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During the Christmas Holidays, Italians present Panettone to friends and neighbors as Christmas greetings. Stores and markets are stacked with colorful boxes of Panettone and restaurants have baskets filled with Panettone cups wrapped in colorful foil to give to their customers. We shop at a market in Como where they are baking Panettone day in and day out trying to keep up with the demand. It has become so popular that today you can find it year round, however not in the quantities seen during Christmas.
We have often received so many boxes of Panettone that we couldn’t possibly consume all of it. I freeze it and also make French toast, but my favorite is Panettone bread pudding. I use to make it the day after Christmas for a dessert, but I like to make homemade Panettone, so we now have it whenever I am into the mood to make it.
Panettone is eaten at anytime of the day and also with a glass of wine after dinner.
Panettone would make a great Christmas or New Years Day dessert.
Panettone Bread Pudding
Cook Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour @ 350 degrees F.
Yield: 8 Servings
6 cups homemade or store bought Panettone
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons Whiskey
1 cup confectionery sugar
1 1/4 sticks butter, softened (2 tablespoons for greasing the baking dish)
Other Things Needed
8” x 8” baking dish
In bowl beat the eggs, milk, cream, sugar and the vanilla extract and set it aside.
Grease the baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter. Remove any dark sections of the Panettone and discard them. Cut the Panettone into square chunks and put them into the baking dish. Pour the custard over the top and move it gently around making sure that all the chunks are covered with the mixture. Place it in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight. It is very important that it has absorbed the custard otherwise the inside of the Panettone will be dry.
Place the pudding in the middle of the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. After 45 minutes test it with a skewer, if it comes out dry and the top is a golden brown it is done. You might have to cook it for another 10-15 minutes.
Cool to room temperature before cutting.
Melt the butter and the confectionary sugar in a double boiler continually stirring. Remove from the heat and add whisky. You can use Amaretto if you prefer, but if you don’t want to use alcohol, serve it warm with crème anglais.
Keep the Panettone bread pudding refrigerated.
Note: You can also add chocolate bits and/or roasted almonds to the pudding.
Past Holiday Post Gift Ideas
Ciliegie Sotto Spirito
Crocante con Mandorle
My grandmother would make biscotti for days before Christmas and hide them in an armoire in her front hall under lock and key. If she allowed any of us to get close to them, they would have disappeared long before Christmas. But if we asked her nicely, she never said no. She took the key out of her apron pocket and unlocked that treasure chest filled with sweet, spiced biscotti and handed you some of your favorites.
She had a small white sideboard with a roll-down top. Here she made all her biscotti and that sideboard was our first stop when we entered her kitchen. We could never understand how so many wonderful desserts could be prepared on such a small surface. When I was young I remember her cooking on a black iron stove and blocks of ice being delivered for her wooden icebox. She was in her element even through she wore herself out during holidays. Her family showed their appreciation by filling her home with all their kids in a flurry of noise feasting on all her specialties made with a strong dash of pride. The variety of cookies, cakes, stuffed artichokes, pasta and breads, that came from that kitchen was like being in Grandma’s Christmas Wonderland. We all loved and looked forward to these holiday reunions.
The tradition continues with members of our family preparing their favorite biscotti for events such as wedding, showers and holidays. Every child in our family begins to take part in this tradition at an early age. You don’t have to encourage them, as they can’t wait to get their little hands in all of that dough. It is a way to bond with the kids and make them part of a family tradition. We know that future generations will enjoy these recipes and get to know a little about Grandma and our heritage.
An Italian family can have many versions of the same biscotti and every person takes great pride in their recipe. Pizzetts are a family recipe that is used on almost every tray we make. Pizzette are a double chocolate biscotti scented with spices, roasted almonds, orange zest, expresso and chocolate chips. They are the star attractions on our cookie trays for Christmas and every special event. You can make these cookies in advance and freeze them for up to 2 months unfrosted.
My Christmas greeting to all my readers and let me know if pizzettes are on your Christmas dessert table.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes @ 375ºF
Yield: 4 Dozen
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup roasted almonds, cut in half
4 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate. chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground clove
2 teaspoons baking powder
Zest of one orange
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup warm water, orange juice or coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn sryup
2-3 tablespoons Brandy or Cointreau, Grand Marnier or tablespoon Kahlua
Mix the cocoa powder into the water or juice. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl including the nuts, add orange zest, almonds and chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and the water cocoa mixture. Slightly beat the liquid while in the center well and begin to bring in the dry ingredients (you may have to add a little more liquid if it is too dry). Gradually add vegetable oil to form the dough. You may need to wet your hands with oil. The Dough will be thick and will have an oily glaze. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut small portions and roll out the dough in the form of a cylinder. Pat down the top and cut into 1” slices on a diagonal to form a diamond shape. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 375º F for 8-10 minutes. Do not over-bake the cookies as they will be become dry and hard.
