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Join food historian Francine Segan on a lavishly illustrated tour of Italy, with more than one hundred recipes for cookies, cakes, pastries, puddings, frozen confections, and more.
Drawing from all regions of Italy, Dolci collects recipes from grandmas in remote villages as well as hip young bloggers, world-renowned pastry chefs, and small local cafés. Classics like Cannoli and Zuppa Inglese are featured alongside unique regional favorites like Sweet Rosemary and Chocolate Eggplant. Embellished with bits of history and Italian food lore, this cookbook offers new innovations like an “updated” Tiramisù that doesn’t use raw eggs, unexpected frozen delights like Spumone with Homemade Hazelnut Brittle, an award-winning Parmesan Panna Cotta with Pears, and many other irresistible Italian treats.
Rounded out by a chapter on after-dinner drinks, this delectably comprehensive guide offers “a canon of authentic recipes collected from the people who really use them” (The Wall Street Journal).
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Cookies and Bite-Sized Sweets: BISCOTTI E PASTICCINI
ABSURDLY ADDICTIVE HONEY COOKIES: MUSTAZZOLI
UGLY BUT DELICIOUS: BRUTTI MA BUONI
DRUNKEN CROSTINI: CROSTINI UBRIACHI
LEMON-CORNMEAL COOKIES: BISCOTTI DI MELIGA
GLOSSARY OF ITALIAN CHOCOLATE CANDIES
ALMOND BISCOTTI: CANTUCCI
HAZELNUT-CHOCOLATE KISSES: BACI DI DAMA
CHOCOLATE-ALMOND HONEY BARS:
MOSTACCIOLI AL CIOCCOLATO
VANILLA COOKIES: OVIS MOLLIS
VENICE'S CORNMEAL COOKIES: ZALETI
BLACK PEPPER-HONEY BISCOTTI: PEPATELLI
RED WINE RINGS: TARALLUCCI AL VINO
GLOSSARY OF ITALIAN COOKIES
SWEET RICOTTA CRÊPES: DITA DEGLI APOSTOLI
SICILIAN SESAME COOKIES: BISCOTTI REGINA
CHOCOLATE AND JAM "LITTLE MOUTHFULS": BOCCONOTTI
SPIKED RICE PUDDING TREATS: TORTA DEGLI ADDOBBI
CHOCOLATE "SALAMI": SALAME AL CIOCCOLATO
absurdly addictive honey cookies
MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN
Made with just two ingredients — honey and flour — mustazzoli epitomize the fundamental Italian culinary rule that less is more! Honey is the star here, so be sure to pick a dark, dense one with a rich, deep flavor. The famed Antica Dolceria Bonajuto in Modica, where I learned this recipe, uses local Sicilian carob honey, which is Mediumdark in color with a wine-like richness and aroma. Other good choices include buckwheat or prickly pear-cactus honey.
The Sicilians say these cookies "keep you company," meaning that they are so chewy, it takes ages to eat one. They're even given to toddlers as a sort of teething ring.
troppe salse vivande false.
TOO MANY SAUCES RUIN A DISH.
Dark honey, such as carob or buckwheat * 8 ounces/226 grams
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the honey into a bowl, and slowly add in the flour, mixing with your fingers until a dough forms. It will be dense and sticky. Depending on the amount of moisture in the honey you are using, you may need to add more flour.
Coat your hands with flour. Gently, using your palms, roll the dough right on the baking sheet into a log about 13 inches (33 centimeters) long and 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) thick. If the dough comes apart, just roll it into a ball and reconnect the parts; working from the center, slowly roll it out into a log shape. The heat of your hands helps to warm the honey, which acts like glue for the flour.
Cut the log, on an angle, into 1 ¼-inch (3-centimeter) sections. Don't try To completely separate the sections at this point — the dough is too sticky. Or, if you prefer, you can separate the sections and form them into little swirled S-shapes, as shown in the photo on page 10.
