOURTE DE BLETTES

February 6, 2013
: Difficult

By:

Ingredients
  • For the pastry dough:
  • Flour (About 4 1/2 cups)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Sugar (2/3 cup)
  • Butter (2 sticks or 8 oz. of softened butter)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Water (About 1/2 cup or a little more
  • just enough to make the dough)
  • For the filling:
  • Swiss chard (1 bunch or about a dozen large leaves)
  • Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup, grated)
  • Brown Sugar (3/4 cup)
  • Golden Raisins (4 oz., I used regular dark raisins but the recipe calls for light golden ones)
  • Marc or Grappa (Just enough to cover the raisins to marinate them.)
  • Olive oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Pine nuts (4 oz.)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Apples (about 1-2 large, peeled and sliced)
  • Powered sugar (just enough to dust the torte after it’s cooked).
Directions
  • Step 1 Combine all of the ingredients for the pastry dough in a small bowl, adding the water a little bit at a time at the end until most of the flour and ingredients are absorbed and a good ball of dough is formed.
  • Step 2 Turn out the ball of dough onto a floured board and knead several times until the ingredients are mixed well and a smooth dough is formed. Form a ball with the dough, put it back in the bowl, cover with a towel and put in a cool place (the refrigerator is a good spot). Let rest about an hour.
  • Step 3 Soak the raisins in either Marc or Grappa in a small bowl. Let rest about an hour.
  • Step 4 Wash the swiss chard and strip it from its stem (you can throw out the stems or save for another day). An easy way to do this is to make your hand like a cat’s claw and drag the stem between your forefinger and middle finger. Boil swiss chard in a covered pot for just a few minutes. Take it out. Drain well and chop it. Place it in a bowl.
  • Step 5 Drain the raisins and add to the bowl with the swiss chard. Add all other filling ingredients, except for the apples and powdered sugar, and mix well.
  • Step 6 Butter your tart tin or springform pan.
  • Step 7 Cut pastry dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one of the pieces on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it’s flat (about 1/4 inch thick). Cut dough to fit your tart tin or springform pan with some dough coming up the sides. Press the bottom and sides of the pan with the dough.
  • Step 8 Add the filling. Top with the peeled and sliced apples.
  • Step 9 Roll out the remaining piece of dough. Place it ontop being careful to seal the ends by pinching it all around. Take a fork and prick the top so that steam can escape while it cooks.
  • Step 10 Place in a 350 oven until golden. This took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check it from time to time to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Step 11 Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar.

 

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

 

Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)

 


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:

 

First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.

 

Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta

 

Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.

 

If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce

 

And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)

 

Chocolate Kahlua Rum Balls

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.”  

This is what we call “Rootliving Sugar Plums.”

Real sugar plums have nothing to do with the fruit. Instead, they’re an English hard candy that was named after the fruit because of it’s size and shape. So we figure ours have just as much right to appropriate the name, maybe even more, especially when you think of your head spinning with visions of them.

 

Rum balls in a snowman dish

(Above: That’s a Nora Fleming hand-painted snowman charm on a Nora Fleming napkin holder/candy dish.)

 

These devilish treats will have your head spinning with visions because you don’t cook them so the alcohol doesn’t burn off. Beware: they pack a potent punch (and aren’t fit for children).

They’re easy to make, making them a good last-minute gift for friends and family. You simply melt some chocolate and add rum and Kahlua (and a few other baking ingredients). And then you add that mixture to some crumbled vanilla wafers and chopped walnuts. Roll them into balls and coat with sugar.

 

Rum balls on a cookie sheet

 

They should also be refrigerated overnight. They’ll keep for about five days in the fridge. Get the complete recipe below.