Melt the chocolate with the butter over a double boiler or in a microwave oven. Add the liquor a little at a time. Taste and add more if needed. The original recipe did not include liquor and is fantastic just with the chocolate, butter and a little syrup.
Frost the cookies when they are completely cool.
You ask, what could be more decadent, and I say absolutely nothing. Cartellate are traditionally made during Christmas. They are traditional Pulgiese fried pastries filled with roasted almonds, honey, spices and chocolate.
Apuglia is a peninsula that forms the heel of the “boot” of Italy and has had many conquerors. The Greeks, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Argonese, Spanish, the German emperors, Burbons, Turks, Venetians and more. Referred to as a melting pot – each left their mark on the region. You can see the influences in the clusters of white stucco flat roofed dwellings. But the influences of these cultures are also evident in the food and none more then Cartellate.
I have eaten many Cartellate in Puglia. I can honestly say my aunt’s recipe is the best. She came from Peschici, Foggia and called them “Cluster”. Cartellate is dough mixed with wine, formed into a wagon wheel shape and fried. The pockets in the wheel are the receptacles for honey or mosto cotto (a syrup made from fruits or grape skins), spices, nuts and chocolate.
The Cluster I have had in Puglia are delicious and the syrup is mostly made with honey or mosto cotto mixed with lemon zest and walnuts. Some have no nuts and might have a sent of cinnamon. My aunt Rafaela filled hers with roasted almonds, chocolate, spices both cinnamon and clove melted in honey. The combination is positively addicting.
In earlier times my family only made them at Christmas, but as time passed and the love of cartellate overtook us, we began to make them the star of our Thanksgiving desserts. They were never included in the “Torta di Biscotto di Nozze” trays for weddings as they are usually dripping with honey, but today we also make a separate tray of cartellate for weddings.
These cookies are a labor of love and not easy to make, but the good news is that you can place the shells in a brown paper bag and keep some for Christmas. I make the filling and store it in a glass container so that they are ready to fill and take center stage with the rest of our Christmas biscotti. The only problem is that having them around until Christmas challenges your will power.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 5 minutes each
Yield: 30 Cookies
2 1/2 lbs. flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 jigger of Sherry or Marsala
Tepid water to mix
1 quart Canola or peanut oil
48 oz. honey
1 lb. roasted almonds, cut in half
12 lb. dark chocolate chips, good quality
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cloves, or to taste
Put all the dry ingredients together in a bowl or on a board, and make a well in the middle. Put in the shortening, eggs, Sherry or Marsala and, if needed a little warm water. Mix until you are able to form a ball. Knead until the dough is smooth and place it in the refrigerator for about 1 hour covered with plastic wrap. You can also mix the dough in a food processor but add the almonds in by hand.
If you have a pasta machine, you can roll out the dough to its second to the last level, or you may roll out a piece with a rolling pin as thinly as possible. Using a pastry cutter with a fluted edge, cut strips out about 2” wide and 8” long. Holding the dough at one end, begin to pinch the dough about 3/4 inch apart, creating small pockets along the strip. Bring the dough around from one end crimping the dough together pinching it along the strip to form a circle. These pockets will hold the filling. The cookie looks like a cartwheel, which is the definition of “Cartellate” The cluster cookie should be about 4” round; however they can be made whatever size you want them to be.
Secure the ends with a toothpick so that they will not unravel during frying. You can keep them overnight and fry them the next day. This is important because you don’t want them to puff up too much closing the pockets during frying. Otherwise they will need at least 4 hours drying time.
Fry a few at a time in hot oil. Remove when they turn a deep golden color. Allow the shells to drain on paper towels or on a rack. Remove the toothpicks and fill them or place them in a paper bag or box until you are ready to fill them.
To make the filling, melt all of the ingredients together in a saucepan, taste for seasoning and place in the refrigerator. The filling will get hard, but will stay in the shells better if somewhat cool.
Start by placing a tablespoon of filling in each cluster cookie. When this step has been completed, go back and keep filling each cookie until you have used all the filling.
