I love these cookies and I hate them. They are teeny tiny. That means that making them and filling them is extremely time consuming. On the other hand, they are absolutely delightful. If you’re in the mood for doing some repetitive work that yields great results, go for it. If not, I think you could roll the dough out to 1/4”, cut them, bake them and drizzled them with chocolate. The texture of the cookie is akin to a delicate, crisp shortbread.
The name in Italian means “lady’s kiss” because some think that when you look at them sideways they look like pursed lips. Well, I guess if you squint………. The traditional ratio of ingredients is one part flour to one part ground almonds or hazelnuts to one part butter to one part sugar. There is a pinch of salt but no egg and no other flavorings. The cookies are sandwiched together with chocolate and it’s a simple but lovely pairing of nuts and chocolate with nothing else to distract you. I’ve seen recipes add coffee or vanilla to the dough. I think a little lemon rind might be nice. I love chocolate and lemon and lemon goes well with almonds and hazelnuts.
I have reduced the sugar and the butter in my recipe as I find the traditional recipe too sweet and with a little less butter it keeps its shape better. I honestly would not add back any sugar. If you want to add back the butter to 140 grams I would chill them before attempting to shape them. I would also bake the frozen cookies on frozen cookie sheets lined with a silicone mat or they’ll spread into flat discs. Thanks to Domenica Marchetti (domenicacooks.com) and Steve Dunn (Cooks Illustrated 10/1/2019) for guiding the way to my version of the recipe.
I’m only giving metric measurements for the flour, hazelnuts and butter because that is the most accurate measurement. For example, 115 grams is a bit more than 1/2 cup and 140 grams of flour is perhaps 1 cup and 2 tablespoons depending on whether or not you scoop and level or fluff up the flour and spoon it into the cup. Do you understand where I’m going with this? While weighing your ingredients in grams is better for all recipes, for this particular one it’s really critical in order to get the right shape.
140 grams roasted, peeled hazelnuts (You can also use roasted hazelnut flour but I prefer the texture of the slightly rougher grind when you do it yourself).
140 grams bleached Gold Medal AP flour (You can use unbleached but the texture won’t be as delicate)
100 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar (yes, superfine gives you a more delicate texture than regular sugar)
115 grams (I used President. Please use a European cultured butter. It is more flavorful and has a lower water content than most American butters).
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
100 grams (3.5 oz) bittersweet (65 to 70%) chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Lindt 70%)
I took my eldest son to Sicily for his college graduation and my 60th birthday. For me it was particularly poignant as my mother’s side of the family are Sicilian immigrants. The first of the family to immigrate was my grandfather Vito. I remember him very well, although he died young. He had a heart attack shoveling out his car in the snow storm of 1967 in Chicago. He was a benevolent presence in the family and I recall him sitting down to every meal with a shaker of red Chili’s by his hand.
One of the excursions we made in Sicily was near Siracusa, a really beautiful town on the water. We were invited to lunch at the farm of a Contessa. She was a lovely down to earth woman and a great cook. As a pastry chef, the dish that caught my fancy was a crostata. A crostata is made with a sweet dough enriched with eggs, sugar and butter called a pasta frolla. It’s usually filled with homemade preserves. It’s every housewives go to dessert and you also see it in many pastry shops. When the Contessa made it for us she filled it with homemade orange marmalade from local oranges. It was so simple but delicious. It’s one of those simple pastries that is heavily dependent on excellent cultured butter and great preserves.
Aperitivo with the Contessa
Wood fired pizza with prosciutto and caramelized onions
Courtyard of the Contessa’s home
After returning home, I contacted the tour guide and asked if he could procure the Contessa’s recipe.
I’ve made a few changes to her recipe and improvised as well since she didn’t give instructions on how thick to roll the crust, what kind of flour she used or how much marmalade to put in the shell. I found hers a bit too sweet so I reduced the sugar in the pasta frolla and added lemon juice to my preserves. If you want to add the sugar back to the crust, add back 50 grams.
I’ve used my own homemade blood orange marmalade but you can find very good preserves on line and sometimes in the grocery store. The first time I made this I used Bon Maman Séville Orange Marmalade. Any tart and slightly bitter marmalade will work. Sour cherry preserves or raspberry would also be good. I’d stay away from sweet preserves like strawberry or peach.
This pasta frolla recipe is enough for a 9″ or 10″ tart tin plus extra for lattice, leaves and flowers.
I’d like to share two easy ways to prepare lemon marmalade. Blanching or chopping peel by hand is not necessary.
