It’s Like Being at Grandma’s House – Italian Style

Welcome to Italian Baking 101.

People!  Many of the recipes I am sharing here with you are family recipes from Italian Nonnas of the people who run this Italian cooking show.

THIS IS THE REAL DEAL.

Yes. This counts several times towards my #365daysofbaking. Why? Cause I baked several different things in Italy.

Booyah.

You know what I love about the baking we did?? A few versatile doughs, a whole bunch of different outcomes.

Dough one was biscotti dough with dried fruits.

BISCOTTI

INGREDIENTS

2 CUPS FLOUR SIFTED
1 1/2 TSP BAKING POWDER
3/4 CUP SUGAR
4 OZ BUTTER ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 1/2 TSP GRATED LEMON RIND
2 EGGS
3/4 CUP PISTACHIOS, PREFERRED (OR WALNUTS)
2/3 HEAPING CUP DRIED CRANBERRIES PREFERRED (OR DRIED CHERRIES OR RAISINS)
1 TSP VANILLA

DIRECTIONS

  • Combine flour with baking powder and set aside.
  • Blend butter and sugar with mixer till mixture is creamy.
  • Add eggs and lemon to sugar and butter and continue to mix for another minute scraping side of bowl.
  • Add flour mixture and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add cranberries and pistachios.
  • Once your batter is blended form two logs approximately 2 inches wide and 3/4 high and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 325*F for 30-35 minutes. Oven temps may vary so check that biscotti do not get too browned.
  • Cool for 5-10 minutes then cut biscotti into finger width size and let cool. Enjoy!

**If you want that crispy biscotti, I believe our chef, Valerio, said to bake it after sliced an additional 10 minutes, or so.

 

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We made two loaves – one baked once, and then one baked, sliced, and baked again until crispy, as most people associate with biscotti.

Me? Baked only once and sliced, please.

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The ones in front were twice baked and worthy of dunking in coffee, and the ones in the back were only baked once – slightly crispy, slightly chewy. Still dunk-worthy. Fully delicious. These became part of our snacks and morning coffee all week.

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See the little cookies above? Those are one of the many things we made from Pasta Frolla:

PASTA FROLLA (Shortbread)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 WHOLE EGGS+2EGG YOLKS
  • 500G ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
  • 200G BUTTER
  • 200G SUGAR
  • drop vanilla extract
  • 1 LEMON – GRATED ZEST

Classic pastafrolla:

  • In a large mixing bowl, place flour and sugar. Stir well to mix ingredients.
  • Cut in the butter to the dry ingredients in bowl until mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.
  • Add eggs, vanilla and zest and mix until well blended.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly. Form dough into a flat disk.
  • Place disk in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for about an hour ( dough can be kept in refrigerator overnight.)
  • When ready to make tart shells or line dough in pie plate for crostata, remove dough from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until softened and ready for rolling.

Whipped pastafrolla:

  • Put sugar and butter in mixer and beat with kneader paddle. Work until smooth, then add eggs and mix again for 2 minutes.
  • Add a drop of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.
  • Add flour and mix until it comes together, your dough is ready to be worked.

Note here, we don’t have cooking instructions, AKA the length of time to cook. If you want cookies, then cut into desired shapes, and like any good Nonna, bake until it looks and smells done??? I think I’m an Italian Nonna at heart, but if you’re not, I get it. I’ll check on the times…

I’m going to have to write them about this one…Chef Valerio mighta just been taking a few too many nips when he wrote out this recipe. Can’t say I blame the dude. If I had to deal with a buncha crazy North American ladies every week… albiet, we were all quite pretty to look at, we all know we’re just a lil’ off our rockers. Chef Valerio was easy on the eyes – as you can see in the videos – but by the end of the week, we all knew each other well enough to know even he mighta been a wee off his own rocker.

We made several other stupidly amazing treats from this same shortbread dough:

An OMG AMAZING jam tart:

Fill a pie/tart pan with this shortbread dough, then put in your favorite jam, get all fancy with the lattice top (or not…zero judgement here), and bake. Again, on the time… I don’t have a clue…Going to guess similar to a regular pie (60ish minutes??) For the pie tartlets, probably more like 25-30 minutes-ish.

