Monday, December 20, 2010

All that glitters is sugar

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!
And from The Mom Chef, I received this.
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.


Sandra said...

Everything looks so beautiful! Just Lovely!

FOODESSA said...

I could only wonder if my skirt would fit better if I were to have to devour those pignoli cookies within 2 days?!? LOL

Sugar, sparkles and faires...they're all aspects of cheerful happy moments to be had out of our ordinary day to day...I can handle that.

Salami chocolate log and Amaretto liquor at the same time...mummm...bring it on. Book marked!!!

Thank you for your festive, enthusiastic spirit Claudia :)

Happy Holidays going forward and flavourful wishes,

Mister Meatball said...

A chocolate salami -- now I've seen everything!

Next year add a little peperoncino and it'll be a hot chocolate salami!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I've always loved those salamis and I like the fact that yours doesn't include raw egg. Re: pignoli cookies - i found that freezing them keeps them from turning rock solid. I just thaw them out a little before serving (although sometimes I can't wait and will eat them cold and hard from the freezer).

Island Vittles said...

I love looking at everyone's Christmas baking...I just made some Danish twists today that almost match your Italian Knots -- except these twists are deep fried. Yum!

And I seriously question the sanity of anyone who says "Yuck" when presented with a chocolate salami. Perhaps the stress of the holidays has put them over the edge. Theresa

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

What a wonderful cookie I have had them at my Aunts house, such a delight! I am with you on the glitter... all that glitters is so warming and peaceful so full of christmas love it! Love pignoli nuts! Everything sings of Italian tradition here, love this post, as I wish you and yours all the best this holiday season and a journey of happiness in 2011~ thanks for all your support my foodie friend...loving everything you do its been a pleasure blogging with you this year and I will look forward to the new year with you :) xxxooo

La Bella Cooks said...

A chocolate salami sounds like it would be the best of both worlds all in one! ha ha. I definitely need to make a stop at your house this season with all the lovely things you are baking up.

Jeannie said...

Three recipes in one posting, I am impressed! I sometimes take a couple of days just to finish a posting lol! Love the glitters too but cleaning up is hard I know...chocolate salami? mmmm...I'll have a slice please....Happy Holidays!

linda said...

I viewed your site for the first time and noticed the recipe for pignoli cookie-they are my absolute favorite cookie! I used to get them in an Italian bakery. I finally found a recipe for them in Saveur magazine. You mention almond paste in a jar-do you have a source? The only paste I have found is in a tube, not even a can.

Claudia said...

Linda: I get my jarred almond paste at the local grocery - which is amazing because I live in MN and this is not "Italian country." I know you can get it online. You can use the tube paste but I was told it was not as thick so results will differ,

Claudia said...

Ciao Chow Linda: thanks for the freezing tip.I am making a batch tomorrow and I will freeze for Christmas Day. Much appreciated.

art is in the kitchen said...

Wow! What a feast! A veritable Italian table where good food always abounds! I particularly like the chocolate log. So rich and delightful, reminds me of the panforte. Complimenti! Bravissima Claudia!

Kristen said...

All of your cookies and treats look so festive. I appreciate that you are another non cookie decorator. Pass me the sparkle sugar!

Kirsten Lindquist said...

WOW! Chocolate salami, sign me up! Thanks so much for sharing, I have never heard of this, but can't wait to try it!

chow and chatter said...

wow you make the best cookies and love glitter :-)

Magic of Spice said...

I love glitter too...and I love the colored sugar sprinkled on Christmas cookies, reminds me of childhood :)
Congratulations on your awards and a very Happy Holiday to you and your family!

Anna's Table said...

Claudia, the heck with all the "nay sayers", I wouldn't mind trying a piece of your chocolate salami. It reminds me of a soft chocolate torrone/nougat which is made in the province of Aquila and hands down the best to be found. To me nothing says Christmas like chocolate torrone and of course,panettone.

tasteofbeirut said...

I made a chocolate salami too but nobody dared say "yuck" lol. Well, I am always up for a new version and yours is from Italy (mine is from France) so I am going to try it. As for the pignoli cookies, we have identical ones in the Lebanese repertoire too!

Beth said...

Your chocolate salami looks great. Too bad about all the haters on Facebook!

And your play sounds fantastic. Anything that draws on ancient myths and legends is interesting to me. Who knows where some of our ideas come from?

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Claudia, you've really outdone yourself with this feast. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Dimah said...

Everything looks fantastic!

TheHousewifeDiary said...

I too appreciate glitter. I loved it when I was a kid and continue to love it as an adult. The sparkle always puts a smile on my face! I enjoy reading your blog. Hope you & your family have a Merry Christmas!

