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Sweet bread "cookie" recipe from Sicily

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apricat's picture
apricat

Sweet bread "cookie" recipe from Sicily

Struggling with a 100 year old recipe that lists only flour, yeast, water, salt, sugar and lard as the ingredients. Directions are just as spare: 7 cups flour. Add  1 cup sugar and salt. Blend in 1 lb lard as you would a pie dough. Proof 1 cake of yeast and use up to 2 1/2 cups of water in the dough. Let dough rest 1/2 hour. Shape cookies. Let rest overnight and bake at 350˚.


I loved my grandmother and my aunt who baked them after grandma was gone. Now it's my turn to bake them for my 90 year old dad, and 4 tries later, these 6 ingredients don't give me a well-raised "bread cookie." 


I have no kneading instructions and no previous kneading experience. I could use some help. Dad's birthday is August 30th. Does anyone know this recipe. Thanks 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Whoa - that can't be correct.   No wonder they're not rising - salt inhibits yeast activity at concentrations over one percent. 


Are you sure the recipe calls for a cup of salt?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

CAn you give us a little more info to work with? What is the texture like? How are they shaped? Are they crunchy?pastry -like? Flavored in any way?


Usually, when you mix the lard and flour in the manner you are describing, the cookie is more of a pastry and that would suggest that the dough should be handled as little as possible when the liquid is added.


Or, it could be that this is a form of a pastry with a texture similar to a danish but not achieved with layering.


It would be very helpful to have an idea of what the final product is supposed to be like or even what theiy are called.

apricat's picture
apricat

Sorry for the shorthand. The recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar and some salt. I used 1 teaspoon. It also calls for anise seed. I used a tablespoon anise seed, which I ground. The cookies are irregularly raised and bumpy.

As I recall them from a long time ago, they should have a firm good bite on the outside which gives way to a dense bun textured "cookie." Not at all like a pastry or Danish cookie. Very peasant-like, not very sweet, but delicious with morning coffee. The dough is shaped into 3" x 9" logs, patted down slightly, then cut about 1". Horizontal 1/2" cuts are made at the top and bottom for decoration (?). Thanks for your thoughts.


Candygirl's picture
Candygirl

But made with yeast?  Interesting...

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I am trying a "recipe" I developed from what you described. It does almost sound like a 1 step biscotti. I am really guessing on a lot of this but it was intriguing.


I'm trying a mini-recipe using only 1 c flour. I didn't have lard so I subbed unsalted butter and no cake yeast but I do have instant.Also, anise extract was used.


So this may be a modernized version but it may work. The dough texture is interesting-kind of a cross between a pie dough and bread. I would guess that it requires light handling and it would be very easy to overhandle this dough and the product would end up kind of tough. I also wonder if pastry flour would be a good choice rather than all purpose to reduce the gluten formation. Gluten would also make it a little tougher/chewier.


They are on the cookie sheet now and I will see where they are in about 1 hour. I added a little more yeast than the ratio called for in hopes of raising it faster.


I'll let you know and post the recipe.

apricat's picture
apricat

Thanks for considering this problem/recipe worth your time and flour. You've given me something to think about regarding gluten formation. 


I'm interested to know how much you kneaded the dough, if at all, and what the results are. Guess we have to wait to tomorrow to find that out... I'll stay tuned.


I appreciate the recipe because it's born of poverty, basic ingredients and sugar, because Sicily was such a poor country. Also hints of folk-lore since it's called "overnight biscotti". I'm sure 8 hours any time of day would work just fine, but I let them raise overnight.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Anise Breakfast Biscuits


Makes 10    ( 1inchx3inchx3/4 inch biscuits)


1 cup (135g) AP flour


1/8 c (26g) cold unsalted butter


1/4 c (50g) sugar


1/2 tsp anise extract/flavoring


1/4 tsp (2 g ) salt


1/4 tsp instant yeast


1/4 c (49 g) water-luke warm



  • Cut butter into flour like for pie crust.

  • Mix in sugar,salt and yeast.

  • Add tepid water and mix lightly but thoroughly.Handle dough with just fingertips or a spoon

  • Knead just a few times after the dough has come together to smooth the texture.

  • Pat onto oiled cookie sheet in a 3 inchx8 inch log about 1/2 in thick.

  • CUt into 1 inch logs and separate

  • Raise til puffy (I raised about 2 hours but it needs more raising time than that)

  • Bake at 350 till lightly browned (about 25 min in my oven)

  • Cool


Results:


They smelled heavenly while baking but didn't brown to well. Kind of a spotty browning on top and the bottom browned faster. The texture when you break one was biscuit-like.A little crunchy outer and a soft biscuit interior like a good baking powder biscuit. They were warm when I tasted one so they had a rather bland,flour taste to them.I will wait til they cool and re-taste.


Cool now. The taste is still somewhat starchy/floury but less so and the sweetness and anise flavor are more developed when it's cool. It is still more biscuit than cookie consistency but would be quite delicious with a cup of good coffee or even wine. I would bet these get better over a day or two.


I believe these are really biscuits that use yeast rather than baking soda or powder for leavening. They taste more like biscuits than cookies or even biscotti.I tried keeping the ratio of sugar and fat about the same as you originally described. They may benefit from a teaspoon of baking powder or the addition of milk. Those ingredients may not have been available to the baker at the time this recipe was developed or may have been too expensive.


My suggestions for improving this recipe a bit:



  • Add 1 tsp BP and keep the raising time to 2 hours OR try the overnight raise-the long raise will also improve the flavor

  • Adding a little milk in place of water may improve the browning.Or try brushing them with milk before baking.

  • Reduce the anise extract by half ( to 1/4 tsp per cup of flour). The 1/2 tsp per cup of flour was a little strong-unless that is how you like it.