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We didn’t stop there with the Pasta Frolla. Who says less is more? When it comes to baking…Idiots say less is more, that’s who. We also made these chocolate hazelnut shortbread cookies. AKA Nutella filled.

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But the Italians make a chocolate hazelnut creme that might make Nutella seem like something you scraped off the bottom of your shoe after walking through a geese-terd infested park.

Now you know my thoughts on Nutella.

I’m the girl who schleps this kinda shit home in her luggage. I’ll wrap this kinda stuff in my nicest dress. I can get another dress here at home. I cannot this gift from the Italian food gods State-side.

To make the above cookies, you simply use two different concentric rings – cutting the interior  out of one layer. Bake the rings on top of one another, then when cool fill with Nutella (gross) or the Italian goodness above, which, for the record – they will ship…

Want to know Chef Valerio’s advise on filling the chocolate hazelnut shortbread cookie?

What do you do with the interior ring of the top layer? Look at the plate with the biscotti above… those lil’ shortbread cuties are the cookies you can make from the leftover inside ring.


The Italian delight we made was Pizzelles

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PIZZELLE INGREDIENTS

  • 1 STICK (4 OUNCES) BUTTER, MELTED
  • 1  CUP VEGETABLE OIL (USE LIQUID MEASURING CUP IF POSSIBLE)
  • 2  CUPS SUGAR
  • 12 LARGE EGGS (TRY TO USE LARGE EGGS OR ELSE FLOUR QUANTITY WILL HAVE TO BE ADJUSTED)
  • 2 SHOTS OF LIQUOR ( EITHER SAMBUCCA, WHISKEY, ANNISETTE, OR LEMONCELLO)
  • 2 lemons grated rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons anise extract (not oil)
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed (optional)
  • 8-9 cups flour (start with 8, and add flour as needed to get to the right consistency)
  • 4 TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Beat eggs for a few minutes.
  • Add sugar and mix well.
  • Add oil and melted butter and mix again
  • Add liquor, vanilla, anise extract and lemon rind and mix.
  • Put 4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon into 3 cups of flour and stir.
  • Then add about 4 more cups of flour to mixture and stir.
  • Then, add flour to egg mixture gradually stirring as you go along.
  • CHECK dough texture before adding additional ONE CUP of additional flour.
  • TEXTURE IS THAT YOU CAN DROP TEASPOON OF DOUGH SLIDING IT ONTO CENTER OF PIZZELLE IRON WITH OTHER TEASPOON.
  • If dough is too runny to slide off spoon then need to add more flour (possible another cup to make it 8 cups in all or even a little more than the total of 8 cups of original recipe).
  • Wipe interior of iron with damp cloth to clean. Dry with towel.
  • Put some vegetable oil on paper toweling and apply to inside (upper and lower) of pizzelle iron so dough won’t stick.
  • PREHEAT IRON for 15 minutes before making pizzelle.
  • You may have to experiment with a couple of pizzelle to check for time on how long to bake them (try 45 seconds-to a minute) Adjust accordingly. Cool on cookie sheet. When cooled, you can stack pizzelle and store in container covering ith aluminum foil to keep crisp.
  • After making pizzelle, cool iron completely. Wipe with damp cloth or paper towel. Wipe exterior. Then put a piece of parchment paper inside the iron. Store away.

Look at how little dough goes on the iron. Also note that she is dipping the spoon into a bit of oil before so the dough slides off.


Aside from the pièce de résistance of the cannolis, these lil’ cookies below were my favorite all week. Come the Italian fuck on… a cookie that is MEANT to be dunked in your friggin’ wine…YASSSS!

We absolutely cannot be friends if you don’t think this is one of the best things ev-va!

I’ll admit, when these first came out of the oven, I thought to myself Meh. They’re decent. But as the cookie set over the next few days, the flavor developed, and I was eating these like they were my vitamins. These cookies are meant to be very crispy, and are great with coffee and WINE! Who am I kidding, these fuckin’ lil’ cookies are good with anything. Can you tell I adored them!?

Yeah, if you go by looks alone, they’re pretty plain Jane. But, don’t we all know not to judge books by their covers by now? It’s like the ole’ saying, “It’s the quiet ones, ya’ know.”