 

 

Santa ornament with rum balls
These are easy and quick to make. However, you’ll want them to rest in the refrigerator overnight before eating.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Chocolate Kahlua Rum Balls

December 23, 2010
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup of dark rum
  • 1/4 cup of Kahlua
  • 5 cups of finely crushed vanilla wafer cookies (about 11 ounces)
  • 2 cups of finely chopped walnuts
Directions
  • Step 1 Stir chocolate in top of a double boiler set over simmering water until melted. Or microwave on high for about 45 seconds at at time, stir, and repeat until fully melted.
  • Step 2 Whisk in 1 cup of sugar and the corn syrup, then the rum and Kahlua.
  • Step 3 Mix the vanilla wafers and the walnuts in a bowl and blend.
  • Step 4 Add the chocolate mixture and stir to blend well.
  • Step 5 Place remaining 1 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl. For each ball, roll a teaspoon of the chocolate mixture into a 1-inch ball.
  • Step 6 Roll the balls in sugar to coat evenly.
  • Step 7 Cover and refrigerate at least overnight and up to five days.

Christmas Befana Cookies

Christmas Befana Cookies

(Above: My grandmother’s recipe makes about 200 cookies. Here, I cut the recipe in half.)

 

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.”  

La Befana is an old woman who visits children in Italy on Jan. 6 in celebration of the Epiphany. Similar to Santa Claus, she enters their homes through the chimney in order to deliver gifts.

A bowl filled with wet and dry cookie ingredients
This recipe is pretty easy as you just dump all of the cookie dough ingredients in a bowl and stir.

 

Small towns throughout Italy celebrate her arrival each year, including Barga, in northern Italy, near where my family is from. Many people from Scotland have settled in this area and this year the local school put on an outdoor show, featuring Father Christmas and La Befana.

 

Cookies on a sheet before they're baked
The egg white in the red mixture makes the filling expand in the oven.

 

My grandmother used cookie cutters shaped like the four suits on playing cards. When I made these all I had was the spade cutter, which I used along with a star-shaped cookie cutter. Since then, I was able to purchase on the secondary market the other suit-shaped cookie cutters.)

 

Cookies on a sheet right out of the oven
Fresh out of the oven. You have to watch these so they don’t burn.

 

My grandmother, Bruna, made these Befana cookies every Christmas. Requiring 8 cups of flour, her recipe made enough of these biscuit-like treats to last well past Valentine’s Day. Here, I’ve cut her recipe in half, which still makes about 100 cookies.

 

Santa Claus with Befana cookies and milk
Ha! Even Santa celebrates La Befana.

 

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays.” )

Christmas Befana Cookies

December 16, 2009
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • For the cookie:
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • Skin of 1/2 orange, grated
  • Skin of 1/2 lemon, grated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Milk, just enough to work with (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup)
  • Crisco shortening (enough to grease a few cookie sheets)
  • For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup of almonds
  • Sugar (1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup)
  • Skin of 1/2 orange, grated
  • Skin of 1/2 lemon, grated
  • Vanilla (1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/2 ounce of Anisette or Whiskey
  • 1 drop of red food coloring
  • 1/16 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 egg white (beaten until foamy)
Directions
  • Step 1 To make the cookie dough: Put all cookie ingredients in a bowl and stir well to blend ingredients.
  • Step 2 Put flour over your hands and over a flat surface. Take dough from bowl and knead a few times until all ingredients are blended well.
  • Step 3 Take large chunks of the dough and roll it out on a floured surface with a rolling pin covered with flour. Roll it out to about 1/4-inch thickness.
  • Step 4 Grease a couple of cookie sheets by spreading Crisco shortening over them and then flouring them.
  • Step 5 Take your cookie cutters and cut out cookies. Put on a greased baking sheet and with your index finger, make a small indentation in each one (This is where the filling will go.)
  • Step 6 To make the filling: Put almonds and sugar in a food processor and mix until very fine. Empty into a small bowl.
  • Step 7 Add the rest of the filling ingredients, except for the egg white, and mix well. Then fold in the egg white.
  • Step 8 Put a small drop of the filling on each cookie and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the cookies turn a dark golden brown on the bottom. (Note: You only need about a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of filling for each cookie as the egg white makes the mixture expand during cooking.) (Warning: If the cookies are too thin, they will cook quickly and could burn if you don’t watch them.)
  • Step 9 Let them cool on a rack and bake the rest in batches.