Bake for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden and no longer sticky. Put the cookies on a rack to cool and dry. They can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for several months.
ugly but delicious
Brutti ma buoni
MAKES 1 DOZEN
REGION: Piedmont, with versions throughout northern Italy
Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, these "ugly" cookies are so good that almost every region of Italy has its own version. Feel free to substitute almonds or walnuts for the hazelnuts, if you like. In some parts of Italy the batter may include a little grated orange peel, a bit of vanilla, or pinch of cinnamon.
gallina vecchia fa buon brodo.
AN OLD HEN MAKES GOOD BROTH.
Chopped hazelnuts * 1 ½ cups (6 ounces/170 grams)
Preheat the oven to 280°F (140°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Grind the hazelnuts and sugar in a mini food processor to a sandlike consistency. Don't overgrind or you'll create hazelnut butter.
In a small bowl, using a whisk or electric hand-mixer, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form.
Put the hazelnut-sugar mixture in a medium saucepan and fold in the egg whites. Cook over very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until thick. Remove from the heat and let the batter stand for 10 minutes.
Drop tablespoon-size dollops of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until dry to the touch. Cool on a rack. These can be stored in an airtight container for one month.
SERVES 8 TO 10
Like bread and chocolate, but boozy! Toasted baguette slices are dipped in melted chocolate that's been seasoned with espresso, rum, and liqueur. Then they're topped with more melted chocolate and almonds. Leave it to the Italians to create a wonderful nobake, no-fuss, rich, chocolatey dessert from day-old bread.
tre cose mantengono la salute: pane di ieri, carne d'oggi, e vino d'un anno.
THREE THINGS FOR GOOD HEALTH: YESTERDAY'S BREAD, TODAY'S MEAT, AND LAST YEAR'S WINE.
Milk chocolate * 5 ounces/140 grams, chopped Dark chocolate * 4 ounces/115 grams, chopped Hot espresso or coffee * ¾ cup (6 fluid ounces/180 milliliters)
Put 3 ounces (85 grams) of the milk chocolate and 1 ounce (30 grams) of the dark chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and add the hot espresso. Stir until the chocolate melts. Add sugar, rum, and liqueur to taste, and stir to combine. Let cool completely. Dip the toasted bread slices into the chocolate mixture, being sure to coat both sides, then place on a platter or other work surface and let rest for 1 hour so they can absorb the chocolate mixture.
Combine the remaining 2 ounces (55 grams) milk chocolate and 3 ounces (85 grams) dark chocolate in a small bowl and melt it, either in a microwave oven or over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir in the almonds until well combined, then spoon the mixture onto the crostini. Transfer the crostini to a serving platter and garnish with a generous sprinkle of chopped almonds.
Biscotti di meliga
MAKES 2 TO 3 DOZEN
In the Piedmontese dialect, meliga means "cornmeal" — and it is cornmeal that gives these cookies a rustic chewiness. The lemon adds a sophisticated bright, fresh tang. They are the quintessential cookies of Italy's northern regions and can be made in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
pane di villano rustico ma sano.
PEASANT BREAD: RUSTIC BUT HEALTHY.
Fine-ground cornmeal * 1 cup (5 ounces/140 grams)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine the cornmeal, flour, and butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt and process until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it for 1 to 2 minutes; the dough will be dense and sticky.
Working in batches, put the dough in a cookie press and press out simple onepart shapes onto the prepared baking sheets. Alternatively, put flattened teaspoon-sized mounds of dough on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake for about 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookies, until just lightly golden at the edges. Let cool to room temperature on the parchment paper on wire racks. (If you try to remove them from the parchment paper before they are cool, they may crumble.) The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.
glossary of italian chocolate candies
Italy has a rich tradition of chocolate making, from internationally famous brands to small artisanal chocolatiers. Here is a brief list of some favorites:
BACI: The world-renowned "kisses" were first created by the Perugina company in the 1920s. Baci have a hazelnut ganache center, which is topped with a whole hazelnut and coated in dark chocolate. They are wrapped in silver and blue foil and have a message or poem inside.
CREMINI: These "little creams" are small squares of creamy chocolate with three layers of flavors: usually a layer of dark, a layer of milk, and a layer of hazelnut chocolate. These come in other flavors as well.