  • Anise seeds would probably taste better and provide interesting texture.I'm not sure how much to add as I've never worked with them.Look up some other anise cookies and see what kind of amounts are put in per cup of flour to get an idea.

  • These need a little more pizzazz-perhaps an egg wash to shine them up? Sprinkle of seeds on top? Different shape? Use a biscuit or cookie cutter?


My camera is not that good but I will try and post some pictures of the finished product.


I hope this is helpful and I hope your dad enjoys them!


 


 


 

apricat's picture
apricat

My mom (also 90) tells me Aunt Nickie would rub her hands with olive oil when she shaped the loaves, which would produce a browner cookie. I look forward to using your suggestions, but I have 1 last question before I take this on again... after I cut in the lard, then add the wet ingredients and pull the dough together, should I knead at all? Thanks

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Hello!


Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Roses Christmas Cookies" has a recipe for a yeasted cookie.  It is "Cinnamon Cloud-Nine Crunchies" on page 129.  (It's a great book, in spite of the fact that the binding completely fell apart, and it has no table of contents.)


These cookies are delicious.  I don't know, what with copyright laws, that I can post the recipe.   The cookies are fairly rich with butter and sugar, and are coated with cinnamon.  They smell heavenly!


 


Mary Clare in MO

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I was having a rare glass of wine and decided to try them together-actually very good.


The olive oil makes sense and that probably smoothed the surface somewhat. My biscuits/cookies were like  a baking powder biscuit-kind of a lightly lumpy texture where the butter was cut into the flour.


I would knead just a few times.I probably kneaded it/squeezed it about 5-6 times only.If you warm the dough with your hands, it melts the butter bits and then the biscuits aren't flakey anymore.


If the dough is sticky(it wasn't for me) , then wet or olive oil your hands and handle very lightly as you knead. You don't want to be vigorous or you'll develop a tough gluten structure.Do not  knead it to a smooth texture, the biscuit wil be tough. Just knead it to a smoother texture, so it's not like a pie crust dough.Hard to describe but just look at the texture before you start and after 3-4 kneads. Better to stop before it looks smooth.


The best tutorial on making these is probably looking up how to make a tender baking powder or southern style biscuit. Also, just make a small,practice batch (like my recipe with just 1 cup of flour) and see how they are.


Let me know how they turn out. Make a batch tonight, raise them overnight and bake in the morning. They take about 25-30 min to bake.


 

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

My family often rubs olive oil on their hands to form an unfrosted biscotti.  They originated from Puglia and although I don't have any recipe like this, I do have a biscotti that has anise and whole seeds.


Do you have a name for these as I have some Italian web sites that I could try a search.


 


Regards,


Patricia

apricat's picture
apricat

My Aunt Nickie called them Overnight Biscotti. Like most family recipes, it probably grew out of necessity. They require a slow rise, so why not form the bread-cookies overnight, and bake them in the morning? Thanks for the help.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I know we have several active members that have Italian baking experience from having lived there,are living there or family. I wonder if any of you could help this poster out.


I don't know of any Italian names bit I know there are a bazillion biscotti recipes out there. Do a Google search for "biscotti,anise" and maybe even "Puglia" and see what pops.

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

I have a number of biscotti with anise, but this is not a biscotti.  Since many of these things are regional (this is from Sicily) it is possible that it is very local.  I also have many Italian web sites, but you have to have the name, which is why I asked this question.


I have contacted someone on one of the other websites that I am a member who is from Sicily and asked her for some help identifying this recipe. Hopefully I'll hear from her and we might be able to tie this down.  I would like to try it.


Until I hear from my friend,


Patricia

apricat's picture
apricat

Confusing this illusive cookie further, the children in the family called them squirrel cookies. They were scored diagonally, 1 slit on each side, and when proofed, resembled puffy brown squirrels. 

EvaB's picture
EvaB

and while this is similar the point at which it differs is the yeast, that does not mean its not a biscuit, just not a baking powder one.


This has intrigued me, so am going to try making the recipe offered, and see how it goes, but must say that the DON'T knead much is an imperative, biscuits don't like being overworked, anymore than pie crust does!


 

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

I have contacted a freind from Sicily and she has a recipe that seems to be similar.  She has been on vacation and will post the recipe on her blog.  I will put the post up here. She calls them "affuca parrinu". Don't know if it is what you are looking for and I doubt she will get around to it before your grandfathers birthday, but maybe you can make them for some other occasion.


Until I get the post,


Patricia 

apricat's picture
apricat

Patricia - grazie molto. I look forward to your friend's recipe, and will try it when it posts. 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

 


http://siciliancookingplus.com/dessert/01_affucaparrini.html


This is a recipe that is a little different from what you describe but there can always be familial and regional differences.


I got very little searching in English under "affuca parrinu" but got more info with "affuca parrini or parrina" . I'm sure the search is more productive in Italian/Sicilian.

apricat's picture
apricat

The help I received from all of the posters has resulted in a better biscuit cookie. Not the one of my memory, but a much better result. I will need lightly 3 - 4 more times when I attempt next. Using much less than 7 cups of flour until this is right. I'll share final recipe. And thanks everyone.

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

Hi, my friend listed her recipe for  "affuca parrinu" which may be what you are looking for. Her post is listed below.  Hope it is what you want and you will be able to make it for your grandfathers birthday.  Good Luck!


Patricia


http://isicilian.boonrepublic.com/2010/08/25/sicilian-dunking-cookieaffuca-parrinu/

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I would love to know what you did and,hopefully, the recipe you finally used.


What a lovely birthday present for your father!

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I'd love to know which recipe you finally used and how they turned out. I even bought some anise seed because I'd like to try them again.