I discovered the joy of Sorrento lemons in Sicily. They are used in lemon salads, Marmalade and fish. They have beautiful perfumed skin and juice with almost no bitterness in the skins. The first time I tried them I was smitten. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Sorrento Lemons imported from Italy at Whole Foods at the beginning of the Covid-19 confinement in Illinois. It was the last trip I took to the grocery store and I bought about 8 pound of lemons figuring I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.
The two styles of whole fruit marmalade: Italian style English style. What is the difference? The Italian marmalade is more of a jam, thick and glossy but opaque. The English style has bits of peel suspended in a clear jelly. Keep in mind that for the most visually beautiful marmalade it is necessary to separate the peel from the rest of the lemon, supreme the segments and make a pectin bag with the seeds and membranes. It’s a lot more work.
So, I hope I inspire you to make some marmalade with these lovely Sorrento lemons. Just a bit of a warning, the classic ratio of fruit to sugar in marmalades is 1:2, one part fruit to two parts sugar, far more sugar than I would use for non citrus fruits. I have reduced the amount of sugar with the Sorrento lemons because they are not as bitter or tart as Seville oranges, grapefruit or standard lemons. My ratio is 1 part fruit to 1.5 parts sugar. I would advise against lowering the amount of sugar because it will take longer to gel and you’ll risk over cooking it and risk losing the fresh lemon flavor. If in the end it tastes too sweet you can always add a bit of citric acid or Eureka lemon juice.
Please read my page on preserving before you make this recipe. I go over cooking vessels, sterilizing jars, making a pectin bag and testing for gel.
The last time I was in Paris I was lucky to have sampled Cedric Grolet’s William Pear tarts, just out of the oven. Smitten, I looked for William pears but the closest pears I could find were baby Bartlett pears. They appear at Whole Foods our my Midwest farmers market around The beginning of October. My almond cream does not have any flour. Never fear, it will set up just fine without it. I find it creamier and lighter than a traditional Frangipane that’s made with flour. Six 4″ partially baked Pate Sablée or Pate Sucrée tart shells (You can use your own recipes or find mine on my pages. You can also use the Pierre Herme recipe which appears in his own books as well as Doris Greenspan’s books. It is my preferred pate sucree recipe at this point in time).
YOU WILL NEED THE FOLLOWING COMPONANTS for six 4 inch tarts:
9 fresh Bartlett pears about 2.5”-3” tall
1 cup of almond cream
Six 4” pate sablée or pate sucrée partially baked tart shells (You can use your own recipes or find mine on my pages. You can also use the Pierre Herme recipe which appears in his own books as well as some of Doris Greenspan’s books. It is my preferred pate sucree recipe at this point in time). You need about 370 grams of dough for 6 tart shells. You will have to re roll the scraps. Make sure not to over bake them. They should be firm and pretty blond. They’ll take on quite a bit of color in the oven during the second bake.
Having a scone at a little tea room in Clovelly, England was a revelation. Clovelly is a little fishing village, my favorite kind because I love the sea. The cafe was built into the side of a cliff that bordered the beach. I remember the precipitous descent from the top of the cliff down rickety stairs, a thin white railing keeping us from plunging down to the beach below. The scones were the best we’d had in England. They were light and soft and not too sweet or rich, forming the perfect platform for thick Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves.
Since Clovelly, those many moons ago, I have fiddled around with a number of recipes, trying to create scones that duplicated that memory I had. I often start with Cooks Illustrated because everything is scaled and it makes it that much easier to sort out how to adjust ingredients. They have a recipe for a English style scones and it was good but not quite what I was looking for. In the end, I used it as an outline but made some changes. I also tried Mary Barry’s recipe and a few other British recipes that call for self rising flour. Getting self rising flour in the states is difficult and expensive. I didn’t find that it made a difference in the finished scone, so I wouldn’t bother with it. The difference between British self rising flour and US AP flour is that the British flour has baking powder in it and is milled from softer wheat. You can always try this recipe with pastry flour, which is lower in gluten than AP flour. Keep in mind, flours that are lower in gluten will need less liquid, so hold more back and add as needed.
425 grams (15 oz) all purpose flour (Gold Medal or Pillsbury)
Another of my friend Sandra’s Recipes. I helped her make this one the same weekend she made the Artichokes à la Barigoule in her stone house in Chartres. We picked the tarragon, parsley and zucchini in her garden and purchased the ricotta and feta at the farmers market.
You can improvise with the herbs although I suggest always using parsley and chives. Sandra used thyme, when she first made this for me and I do that version but often substitute tarragon or chervil when I can find it.
Please read my page on preservingbefore you attempt this recipe
I love pears but they are very low in pectin and thus problematic to use in preserves. There are a few solutions for this issue.