The filled cookies will stay a week or more. If you want to make the cookies in advance, place them in a paper bag and they will stay for several days to a month. Never store them in a sealed container or wrap them with plastic wrap.
One of my friends on Foodbuzz was looking for ideas on how to use Ficoco, which is fig jam with cocoa. Sugar was expensive so many desserts were made with jams or mosto cotto (grape syrup) to sweeten cakes, cookies etc. Itlians have many jam or fruit filled cookies that ficoco would be perfect for, in fact figs were also used to make mosto cotto.
I have several stuffed cookie recipes that we make and one is “Ravioli Dolci”. This cookie is a recipe from Apuglia. Ravioli Dolci is a fried cookie that does not have a long shelf life, in fact this is best eaten the day they are made.
Ravioli Dolci di Puglia
Prep Time: 1 1/4 hours
Cook Time: 1 second per batch, about 3 at a time
Yield: 26 Dozen
8 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shortening
1 shot glass of Marsala wine
Warm water, as needed
Canola or peanut oil for frying
8 oz. size bottle of honey or mosto cotto
1 lb. roasted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 lb. chocolate or chocolate chips, chopped
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Ground cloves, to taste
A teaspoon of any variety of jam or Ficoco.
In a pan on medium heat, melt all of the ingredients together, taste for seasoning and place it in the refrigerator.
Put all the dry ingredients together in a bowl or on a board and make a well in the middle. Put in the shortening, wine and if needed a little warm water. Mix until you can form the dough. Knead until the dough is smooth and place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. You can also mix the dough in a food processor.
If you have a pasta machine, you can roll out the dough to the second to the last level. Or you may roll a thin layer of dough with a rolling pin. With a round cookie cutter, cut circles about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place a small amount of jam or of the roasted almond honey mixture with the tip of a teaspoon in the center of each circle. Fold over like a half moon and crimp the edges with a fork.
In a deep pan filled with oil, fry about 3 at a time until they are golden brown. They turn brown very quickly; only about a second per batch.
Allow them to cool and sprinkle confectionary sugar over the top.
A traditional sweet bread made at Christmas time, panettone was created in the Lombardy region of Italy and is the undisputable holiday favorite. Scholars have traced panettone back to the middle ages. The dome shaped sweet bread is traditionally made with candied fruits, zest and flavored with liquors. Today you can find it with chocolate chips and other ingredients. It is less like a cake then light fluffy sweet bread. The use of natural yeast results in a dough that rises slowly. The rising time can be as long as 48 hours. The long leavening contributes to the long shelf life, which can be as long as 6 months. Italian bakers take pride in the age of their leavening and some are maintained over many years.
It is eaten in Italy with a glass of white wine and in earlier time generally served as a dessert. Panettone is recognized in Italy as a very special greeting gesture of the Christmas season. Restaurants and shops offer panettone to their customers as a Christmas greeting and they can be found in all bakeries and markets in all sizes. At Christmas time you can be overwhelmed with gifts of panettone and I often use them to make panettone bread pudding or French toast for my overnight guests and I also freeze it. Panettone has become so popular that you can find it year round not just in Italy but all over the world.
They are baked in greased paper molds, which is removed like a cupcake. The greased paper molds help to maintain their freshness. The molds are available on Internet sites as well as metal panettone pans. The disposable molds are traditional and I prefer them to the pans. Usually packaged in brightly decorated boxes or colored decorated foils in blue and red – they are stacked high in markets.
We make panettone in smaller paper molds similar to cupcake cups but larger, and individually wrap them in cello wrap. We sell them as wedding favors, for parties and business conference breaks. Make them yourself and give them as Christmas gifts to special friends and family.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: Yield: 375ºF for 35-45 minutes
Yield: 12 Panettone cups
2 1/4 teaspoons. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 pinch of sugar
4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cups raisins, soaked in dry Marsala, rum or brandy for 30 minutes
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup candied fruit, mix with a tablespoon of flour
1 orange zest
1 lemon zest
1 teaspoon flour, to mix with the zest
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoons water
Combine the yeast, pinch of sugar and water and mix well to dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for about 10 minutes in a warm place such as the oven to activate. When foam appears on the top of the water, the yeast has been activated.
Put the flour, sugar, salt, butter and eggs in the large bowl of an electric mixer or food processor. Mix the dough with the dough hook at low speed. Add the yeast mixture slowly. When all the ingredients are incorporated, increase to medium speed or until the dough forms a ball.
