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Nancy’s Mostaccioli (Spiced Cookies)

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets On January 1, 2013 1 Comment

The name “mostaccioli” denotes a pasta variety as well as a type of cookie. I learned to make these Italian spiced cookies from my mom, Francesca Sciscente. Her delicious version contains butter, cocoa and chocolate chips.

My recipe for this exquisite cookie contains no cocoa or chocolate chips. It’s also fat-free.
On New Year’s Eve, serve mostaccioli with champagne and bring in a bright 2013!

Active prep time: 1 hour
Bake time: 12 minutes
Makes: 30 to 34 cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
zest from each a 1/2 lemon and a 1/2 orange
1/2 cup dark or light raisins
1/2 cup roasted, slivered almonds, coarsely ground
1 egg white, beaten (as part of garnish)
1/2 cup sliced almonds (as part of garnish)
-or-
candy sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 12 X 18-inch baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a 1-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.

3. In a 3-quart mixing bowl or a stand mixer bowl, mix together the eggs, honey, sugar, lemon and orange zests, raisins and slivered almonds.

4. On medium speed, gradually stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Mix on medium speed until a cookie dough forms, about 2 minutes.

5. Using a spatula, clean sides of bowl and mix once more for a few seconds or until the dough is uniform.

6. Turn cookie dough out onto a flat, lightly floured surface. Gently knead dough until it is smooth, about 2 minutes. Divide dough into two dough balls.

7. Take one dough ball and, with lightly floured hands, flatten it to a 6-inch circle. Place the dough circle between two lightly-floured waxed paper sheets measuring about 15 inches long.

8. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough. After two to three rolls of the pin, lift off the top waxed paper sheet and lightly flour the dough once more. Placing one hand between waxed paper and flat surface and, with the other hand placed on top, make a quick flip of the dough (turn it over).

9. Lift off the second waxed paper sheet and lightly flour the dough surface. Replace the waxed paper over dough and continue rolling it out. Repeat instructions on lifting off the wax paper sheet and flouring as you roll out the dough.

10. When the dough has extended to a 10 or 11-inch circle and measures 1/8-inch thickness, remove top waxed paper sheet.

11. Lightly flour the top surface of dough and quickly flip it over onto the flat surface. Peel off the second waxed paper sheet and lightly flour the dough.

12. Using a 2-1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles in the dough. Gather remaining dough and repeat roll-out instructions. Cut out more circles.

13. Place dough circles on parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving one inch between each one.

14. Brush each dough circle lightly with beaten egg white; sprinkle with sliced almonds or candy sprinkles.

15. Place baking sheet on a rack positioned in center of oven. Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove baking sheet with cookies from oven and set aside to cool on a counter.

16. Meanwhile, repeat roll-out instructions for remaining dough ball. Repeat baking instructions for the second batch of cookies.

17. Cool the cookies completely. Mostaccioli can be made ahead and frozen.

FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS: When the mostaccioli have cooled completely, place them in double Ziploc® freezer bags. Mostaccioli will keep frozen up to one month.

TO THAW: Take mostaccioli out of bags and set them on a platter for 15 to 20 minutes.

Text and Photograph ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real

Marzipan Easter Eggs

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Fun Foods, Holidays On April 5, 2012 0 Comments

Marzipan has its origins in ancient Arabic countries, including Persia (modern-day Iran). It was introduced to Europe by medieval Arabs and Persians who had mastered the art of confectionary. Made with simple ingredients such as almonds, sugar and rosewater, marzipan is so delicious that you just can’t stop reaching for it.

These marzipan delights resemble eggs, except that they’re round instead of oval. Children will become expert confectioners as they transform marzipan into candy eggs.

In the end, you’ll have to go hunting for Marzipan Easter Eggs , since the kids will surely hide them from you!