You can purée one third to one half the pears and keep the other half in large chunks. The purée thickens the preserves base which compensates for the looser gel. You can add a high pectin fruit to the pears. Nice pairings are, white or red currants, green apples, lemons or cranberries or pineapple quince. What’s important to respect is the delicate flavors of pears so when I mix in other fruits I use a ratio of 2:1: two parts pear to one part partner fruit. You can also use about two teaspoons of Ball pectin (not the low sugar pectin). I make sure you mix it with a few tablespoons of your sugar so it doesn’t clump. As an extra anti clumping step, I dissolve the pectin/sugar mixture in a small bowl with some of the hot liquid from the preserves. When I’m certain it’s dissolved, I throw it into the pot while stirring. The pectin will help the pears gel as long as you also use a pectin bag with the shells and seeds of the lemons you juiced for the preserves. I also save all my lemon seeds in the freezer and you can add whatever you have. Throughout the year, as I juice lemons for other preparations, I put the seeds in a zip lock bag and throw them in the freezer.
With this preserve preparation, I will be getting the pectin I need from the the juiced lemon shells and The body I need by puréeing half the pears.
1.2 kg (2 3/4 lb) ripe but firm Fetel or Bartlett pears or 1kg net
750 g (3 3/4 cups) grams superfine sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup lemon juice from tart lemons (about two Eureka lemons)
Being Italian, I remember biscotti always being in my grandmothers pantry or my mother’s cookie jar.
Every Christmas, my Grandma Natalia and my Aunt Nina made dozens of biscotti. Some they kept and some they gave away in great big tins, each cookie hand wrapped in waxed paper. They took one dough and made several different types of cookies: biscotti flavored with lemon and anise and studded with almonds, little pillows with cinnamon sugar, and little logs covered in sesame seeds.
Over the years my mother collected a variety of biscotti recipes and would bake them, put them in tins and freeze them. They freeze really well and we always had a variety of biscotti for dessert.
There are several formulas for biscotti, using different fats. My grandma Natalia and Aunt Nina used vegetable shortening. My mother has a few recipes that use butter and some that use only whole eggs or whole eggs plus yolks.
One of my favorites is a biscotti recipe with cranberries and pistachios. I have altered it a bit, to make it my own. They are very crunchy biscotti, meant to be dunked in coffee, tea or a glass of Vin Santo. If you like this formula, which uses no fat other than the egg yolks, you can keep the base and just substitute the additions. These biscotti have a very crisp bite. Hazelnuts or dried cherries and chopped bittersweet chocolate, chopped chocolate and candied orange rind, almonds and apricots and walnuts and dates are all nice combinations. You can add spices, Vanilla or citrus zest as well.
You’ll notice the Beth’s Little Bakeshop logo in the cup. It’s where I’m currently a pastry chef. If you come to Evanston Illinois, stop by for a biscotti and a cup of Intelligentsia coffee.
This is a vegetable soup on which my brother and I grew up. It was loved even by my father who hated vegetables. It is a soup that my own children devoured even when a bite of a vegetable would make them gag. It is a vegetable soup base that is pureed and becomes a thick base for chunks of veal, beef and pastina.
it wasn’t until my first trip to Florence that I realized this was a fairly typical Tuscan preparation and is called Zuppa Passato. I hope you enjoy it as ha e three generations of my family.
1 lb carrots
1 lb onion
20 oz tomatoes, preferably San Mariano tomatoes DOP (that means they are certified San Marzano tomatoes)
The origins of this cookie started with a recipe I fell in love with from Carol Walter’s Great Cookies book. It’s her Cornmeal/Cardamon Biscotti recipe which in turn was given to her by Sam DeMarco. So it goes with recipes. It is one of the best biscotti recipes I’ve tasted although I did significantly cut the cardamon so it is a whisper not a roar. Around the time that I made the biscotti I tasted a thumbprint cookie that someone had filled with orange marmalade. I thought the cornmeal/cardamom biscotti dough might make a nice little vehicle to house the orange marmalade.
I scaled all the ingredients to grams, which is much more accurate. I eliminated the raisins, thinking that the marmalade would be sweet enough. I altered the baking time since it’s a thumbprint cookie, not a biscotti. I believe it maintains the delicate crisp texture that drew me to the original biscotti recipe that inspired this variation on a theme of cardamon, cornmeal and almonds. I’m tempted to add a little sweet and or bitter almond oil to boost that flavor. If someone tries that please let me know how you like it.
185 grams AP flour (1 1/2 cups spooned in and leveled)
75 grams cornmeal ( 1/2 cup spooned in and leveled)
2 tsp double acting baking powder
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
143 grams slivered almonds (1 cup)
150 grams superfine sugar (3/4 cup)
114 grams whole eggs (about two large eggs)
113 grams unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
227 grams good quality Seville orange marmalade (1/2 cup)