If you pass by this cookie on looks alone, well, my now un-friend, you are simply a fool.

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CIAMBELLE AL VINO (Wine Cookies)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg (8 CUPS) OF ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
  • 400 gr (2 CUPS) OF SUGAR
  • 3,5 dl (1 and 1/2 CUPS) OF WHITE WINE
  • 3,5 dl (1 and 1/2 CUPS) OF OIL (I FIND OLIVE OIL TOO STRONG OF A FLAVOR)
  • 80 gr (3 TABLESPOONS) ANISE SEEDS
  • 2 TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER
  • 1 PINCH SEA SALT

DIRECTIONS

  • On a large board or counter top, start by making a large mound using 8 cups of flour, the sugar, anise seeds, and baking powder and salt.
  • Make a well in the center, and begin to add the wine and the oil, mixing as you go along.
  • Continue in this manner, adding more flour as needed until all the liquid ingredients have been used.
  • Knead for a few minutes until smooth. The dough should resemble stiff bread dough.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and begin to shape the cookies.
  • Break off a small piece, and roll it into a 1 1⁄2 inch thick rope about 7-8 inches long. Join the ends to form a ring shape. The cookies should be about 3-4 inches across.
  • Dip the tops in the sugar, and place on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for a bout 30 minutes or until light golden brown.
  • Cool well before storing. These cookies keep well in a tightly closed container, but I like to freeze half which works out well.


ANNNNNNDDDDD for the pièce de résistance….

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CANNOLI SICILIANI

INGREDIENTS

Cannoli Shells:

  • 250G OO FLOUR/ALL PURPOSE 30G SUGAR
  • 1 TSP SALT
  • CINNAMON
  • 1 MEDIUM SIZE EGG
  • 50G LARD/SHORTENING
  • 1/4 DI CUP:WHITE WINE 50%+RUM50%

Cannoli Filling:

  • RICOTTA
  • CHOCOLATE CHIPS
  • CANDIED FRUIT
  • SUGAR
  • LIMONCELLO

DIRECTIONS: Cannoli Shells

  • In large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  • Add lard and egg(s) to the dry ingredients in bowl.
  • Add the white wine and rum mixture a little at a time until the dough begins to form and is workable. If necessary, use more wine if dough is too dry.
  • Knead dough on a well floured board until smooth and elastic.
  • Roll dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator for about an hour
  • Roll out the dough to about 1/8″ thickness or use pasta machine.
  • Cut dough into 4″ circles. Wrap circle of dough loosely around cannoli form. Seal the overlapping edge of dough with a little water or beaten egg white before placing in hot oil to fry.
  • Fry shells in a pan of deep oil a few at a time until lightly golden (about 3-4 minutes).
  • Remove shells from pan. Cool slightly and carefully remove the fried cannoli shell  from the tube.
  • Cool shells completely before filling. Can keep shells in a well covered container for up to a week.

 

DIRECTIONS: Cannoli Filling

Place well drained ricotta limoncello and vanilla in mixing bowl. Add sugar (a little cinnamon, if desired) and beat together until blended. Add to the ricotta mixture (according to personal preference) mini chocolate chips or candied fruit and stir in to incorporate.

Stuff the cannoli shells with the filling usung a pastry bag or a snipped off corner of a plastic bag and decorate the ends with either a candied cherry half or crushed almonds or crushed pistachios. Try to fill the shells close to the time of serving in order to maintain the crispiness of the shell. A couple of hours in the the refrigerator should be fine.

Want the good chef’s advise on how to fill a cannoli? Watch below.

 

After lunch, which our gorgeous kitchen Nonnas made for us – mushroom and spinach risotto (we could have stopped there), and what I’ll call Italian chicken cordon blu – we got to eat our dressed up cannolis.

Now, can’t lie here… our cappuccino served in a Moscow Mule mug threw us for a bit of a loop, but who are we to say no. See how pretty this dressed up cannoli is? I’d say almost too good to eat, but then…yeah. No. I ate it.

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Yet again, we got another version of an aperitif. This time I tried blueberry something. The green stuff was a creamy pistachio diesel fuel. I chose the dark blueberry diesel fuel. We all winced this go round.

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Thumbnail of hands image credit

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