I love glitter during the holidays. It's the dark days that make me add sparkle to the home. It's one of the few times during the year that I end my days with shining sugars. Below is sugar in all its glory - in a creamy-smooth cookie, a chocolate "salami" roll and a delicate pignoli cookie.
Whenever I direct a show, I often find some place for a character to throw glitter into the light. At the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream
I always had the fairies exit leaving glitter in their wake as they bless the home of Theseus and Hippolyta. The visual enchants. I am sympathetic to those who vacuum the theatre after me. They must hate me. Glitter clings. Glitter does not go darkly into that good night.
It's payback time. Paul and I brought home a glittery garland for the stairs. The glitter is everywhere - on the cat, in my hair but somehow as we approach the solstice - I don't mind.
And then there's the sparkling sugar. It too is everywhere. I really should get a handle on that. I am not a cookie-froster. I put sparkle sugar on most cookies before baking and call it a day. These Italian knot cookies do not need sugar. They're brightened by the citrus. They offer a buttery rich, creamy, melt-away glimpse of all good things. But a little extra sugar glistens. 'tis the season to glisten.
Italian Knot Cookie Recipe - makes 24 cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- zest of half an orange
- juice of half an orange
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two baking pans. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Cream butter. Add sugar and mix well. Add zest and orange juice and beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Add flour mixture slowly and mix well.
If dough is too sticky, put in plastic and refrigerate for an hour (mine wasn't). Pinch off two-inch pieces of dough. Form into a ball and then roll into a rope - about eight inches long. Form a lose knot with the rope. Place on baking pan separating them by 1-1/2 inches. Sugar-glitter if using.
Bake for fifteen minutes. (Just as the edges start to turn brown.) Can cool in pan. If icing, brush with confectioner's icing while warm.
On Facebook, I posted that I was making "chocolate salami." "Yuck" were some of the replies. And my answer to that is, "Oh ye, of little faith."
I have wanted to make chocolate salami for years but all the recipes included raw eggs - that were never cooked or even warmed. Even though my eggs are organic, I thought it risky. Looking through an old Tastes of Italia
Magazine, I found this recipe. Dark chocolate and almonds. I increased the cocoa (and used good cocoa) and the almond bits.
The result is a rich confection not unlike a Perugina Dark Chocolate and Almond bar
. (An unfortunate habit I picked up years ago in Europe that continues today. It's definitely worth the calories.) As is this not-so-yucky chocolate "salami" roll.
Use the best quality cocoa you can afford. The cocoa can make or break this dish. This recipe was adapted from Tastes of Italia
. Prepare this the day before so it can set in the fridge over night.
Chocolate Log Ingredients
8 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
2 tablespoons butter, softened (can use Earth Balance soy butter)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
6 ounces crushed amaretto cookies (for a recipe, click here
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup crushed almonds (put sliced almonds in a baggie and crush with a mallet)
5 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar for finishing
Chocolate Log Preparation
In a large bow combine crushed amaretti cookies, crushed almonds, amaretto and almond extract. Mix well.
Put your chocolate, butter, sugar and cocoa on the top of a double boiler.
Under gently simmering water, stir until melted.
Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the crushed cookie mixture. Mix well.
If the mixture seems too dry, add a few drops of water.
Put the cookie mixture onto a large piece of wax paper and form into a log (about 2 inches high and 12-14 inches long).
Cover log well with wax paper (tape it if necessary).
Put the chocolate log into the refrigerator and let it sit over night.
When ready to serve, put chocolate log onto a plate and sift powdered sugar over it.
Slice into 1 inch rounds and serve.
I used Sharffen Berger
cocoa. It is pricey but periodically goes on sale.
If you don't want intense sugar and are feeling a wee bit nutty, you cannot go wrong with a pignoli cookie. Airy, delicate and addicting. It doesn't sparkle. It gleans. Their one drawback is - they don't keep very well. So sorry, you'll need to eat them within a day or two. It's a hardship, but you can do it. We finished these the day they were baked.
The dough is very sticky but having lopsided cookies is part of their charm! Enjoy them with coffee or espresso. It's like taking a break in a small cafe in Italy.
Pignoli Cookie Recipe - makes 15 2-inch cookies or 30 1-inch cookies
1 8-oz jar of almond paste (do not use the tubes - the almond paste has a different consistency)
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 confectioners sugar
3 egg whites (1 egg white separated)
1 cup pignoli nuts
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Foil and really grease your baking sheet. (The cookies work better in a baking pan without edges.) Cream your almond paste and granulated sugar. Add the confectioners sugar and 2 egg whites. Beat till smooth. Dough will be very wet and sticky. Some people refrigerate it to make it easier to form into cookies. I grease and flour my hands and go to work.
Pour pignoli nuts in bowl. Whisk your egg white in a bowl. Do grease and flour your hands. Pull off 1-2 inch piece of dough. Roll in beaten egg white and then in pignoli nuts. Put on greased pan. Cookies will spread so put them 2 inches apart. Repeat till all the dough is used.
Bake 15-30 minutes (my large ones took 18 minutes) till edges are browned. Do not let the cookie brown. It will become hard and crisp and pignoli cookies should be pliable and chewy.
We also ate our vegetables. In the most delectable ways.
Bagna Cauda with vegetables - coming soon.
Marinated vegetable antipasto platter - coming soon.
I just finished a ten-minute play and am in the midst of editing. Mythajawabi takes place on the Staten Island Ferry and is an odd, modern retelling of Ulysses and the sirens. I have no idea where in the dark recesses of my brain that came from. I will be getting it out tomorrow and putting it on my website. I dwell in the land of sugar, glitter and myth adaptation. As always - happily making deadline, but need to offer thanks for glittering sweetnesses that came my way.
Quay Po Cooks
left me this lovely award. She has a delightful blog and writes from her heart. I do hope you visit her - you will find something tasty waiting.
As someone who's never been particularly stylish, this gave me a huge smile. Thank-you so much!
Mom Chef tests recipes from magazines - and magazines I love. She gives an honest take of the level of difficulty of the recipe as well as evaluations from her and her family (which often vary). I do hope you visit these bloggers and get to know them.
You are of course supposed to pick bloggers and pass it on - but after years of directing and having to "pick" actors for plays, I don't have the heart to choose. Especially in this heart-felt season. As is my habit, if you are a follower, please pick up the award if you desire. It is my thanks for you spending time with me in this season of "never enough time."
And bake a cookie. End the winter solstice with a touch of glittery-sweetness.