A few days back i happened to stumble upon the cooking event "Flavors of Italy for the month of February" at Divya's Culinary Journey and got all charged up. you see other than pizza, pasta, lasagna, gelato and biscotti... my knowledge about Italian cuisine is limited. so i saw this event as an opportunity to explore the unknown terrains.. and though i consult the internet for every new dish i try... for this event i decided to cook from the book. that led me to the culinary aisle of our local library where amongst all other books on Italian culinary i picked up Lucinda's Rustic Italian Kitchen. well my choice of the book was determined by two things...
one. it wasn't as fat as most others in the rack...
two. because somehow rustic appeals to me much more than fine dining...
The book with its little introductory anecdotes before each recipe is a nice read by itself. the style of cooking she mentions is very simple and non-intimidating. so after a quick browse... i decided on a few dishes that i would like to try.. and Marsala Wine Taralli happened to be one of the firsts.
According to the chef Lucinda Scala Quinn, Taralli were typically a savory cookies which varied from region to region and were often enjoyed with wine. Apparently some recipes of Taralli called for briefly boiling the dough before baking them. However the recipe in the book is simple and straight-forward and only involves kneading the dough, looping the dough and baking them. She says that her recipe was passed down to her from her Great Aunt Lina (Carolina Scala)... and this recipe yields taralli which are quite different from the ones she had had in Italy.
While I tried to stay faithful to the book as much as possible there were some changes i made here and there. the chef uses eggs in her recipe. but since we are not too fond of the eggy smell so i made an eggless version. also because I could not get Marsala wine, I used the cooking Marsala wine that was available at the neighborhood grocery store. I guess the substitutions might have meddled with the authentic taste of these cookies... but since i have not tasted the real thing.. i cannot say. we however liked the version we had in hand. in fact Nishi and i popped in a few even before they were glazed because they were just so good.. not too sweet... not too hard.. something similar in taste to Starbucks madeleine..but slightly harder in texture. the other liberty that I took with the recipe was in shaping my loops like hearts, x's and o's.. but then it is the 14th of Feb. you can't blame me for that.
in the book, the chef mentions that these cookies were her dad's favorite and he recalls them with a thin lemon glaze which she hadn't found in her Grandmother's files but had incorporated in her recipe. however since i realized late at night that i had run out of lemons so i created two alternative glazes both of which tasted good... but as i said... these cookies are lovely just by themselves...
Recipe adapted from Lucinda's Rustic Italian Kitchen.
for the cookies
1 7/8 cups all purpose flour*
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Marsala Cooking wine
paste of 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 2 tablespoon water (substitute for 1 egg)
for the Marsala wine -honey glaze :
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons of Marsala cooking wine
1 1/2 tablespoon of honey
for the white grape juice glaze :
1/8 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons white grape juice
1 teaspoon of milk
what i did :
I started by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F and lining 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
For the cookies I combined the flour, baking powder and salt and sifted the mixture. In a separate bowl I whisked together the sugar, wine, olive oil and cornstarch paste, adding them in the order mentioned. I
then i folded in the flour mixture until well combined and kneaded it slightly until the dough was easy to handle and medium-soft.*(see my notes).
Next, using my hands I rolled the dough into cigar-like rolls and shaped them into heart-loops and x-o s like this....
then placed them on the prepared baking trays and baked the cookies until slightly golden, about 17 to 20 minutes.
For both the glazes i simply whisked the ingredients together. and after cooling the cookies overnight, i dipped them into the glaze coating both sides and let the glaze settle on the cookies in the refrigerator for about 6 hours. **(see my notes).
*initially i had sized down all the ingredients to 2/3 of what the recipe in the book said. by that calculation i started off with 2 cups of all purpose flour and the rest of the ingredients as stated above. but while kneading i felt that the dough was becoming tough while 1/8 cup of the sifted ingredients were still to be kneaded in. so i left it like that. while writing down the recipe i realized that while i had sized down the quantity of all-purpose flour I had not done the same for the rest of the dry ingredients. if you try this recipe you might want to size those down slightly.
**as you can see here, the original recipe says that the icing should be of the consistency of thick whipping cream. since I had used only 1/2 cup instead of 1 cup sugar mine was not so thick. however we liked the mild sweetness that it rendered.
i should also mention here that my choice of alternative glazes was determined by this piece on the internet that i found while looking for non-alcoholic substitutes for Marsala Wine.
so that was that.... if you stop by do fill me with your comments and thoughts. I'll love to hear.. till then
Happy Baking and happy Valentine's day !!
Sending this to
"Flavors of Series 4 around Europe" by simply.food hosted at Divya's Culinary Jouney
Vardhini's event Bake Fest # 16-Cooks Joy hosted by Surabhi of My Cook Book
Bon Vivant #12 - Quixotic Fixes at Summee's Culinary Bites
Cook like a Celebrity Chef at Food Corner