This week some students of mine asked me to teach them how to make a certain type of cookie that they had been eating in nearby Spello. Now remember, here in Umbria (as well as pretty much all of Italy) recipes and typical dishes can vary greatly from town to town - even villages just 10 km apart, like Spello and Cannara.
They decribed the biscotti that they had been eating, and I deduced that it must be something similar to our Roccetti, a cookie made with either grape must or sweet wine, anise seed and raisins. I've consumed more than my fair share of these biscotti, but I have never actually made them, so I had to ask around town for a recipe.
What I received just made me smile, because it was the perfect example of any typical recipe one might get from any nonna in Italy, meaning no real quantities, no instructions... a guideline because, hey, you've eaten 1000s of these cookies, you know how they should turn out, right?!
Below is an exact translation of the recipe pictured above:
Roccetti di Cannara
- 1 cup of wine or Vernaccia
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of sunflower seed oil (or even less than a cup)
- a little anise seed
- some raisins
- 1 packet baking powder
- enough flour to bring the dough together
And that's it, the rest is up to you! Just kidding, below are a few notes to help you out. ;-)
- note that "1 cup" in Italy is not measured - it is whatever glass one might pull out of the cupboard
- these cookies start to make an appearance in September during the grape harvest, in that period we have an abundance of grape must available. Otherwise use a sweet wine, such as the Vernaccia di Cannara
- In Italy, baking powder is sold in packets, know as a Cartina- it is equal to about 1 1/2 Tbs
- in this recipe, we have a great example of the infamous Quanto Basta, or q.b., meaning 'just enough' or 'the right amount' - fundamental in Italian recipes
- add enough flour to make the dough workable and not too sticky- use your hands to mix
- then, take small scoops of dough and roll into little snakes about 1 cm thick and 6cm long
- close the ends of the snake together to form a ring
- place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350F/180C for about 15-20 minutes or until they just start to lightly brown.