Active prep time: 30 minutes (for marzipan)
Inactive prep time: 30 minutes (for soaking almonds)
Makes: 50 to 55 Marzipan candies

Ingredients:
1-2/3 cups raw, unsalted almonds (skin on)
1 quart boiling water
2-1/4 cups unbleached, granulated sugar (for marzipan)
3 tablespoons rosewater (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
50 to 55 candy paper cups
25 slivered almonds (for garnish)
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into slivers (for garnish)

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil.

2. Set almonds in a 3 or 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl; pour boiling water over almonds to cover completely. Set almonds and water aside 10 to 15 minutes or until almonds slip out of their skins easily.

3. Drain almonds and discard water; pat dry the almonds with paper towels.

4. In a food processor, grind together the almonds, 1-1/4 cups sugar, the rosewater and 2 tablespoons water.

5. Process the mixture until it is smooth. To test: with slightly wet hands, grab 3/4 teaspoon marzipan mixture and roll it into a ball. If it is too dry, add 1 extra tablespoon water and process; set aside.

6. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a shallow bowl – you will use this to coat the marzipan balls.

7. With slightly wet hands, shape the marzipan into 3/4-inch balls.

8. Roll balls in sugar, coating them evenly. Shake off the excess sugar and place marzipan eggs in candy-size paper cups.

9. Set  paper cup swith marzipan egg on a serving platter.

10. Garnish marzipan eggs with slivered almonds and slivered strawberries.

Note: Marzipan can be made up to two weeks ahead in the following manner: after rolling marzipan balls in sugar, place them in double freezer bags and freeze. When serving, thaw marzipan balls for 1 hour; garnish with slivered almond or slivered strawberry.

Text & Photograph ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real

Zaleti (Venetian Cookies)

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets On March 17, 2012 0 Comments

Zaleti are named for their yellow color (zalo in Venetian dialect, giallo in Italian). These traditional cookies are made with corn and white flours, eggs, sugar, butter, raisins and lemon zest.

Generations of Venetian families have varied this recipe by reducing or adding other ingredients. For example, pinoli (pine nuts) can substitute the raisins. Some Venetian bakers double the corn flour and eliminate the white flour.

Enjoy these zaleti and then create your own version of the recipe.

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Makes: 20 to 24 cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup yellow corn flour
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Dash salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unbleached, granulated sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in luck warm water for 5 minutes
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 10 x 15-inch baking sheets and set them aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flours, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and the sugar until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

5. Stir in the lemon zest, drained raisins and the flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until the dough is uniform and has a cookie dough consistency (neither too hard nor too soft).

6. Turn the dough onto a smooth, floured surface and divide it into two balls.

7. Shape each ball into a log measuring 12 x 2 inches. With lightly floured hands, remove a 2-inch piece of dough, shaping it into a ball and then flattening it into a 2-inch circle.

8. Repeat with remaining dough, arranging each dough circle on the baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.

9. Shape the dough into a boat by tapering the circles at opposite ends – they should now measure 3 inches long.

10. Set the baking sheets in oven and bake 7 minutes.

11. After 7 minutes, invert top and bottom baking sheets. Bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

12. The zaleti are done when bottoms are golden. Remove the cookies from baking sheets and cool on a rack or a platter.

13. At serving time, dust the zaleti with powdered sugar.

Text & Photograph © 2012 Nancy DeLucia Real

Spicy Ornaments

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On December 10, 2010 2 Comments

When it comes to holiday cookies, my family is notoriously picky about flavors and textures. My son and I love chocolate in everything, but my husband prefers light, dry cookies with just a hint of chocolate. Since all of us enjoy aromatic and spicy tastes, a few Christmases ago I created a cookie to please all of our palates – it features cocoa, cinnamon and cloves.

These Spicy Ornaments echo the sparkle of Christmas and the excitement of opening gifts. Be patient and enjoy the cookie – it will surprise you with a zesty finish!