GIANDUIOTTI: Little creamy chocolate-hazelnut candies, shaped like an upside-down canoe and wrapped in foil. They were first created in Piedmont in the mid-1800s. The name comes from Gianduja, a popular Piedmont Carnival character.
MON CHERI: A liqueur-filled dark chocolate candy with a whole cherry in the center. Mon Cheri candies were launched in 1956 by the Ferrero chocolate company, which is based in the city of Alba in Piedmont.
NAPOLITAINS: Small squares of individually wrapped chocolate, either milk, dark, or white, napolitains are often served with espresso in Italy, especially in Piedmont. Northern Italians either melt it right into the espresso creating a quick mocha coffee or nibble it as they sip. They are a perfect size for tastings, and many Italian chocolate companies create them to showcase single-origin chocolates and chocolates of varying cocoa solids percentages.
NOCCIOLATO: Specialty chocolate bar topped with whole Italian hazelnuts.
ROCHER: A round chocolate candy filled with creamy chocolate, crisp wafer, and a whole hazelnut, covered with milk chocolate and finely chopped hazelnuts, made by Ferrero.
MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN
REGION: Tuscany; first created in Siena, but now popular throughout Italy
I've taste-tested dozens of cantucci recipes, and this is my absolute favorite. The dough is very easy to work with and the cookies come out perfect every time. One key to the great flavor is the addition of vin santo, Tuscany's famed golden-amber dessert wine, which provides a nice aroma and a subtle fruity balance. Another is the touch of honey, which keeps the cantucci wonderfully moist.
nella botte piccola c'è il vino buono.
GOOD WINE COMES IN SMALL BARRELS.
00 flour * 3 cups (13½ ounces/385 grams)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, honey, whole eggs, egg yolks, butter, baking powder, vin santo, and salt. Using your hands, knead until a dough forms, then knead in the almonds. The dough should be a little sticky; if it's too moist, add a little extra flour.
Divide the dough into 3 portions and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Using wet hands, mold each portion into a log about 10 inches (25 centimeters) long and 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide. Don't worry about it being perfect — the dough will even out as it bakes. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from the oven but keep the oven on. Let the logs rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. While still hot, working directly on the baking sheet, cut the logs on the diagonal into slices about ¾ inches (2 centimeters) thick, using a sharp knife and one firm cut. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet and return them to the oven to bake for about 5 minutes, until light golden. Cool on wire racks. The biscotti can be stored in an airtight container for several months.
UN ALTRO MODO
Orange Cantucci: Add 2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced candied orange peel when you add the almonds to the dough.
Chocolate Cantucci: Add a small handful of chopped dark chocolate or mini dark chocolate chips when you add the almonds to the dough.
Anything-Goes Cantucci: Add a few tablespoons of chopped dried fruit — like dates, apricots, or figs — and substitute a different nut for the almonds, or omit the nuts.
corsini, traditional tuscan bakers
When I last visited Tuscany, I tried lots of the region's sweets, including cantucci, panforte, ricciardelli, and pandesanti. Almost invariably, when I found an especially delicious example and asked who made it, I was told, "Corsini." I had to track down the company that made so many of my favorite Tuscan cookies! As it turns out, it's not so much a company as it is a family: a man and his four sons, who manage a little factory so picturesque, so idyllic, I found it hard to believe it was real. The factory is really more like a series of small bake shops, each staffed by a small group of people dedicated to producing a different sweet. In one room, workers take two-hour shifts carefully picking out almonds not quite beautiful enough to feature in the Corsini cantucci. (The rejects, still sound but perhaps a little misshapen, are ground up and used in other products.) The factory's quaintness and the personal touches like this that can be seen throughout the operation are all the more surprising since Corsini is a very big name in Europe. The company's sweets are found throughout Italy, and their teatime cookies are among the most popular brands in England. Corsini even makes the biscotti for European Starbucks.
