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My grandmother came from Campania, Italy. At the age of 15 with her husband, my grandfather, never to see her parents again she started a new life in America. She was the inspiration for all of us, as a perfect roll model, a grandmother, and for passing down the wonderful dishes she prepared and baked. On her little white sideboard she made the most beautiful biscotti. She was a perfectionist and her creations were rewarded by all of her family leaving her table totally satisfied and letting her know it. Luckily she also loved to teach us with great patients.
We never knew the names of the dishes she made because I guess we just never asked. We just ate, enjoyed and left everything else up to her. The date and cherry stuffed cookies I’ve just named Assunta’s Italian Stuffed Biscotti. I remember them as a child and luckily my mother had the foresight to write down many of her recipes. Today we are able to recreate some of the goodness she brought with her from Italy in 1912 and remember her.
I like to save these biscotti for special occasions because their elegance is truly fitting for those special moments. I make them for family gatherings and think they are a nice summer biscotti because of the ingredients of dates; pineapple, Maraschino cherries and walnuts. They make a very pretty summer cookie tray.
Assunta’s Italian Stuffed Biscotti
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes @ 375º F
Yield: 10 dozen
5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 orange, juice and zest
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 pound pitted dates, chopped
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup Maraschino cherries, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
Confectionary Sugar Frosting
Yield: 3 dozen
1 cup confectionary sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons milk
2 drops of lemon juice
2 drops of extract (of your choice)
Sprinkles or jimmies (optional)
Food coloring (optional)
Prepare the dough by mixing the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the eggs, shortening and remaining wet ingredients into the flour. Combine all the ingredients and form it into a ball. This can be done in a food processor or by hand. The dough will be soft. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Cook the chopped dates in water and lemon juice until they are soft; about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and let it cool. Add the chopped cherries, crushed pineapple and chopped nuts. Set aside.
Roll the dough in long strips similar to a strudel; about 15” x 4 1/2”. Place the dough on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Place the filling in the center and overlap, tucking the seam under.
Bake at 375º F for 12-15 minutes. Let the loaves cool.
Add lemon juice and extract to the confectionary sugar. Slowly add in the milk until all confectionary sugar is mixed in and frosting is smooth. It should not be too thin or it will drip off the cookies and dry transparent. The frosting should be thick enough so that it sits on the top of the cookie, some can dribble down the sides if that is the look you want.
APPLYING THE FROSTING
Frost the top of the loaves. Candy sprinkles should be added immediately after the frosting if desired. Place frosted loaves on counter or flat surface until frosting has hardened. Another option is to dust the cookies with confectionary sugar after you have cut them.