Yet Another Update 4/17/18: According to press release dated March 7, 2018, Starbucks is supposedly interviewing candidates for positions to fulfill their push into the Italian coffee market--in Milan. This makes it over two years since they first announced their intention to bring their Trenta-sized coffee concept to la Bel Paese, home of espresso. Read more HERE:
It seems every year about this time, Starbucks puts out press releases saying they are opening Starbucks stores all over Italy. last year (read below) they said they were going to open their very first Starbucks in Italy. That never happened. I don't think there's much support for Starbucks in Italy. Having their espresso Italian style every morning at home with their Moka pots or at their neighborhood breakfast bar on the way to work is simply too ingrained in the Italian culture for things to change now.
Starbucks announced last Thursday that it plans to open 200 to 300 stores in Italy starting next year. Really? Where's that first shop they promised last year? Now they claim that in June of next year--2018--they will will open four shops in Rome and Milan. "If the first phase of expansion goes well" (what happened to last year's "first phase"?), they are promising 300 stores opening in Italy before 2023.
Basta! Enough promises. Besides, that's way too long for Italians to sit and wait for them. It's much faster to fire up the moka pot...
Starbucks announced today that they will be opening their very first coffee house in Milan in the first part of 2017. What? In 2017, they say? Well, it makes sense that their plans will take that long, especially when you consider how Starbucks' offerings in huge take out coffee cups have little to do with the way the average Italian indulges in their espresso. It might take the company a full year (or more) to test market, focus group, finesse, and then fine tune a new batch of caffeine alternatives to the ultimate coffee drinkers on Planet Earth--the Italians. I predict the offerings will look nothing like what American Starbucks offer here in the States.
In the early 1980s, Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz visited Italy and supposedly was inspired to bring what he called the "romance and theater" of Italian coffee bars and baristas to the U.S. market. I'm wondering where in the Italian Boot did he visit that caused him to create such an over-blown, over-priced and over-sized coffee product that has little to do with the culture of coffee consumption and tradition in Italy.
In most coffee shops (called bars in Italy) there is little "romance" and the only "theater" is standing at the bar (either that, or get charged extra for a table), chomping down a cornetto and slurping down your espresso after which the mega-dose of caffeine propels you on your way toward the morning's labor. Perhaps he mistook a simple fact for "theater": the barista knows the locals because bars are local, neighborhood places in Italy... every neighborhood has them, each one with a small family of baristi and neighbors. Sure, some of the fancy coffee bars in tourist centers might be pretty plush, but most are plain and proactical. This is hard to duplicate on a fast-food chain store model. And I'm not sure that the Italians will put up with paying four to six times the price to what they currently pay for an espresso.
Every morning, the average Italian either makes their own small cup of intense espresso with their little art deco Moka coffee pot on their home gas range, or they stand for a couple of minutes in their neighborhood "bar" at an actual bar counter (bars serve coffee in Italy) and down a little cup (usually half full) of dense, hot espresso--usually with some sugar added. This is part of their colazione (breakfast) which nationwide consists of an espresso or cappuccino and a sweet pastry, such as a cornetto (the Italian, less flaky version of a croissant).
There must be a good reason that after 33 years of Starbucks' great success and with about 21,000 stores in 70 countries (with 38 in Europe), the brand has never opened a store in Italy, the supposed home of its inspiration. Is it because the look and feel of both the Starbucks experience and its offerings have nothing to do with coffee bars in Italy? It depends on what the meaning of their "success" is too... as it seems that every couple of years Starbucks seems to announce mass closings of its stores, anywhere from hundreds to thousands. Have they become over-saturated? Italy is going to suck up a lot of marketing funds to convince the average Italian to gulp instead of slurp.
Is success really guaranteed in Italy... a country with 22 different regions each with their own regulations and laws and customs? Is it guaranteed in a country where people think it's a Cardinal Sin to add milk to coffee at any other time than early in the morning? Is success guaranteed where eating and drinking while walking on the street or in your car is socially unacceptable and considered disgustoso? Will it be a success where family run, small shops in local towns and villages with loyal customers are the mainstay of the Italian economy?