When I entered this recipe in the Holiday Cookie Bakeoff this past November, it became one of fifty finalists. It resulted in the LA Times becoming a follower of The Kitchen Buzzz. Thanks to all my supporters who voted for Spicy Ornaments and Happy Holidays.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Bake time: 12 to 14 minutes
Makes: 32 to 34 cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon chipotle ahumado powder
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup red crystal sugars, set in a small bowl
¼ cup green crystal sugars, set in a small bowl
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
2-1/2 to 3 teaspoons cold water
Pastry bag fitted with a narrow tip

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Grease and flour two large, nonstick rectangular baking sheets; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a 1-quart bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and chipotle ahumado powder; set aside.

3. In a 4-quart bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until mixture is uniform, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the combined dry ingredients and beat on medium-high until a dough is formed, about 2 to 4 minutes.

5. Pulling off pieces of dough, form 1-1/2-inch balls and set them on a flat surface.

6. Roll half of the dough balls in the red crystal sugars and other half in the green crystal sugars (about 16 to 17 balls of each color). Divide dough balls evenly and set on baking sheets, spaced two inches apart.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Invert the sheets and bake an additional 6 to 7 minutes or until cookie tops crack and feel slightly firm to the touch.

8. Remove baking sheets from oven and set on a counter. With a spatula, immediately transfer the cookies to a flat surface to cool.

9. In a 2-cup bowl, vigorously stir the powdered sugar and 2-1/2 teaspoons of the water until mixture is smooth. The icing should feel thick and not watery. If it is too firm, add a little more water. Transfer icing to the bag, pushing it all the way down to the tip.

10. Holding bag firmly in hand, decorate the surface cracks of the cookies with curvilinear designs.

11. Spicy Ornaments can be made two weeks ahead and stored in freezer in double plastic food bags (without the icing).

To thaw: remove cookies from freezer and from plastic bags. Set them on a platter at room temperature for two hours. Decorate with icing before serving.

Note: Chipotle ahumado powder can be purchased online at GOURMETSLEUTH.COM.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Easter Biscotti

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On April 1, 2010 6 Comments

These biscotti were inspired by a traditional recipe my maternal grandmother Nonna Nuccia used to make. Every year, during Easter week, Nonna made a panettone (an Italian sweet bread) decorated with multicolored nonpareil candies. My biscotti logs are sprinkled with the same candies and when sliced, they surprise you just like Easter eggs.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Makes: 4 to 4-1/2 dozen biscotti

Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (use lesser amount for a lighter flavor)
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup shelled raw pistachios
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (cut into 1/4-inch pieces)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
Multicolored nonpareil candies (for decoration)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 12 X 18-inch baking sheets and set aside.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl and with a hand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla extract on medium speed until well blended.

4. Stir in the pistachios, blueberries, raisins, apricots and cranberries.

5. With mixer set on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture (1 cup at a time) to the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition.

6. Transfer the dough onto a smooth, floured surface and, with lightly-floured hands, lightly knead the dough until smooth and uniform.

7. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a log measuring 14 inches long by 2 inches wide.

8. Transfer the two logs onto each prepared sheet, at least 2 inches apart.

9. Gently press each log to flatten slightly. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each log with the egg wash.

10. Sprinkle each log abundantly with the nonpareil candies.

11. Bake logs, 10 minutes and then invert sheets (transfer sheet from upper rack to lower rack and vice versa).

12. Bake logs 15 minutes longer or until golden and they firm to the touch. If logs are too soft, bake an additional 5 minutes.

13. Transfer sheets to a wire rack or on the kitchen counter. Let logs cool in baking sheets for 6 to 8 minutes.

14. After 6 to 8 minutes, place logs on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut logs crosswise and on a diagonal slant into 3/4-inch thick slices.

15. Arrange biscotti on the same baking sheets, cut-side down, in a single layer.

16. Return baking sheets with biscotti to oven and bake 4 to 5 minutes, turning biscotti over. After turning biscotti over, bake an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

17. Allow the biscotti to cool completely in baking sheets set on counter. Once cool, store the Easter Biscotti in double plastic freezer bags. They will keep frozen up to two months.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real
Photograph of Dove Candies ®, which are a registered trademark.