This small factory is part of the tiny Tuscan hilltop town of Castel del Piano, which is surrounded by pristine rustic countryside that could've emerged, shaded in deep greens and umber, from a da Vinci painting. It's the same town where Ubaldo Corsini first started working at his father's bread shop, established in 1921. After his father, Corrado Corsini, passed away in 1957, Ubaldo took over. At the time he was just eighteen, but he made the most of the business. Ubaldo loved all sweets. After he took over the bakery, he slowly incorporated more and more sweet breads and different kinds of cookies, and eventually chose to focus exclusively on sweets. As soon as his sons were old enough and showed an interest in helping him, they worked together to grow the company. And grow it did: The business has increased twenty-fold.
Ubaldo, still president of the company, claims he's twelve pounds (5.5 kilograms) overweight because he's the "official taste-tester."
"Like many typical Italian families," Ubaldo says, "we don't know where the family ends and the business begins."
Baci di dama
MAKES ABOUT 3 DOZEN
A dab of rich dark chocolate sandwiched between two buttery hazelnut domes, this Little kiss of a cookie, aptly named baci di dama, which means "a lady's kisses," will melt in your mouth. The simple four-ingredient dough comes together right in the food processor.
dammi mille baci, poi cento, poi mille altri, poi ancora cento ...
GIVE ME A THOUSAND KISSES, THEN A HUNDRED, THEN A THOUSAND MORE, AND ANOTHER HUNDRED ... — GAIUS VALERIUS CATULLUS, ROMAN POET (1ST CENTURY B.C.)
Whole blanched hazelnuts * 7/8 cup (3½ ounces/100 grams), oven toasted Sugar * ½ cup (3½ ounces/100 grams)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine the hazelnuts and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the remaining sugar, sift in the flour, and process until well combined. Add the butter and pulse until combined. The dough will be a dense mass. Divide the dough in half, shape into disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until very firm and cold.
Unwrap one disk of dough (leave the other in the refrigerator so it stays cold). Pinch off a teaspoonful of the dough and roll it into a small ball, about the size of a hazelnut, a little less than ½ inch (12 millimeters) in diameter. Occasionally flour your hands so the dough doesn't get too sticky as it warms in your hands. (The key to nicely rounded cookies is a fairly dry dough.) Place the balls on a prepared baking sheet at least 2 inches (5 centimeters) apart. Put the filled baking sheet in the refrigerator while you repeat with the second disk of dough. Be sure to make an even number of balls, as you'll need two to make one baci.
When both cookie sheets are filled, bake for about 13 minutes, until just light golden. Keeping the cookies on the parchment paper, slide them off the baking sheets and onto a cool surface to stop them from cooking further. Let them cool to room temperature before filling.
Put the chocolate in a small bowl and melt it, either in a microwave oven or over a saucepan of gently simmering water. To make the kisses, put a dollop of chocolate on the flat side (the side that had been touching the baking sheet) of one cookie and then make a sandwich by pressing another cookie onto the chocolate. Repeat with all the cookies. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for several weeks.
UN ALTRO MODO
Chocolate-Chocolate Baci di Dama: Substitute 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder for 2 tablespoons of the flour when you make the dough.
Excerpted from "Dolci: Italy's Sweets"
Copyright © 2011 Francine Segan.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
NOTES ON THE RECIPES,
CHAPTER 1 COOKIES AND BITE-SIZED SWEETS: BISCOTTI E PASTICCINI,
CHAPTER 2 CAKES AND SWEET BREADS: TORTE E PANE DOLCE,
CHAPTER 3 REFRIGERATOR CAKES: TORTE FREDDE,
CHAPTER 4 PIES: CROSTATE,
CHAPTER 5 FREEZER DESSERTS: SEMIFREDDI E GRANITE,
CHAPTER 6 SPOON SWEETS: DOLCI AL CUCCHIAIO,
CHAPTER 7 WEIRD AND WONDERFUL, UNIQUE AND UNUSUAL DESSERTS: DOLCI PARTICOLARI,
CHAPTER 8 HOLIDAY TRADITIONS: LE FESTE,
CHAPTER 9 AFTER-DINNER BEVERAGES: BEVANDE DOPO CENA,
CHAPTER 10 BASICS,
ITALIAN SWEETS MAKERS,
ONLINE SOURCES FOR INGREDIENTS,