Spread a little flour in a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free place to rise for 4 hours. It should double in volume. Remove the dough and knead it for 5 minutes and return it to the bowl. Cover and let it rise again until it has doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Strain the raisins and press down on them to remove the liquid. Lightly flour the work surface. Punch down the dough and make a large circle with your hands. Sprinkle the raisins, candied fruit, orange peel and lemon peel over the dough. Fold the dough over the mixture and knead it lightly until all of the ingredients have been incorporated. If you are adding the citron and/or zest, mix with the flour and add it to the dough.
Divide the dough into 12 round equally sized balls, approximately 4 1/2 ounces each. Butter each of the panettone cups lightly and place a ball in each cup. Cut a cross into the top with a knife. If using scissors make a small cut in both directions on the top or each ball of dough. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle some almond slices over the top. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for another 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until it has doubled in volume again.
Preheat the oven to 375º F. Bake the panettoni for 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Allow them to cool on a wire rack. In this case we don’t have cups and we are cooking several cups.
Note: The Panettone can be made in one or two molds to make a larger cake. They are wonderful gifts as they have a long life and can be beautifully packaged.
Everything in Italy has a story and this is no different. Chiacchiere means to chat in Italian. Because I never stopped talking as a kid, my grandmother would always say to me “chiacchiere, chiacchiere, chiacchiere” – meaning chatter, chatter, chatter. When you eat ciacchiere they crackle and crunch as you bite into the fragile, crispy fried pastry making a lot of noise, spreading crumbs all over the place and sprinkling you with confectionary sugar. They are eaten once a year, preceding Lent. Chiacchiere encourages chain eating.
The Venice Carnevale takes place at the end of February and is the most famous in Europe. Carnevale is celebrated with colorful festivals all over Italy. Masquerade balls, entertainment, music, spectacular papier–mâché floats and of course “dolci traditionali di Carnevale”. This deleciate cookie is referred to as ”Fritelle de Carnevale”.
I have found about 17 names so far for this cookie. Chiacchiere is the name used in the region of Lombardy, Cenci in Campania, Frappe in Emilia Romana, Crostoli in Venezia. They are also called Bugle, Strappole, Lattughe to name but a few regional variations. So what is in a name? It is as important as the recipe and those of us who adore this cookie can easily get into a heated discussion about its origins and its name. But the fun part is resolving it with a glass of white wine and a bowl full of Cenci. Like every Italian family, our recipe came from my grandmother, who was born in Avellino, (Campania, Italy). She called them Cenci.
Our version of this cookie preparation is made of strips of sweet dough cut into various shapes and fried in hot oil. They are dusted with powdered sugar once they are cool. They can be formed in a bow, or tied in a knot, or flat pieces of dough fried crispy. Every region, village and family tends to have its own recipe. Some recipes call for Marsala, Grappa or white wine mixed into dough. Some are made with yeast-others not.
Chiacchiere is a tradition at Christmas time in our family and the kids plead to be allowed to help with cutting and creating the bows. I find rolling out the dough with a pasta machine works very well. The dough should be very thin and cut into strips with a pastry cutter. I make a small cut in the middle, take one end and pull it through the hole creating a bow.
Many countries have their version of a fried sweet cookie. In Switzerland they are eaten from December to February and are called “Fasnachtchüechli” or “Chnöiblätz” (dough stretched over the knee). Fasnacht is also carnival in Switzerland.
Enjoy my family recipe, but be careful they are addictive.
Prep Time: 1 hour 12 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes each or until golden
Yield: 6 Dozen
4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup confectionary sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound butter
2 tablespoon of Whiskey, Brandy, Sherry or Sweet Marsala wine
4 medium eggs, beaten
1 quart oil for frying (Canola oil or peanut oil)
Cream the eggs and butter together. Add the alcohol of your choice and blend. Sift the flour, sugar and salt and slowly add it into the egg mixture. Form the dough and knead until it is smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Thinly roll out the dough. With a cookie cutter, cut the strips about 3” x 5” long. Make another cut in the center of the strip, about 1”, and pull one end of the dough through the cut forming a bow.
In a deep fryer, place a few cookies at a time in hot oil and fry until they puff up and become golden brown. Place them on paper towels to drain or on a cake rack placed over a cookie sheet with a rim. This allows any additional oil to drain out of the cookie.
Once completely cooled, place a few cookies in a bag filled with confectionary sugar and gently toss them, coating them with the sugar.
Store in a paper bag. They will get soggy if they are stored in a sealed container.