Angie's Recipes said...

Chocolate salami!! That's AWESOME! Here in Germany, people love almost anything Italy. ;-)) Only when their football team lost to Italy, then they would stop eating spaghetti, pizza for a while..well, maybe a day...LOL they just love and miss Italian food too much...
Pignoli cookies are awesome too...too bad the pine nuts here are really expensive.

Mary Bergfeld said...

What treasures one and all. I've bookmarked this post. It is too late for this season but I've found some new things to test for next. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Torviewtoronto said...

beautiful cookies for the season

Diana's Cocina said...

I'm loving all your glittery sweetness. You have a special gift my dear friend! I would love to try the chocolate salami. Have a blessed Christmas.

Kim said...

Bring on the glitter...and the cookies, and the chocolate salami! That chocolate salami sounds absolutely wonderful. I'd love to enjoy a slice, or two..yeah right. I could probably eat the whole thing!

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Claudia your first cookie is very similar to the ones my mother-in-law made all the time, for every holiday. My husband loves them! They are excellent coffee dunking cookies.

I love the chocolate salami and the pignoli cookies.

Your play sound so good ..the Staten Island ferry is a fun setting! :)

Merry Christmas to you and your family! Buon Natale!

Anonymous said...

Such wonderful treats here! I remember making chocolate salami like this a long time ago, it's so yummy! And too bad that I just used up all my pignoli nuts, need to buy some more and make those cookies!

Velva said...

I am surprised that I am not glittering internally (smile). I have eaten so much sugar in the last week, that I am waiting for the crash. I have been a baking fool, and certainly partaking in everyone else's baking too.

Glad you had your veggies. I need some too!

Merry Christmas to you and your family.


Kim - Liv Life said...

Congratulations on the dual awards Claudia! Well deserved.
We also love glitter! My daughter would have the world glitter if she had her way! She is all about the glittery sugars for the holidays and any time during the year.
One of her favorite part about her solo dance costume last year was the rhinestones... lots and lots of rhinestones!

Heather S-G said...

beautiful, beautiful! I love glitter and sparkle too...makes everything a little magical :) The pignola cookies are fantastic...and chocolate salami is always something I've been curious about, but never seen. Now I must have some!! Wishing you and yours a peaceful, delicious holiday, Claudia :D

Juliana said...

Oh CLaudia, everything looks so beautifully done. Absolutely perfect for the Holiday celebration :-)

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

This is my kind of post the sweetest and plenty of chocolate - wow I love it :)

Happy Holidays! :)


Anonymous said...

Your cookies bring back wonderful memories! Just found your site and am so happy! Tis the season for glitter and sparkle!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Claudia, all your cookie posts stir up many happy memories, you really out did yourself in baking all your special treats. Can I just tell you, I've already given your ricotta cookie recipe to many of my friends, those that tasted them are begging for more, my kids included! Even my 10 year old grandaughter was talking about how good they were, I might have to break down and make more for Christmas, I'm serious!! Have a wonderful Christmas with La famiglia Claudia.

Monet said...

During the winter months, I'm drawn to glitter too. I find nothing better than a little sparkle in my house and on my treats! All of the cookies and food you shared with us look delicious. I am sure they taste even better. I hope you have a great afternoon. Stay warm and safe!
PS. I so wish I could see your version of Midsummers Night Dream!

Barbara GF said...

Glitter does add the finishing touch to the holidays, Claudia, but it is your wonderful food and festive spirit that make it shine. This is the second time I have seen that chocolate "salami," which has certainly piqued my interest. You are one busy elf! May you have a wonderful Christmas and a healthful and happy new year.

Fresh Local and Best said...

I remember you mentioned chocolate salami before. It looks so delicious. The pignoli cookies also look so wonderful and delicate, perfect for tea. I hope your family and you have a Merry Christmas!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Claudia, I'm back to wish you a very merry Christmas filled with wonderful food, family and friends. Happy holidays to you and your family.

Be good 'cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina said...

I love how you share all of your Italian traditions, especially now at Christmas! I love pine nuts and have got to make these cookies! Hope you're staying warm; it's been quite snowy down here in the South! But very, very pretty! Blessings, Roz

Melanie Schoenhut said...

Wow! It looks all so delicious. I love the chocolate log. It looks yummy. Italian knot cookie looks great. Pignoli Cookie is easy to make. I’ll try all of this for my Mother’s Golden Anniversary. Thanks for the recipe.

OysterCulture said...

Oh my, that is a Christmas spread to end all Christmas spreads. It looks simply amazing. I hope you and yours had an incredible holidays.

Regarding Italy. I just discovered this site called NileGuide - I think you might find some good ideas there for future trips.