Monday, December 23, 2013


makes 8 to 10 servings
Struffoli, Italian honey cookies, are a traditional Italian Christmas cookie.

                                                                               Prep time: 1 hour
                                                                               Cook time: 30 minutes
                                                                               Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes


2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1 large lemon, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
1/2 large orange, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon white wine, such as pinot grigio
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

canola oil, for frying

honey sauce:

1 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Multicoloured sugar sprinkles, for decoration
Powdered sugar, for dusting, optional


create the dough:

Pulse together 2 cups of flour, lemon zest, orange zest, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor until evenly distributed.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the eggs, wine, and vanilla and continue pulsing until the mixture forms a ball.  Remove the dough ball from the bowl and wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

form the cookies:

Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized pieces and, one at a time, roll out each piece of dough into ropes about the size of a pencil, 1/4-inch thick, on a lightly floured surface. Cut each rope into 1/2-inch long pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a small ball about the size of a hazelnut. Lightly dredge the dough balls in flour, shaking off any excess.

fry the dough balls:

Fry the formed dough balls until golden brown in a deep pot or frying pan in which about 2 inches of the oil has been heated to 375 degrees F. (or use a deep fryer filled with the manufacturer’s dictated amount of oil heated to 350 degrees F), about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the fried dough balls to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

coat the cookies in honey:

In a large saucepan over medium heat combine the honey, sugar, and lemon juice, bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the drained cookies and stir until the cookies are coated with the honey mixture. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan for 2 minutes.

Using a large slotted  spoon remove the cookies from the pan and arrange the struffoli, in layers, in a Christmas tree shaped pile generously sprinkling each layer with the multi-coloured sprinkles before adding the next level.  Dust the pile with powdered sugar if desired.


Struffoli are normally served accompanied by dark espresso coffee generously laced with anisette and served on a small plate for each person to eat with a spoon (to keep your fingers from getting sticky).  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Biscotti

Holiday Biscotti
makes 20 biscotti
In Italian biscotti means twice baked.  These traditional anise and almond flavoured Italian cookies are great any time but at Christmas time they are made extra special with the addition of chopped pistachios, candied fruit and a white chocolate dip. 


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon anise extract, or 3 drops anise oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup candied fruit (as you would use in a fruit cake)

decoration (optional):

12 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
Red and green sugar crystals, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

prepare the dough:

In the large bowl of your stand mixer (or in a medium bowl if you use a hand mixer) beat the sugar and eggs on high speed until thick, pale, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  At this point beat in the anise extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat until combined.  Fold in the chopped pistachios, lemon zest and the candied fruit.

form the biscotti loaf:

Transfer the dough to a well floured counter and form into a log shape, about 12 inches (30 cm) long and 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) wide. You may have to flour your hands to form the log as the dough is quite sticky. 

first baking of the biscotti:

Place on your prepared baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

second baking of the biscotti:

Reduce the temperature of your oven to 325 degrees F.  Transfer the cooled log to a cutting board and cut into about 1/2 inch slices, on the diagonal. Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.  Store in an air tight container 

optional white chocolate dip:

Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals to form red, white, and green diagonal stripes. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.


Serve on a plate accompanied by anisette spiked espresso coffee.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica
Just in time for your Christmas parties, Pizza Rustica is the original "deep dish" pizza and a Christmas tradition in my family.
makes 1 pizza, 13x9x2 inches


1/2 pound Prosciutto ham, sliced very thin
1/2 pound Cappacola ham, sliced very thin
1/2 pound Genoa Salami, sliced very thin
1/2 pound good Pepperoni, sliced very thin
1-pound Mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
3 pounds Ricotta cheese
6 eggs
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

pie crust:

3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/6 cups shortening
9 to 12 tablespoons cold water

Filling  preparation:

1.  Preheat oven to 400┬║.  Into a large bowl, tear individual slices of each cold cut (except pepperoni) into pieces about the width and length of one's thumb (about 1"x 2" pieces).  Add the slices of pepperoni without tearing.  Toss the mixture to evenly distribute the different meats.
2.  Add the grated Mozzarella, Ricotta, eggs, and nutmeg and mix thoroughly with your hands until all ingredients have been evenly distributed.  Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste, insure you mix thoroughly after adding the salt and pepper.

Pizza crust preparation (or use your own pie crust recipe or a commercial pie crust):

3.  Sift flour and salt together; cut in shortening with a fork until the pieces are the size of small peas.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over part of the mixture and toss with fork, push the moistened flour mixture to side of bowl.  Repeat until all the flour mixture has been moistened.  Divide mixture and form into two balls.

4.   On a lightly floured surface, flatten one of the balls of dough.  Roll the dough out, starting from the center, to a rough rectangle large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a lightly greased, rectangular, glass baking dish (approximately 13x9x2 inches in size) and about 1/8 inch thick.

5.  Place dough sheet into baking dish and form to cover the bottom and sides.  Add the filling mixture and distribute evenly.   On a lightly floured surface, roll out the second ball of dough to roughly the same size as the first and about 1/8 inch thick.  Cut into strips of dough 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide.  Lay strips on filled pie at about 1 inch intervals across the width of the pie, fold back alternate strips and begin forming a lattice by interweaving strips placed at 1 inch intervals down the length of the pie (beginning 1 inch from the upper edge) with the strips along the width.   After the lattice has been formed, trim excess dough around the edges of the dish by running a sharp knife along the outer rim of the dish.  Seal edges.

6.  Place the pie in the middle of the preheated oven and bake until the latticed top of the pie is golden brown, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.


Allow the pie to cool and set completely before cutting and serving (the pizza is customarily made the day before it is to be served and allowed to cool over night.  It is normally cut into 3-inch cubes for serving).

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