Starbucks claims that it will enter the birthplace of espresso "with humility and respect". Doesn't that sound like a scene from The Godfather? Are they going to have to bow and kiss a few knuckles, too? Are they going to make Italians an offer they can't refuse?
Starbucks needed a partner to accomplish their plan in Italy, so they selected Italian real estate/mall developer, Gruppo Percassi. The company, based in Bergamo, will license and run the Starbucks brand in Italy. Even signore Percassi himself admitted: "We know that we are going to face a unique challenge with the opening of the first Starbucks store in Italy, the country of coffee, and we are confident that Italian people are ready to live the Starbucks experience, as already occurs in many other markets."
There are some hard facts that will prevent Italians from easily accepting the Starbucks brand. While the espresso machine was invented in Italy, it turns out that Italy doesn't drink anywhere near the amount of coffee as other countries, especially when compared to the United States--we drink about four times as much coffee per person as Italians! Italy ranks as only the seventh largest consumer of coffee in Europe. The reasons for this are simple. Their espresso cups are small, and usually not filled completely. Unlike in other countries where one might have large cups of coffee each day, the Italians drink small amounts. I had an assistant once who drank 6-8 cups each day and even my wife, Lisa likes her coffee in over-sized mugs rather than small cups, I've never seen an Italian drinking coffee from a mug or a paper cup. They don't do take-out coffee, either.
The Italian cultural attitude toward coffee consumption is also very different. Perhaps they will have a cappuccino (with milk) in the morning with a sweet pastry, then a quick espresso shot during a late morning break at the bar down the street from their office, and perhaps another espresso on the way home or after dinner. Workplaces don't have coffee machines and stations as they do here in the U.S., and most homes have at least one Moka pot... never a Mr. Coffee machine. Unlike in American homes where there might be a large pot of coffee (already brewed) in a coffee machine waiting to be consumed all during the day, an Italian likes their espresso made fresh... they drink it and they're done.
Unlike the scene at a Starbucks, Italians might not take to lounging around in armchairs sipping huge take-out cups of overly sweet and pumpkin-spiced cappuccinos while surfing the Internet. They are used to getting their caffeine fix on-the-go with a quick stop at a neighborhood coffee bar.
The types of coffee served at Starbucks are a caricature of what you find in Italy, some of which are completely made up. In Italy, when you ask for "un caffe" you receive an espresso. Coffee IS espresso to Italians. And if you ask for a "latte" in Italy, you get a glass of milk--yes, only milk. Latte means milk. And a Frappuccino is a trademarked name, invented by Starbucks by shoving together "cappuccino" and "frappe" together... a sweet espresso with milk married to basically a milkshake.
And then there's the amount of sugar in Starbucks offerings. A Grande Vanilla Frappuccino contains more sugar than six servings of Kellog's Fruitloops! After all, there is a reason Italians stay so thin.
If Starbucks opens in Italy, they will also have to be careful about how they roast their beans. Italians roast beans only until they are brown--not black, like American baristas tend to do. In fact, Italians tastes--literally, the way they sense flavors--are different than the American palette. Americans seem to tolerate overly roasted coffee with a much more bitter flavor than Italians prefer. They also don't go for overly sweet things.
You can also consider the fact that Italians don't really drink iced coffee. Their cold coffee is a completely different thing. In fact, a tall glass of iced coffee would strike fear into most Italians... all that ice could cause congestione, a digestive block, and might even threaten one's life! There is an actual health code that forbids making and chilling espresso for storage. Enter the Shakerato.... a shaken and chilled espresso. Ice, espresso and sugar syrup is shaken in a metal cocktail shaker, resulting in a chilled espresso with a foamy head when poured into tall wine glasses. There are also other variations on this...
Caffè Freddo and Granita di Caffè.
Then there's the size difference between Italian espresso and Starbucks products.
In Italy, it goes like this:
(In all cases above, the cups used are much smaller than a typical, American style 6 ounce cup.)
At Starbucks things are much larger to start with:
In the end, if Starbucks does come to towns in Italy, I really wonder if it will look and feel the same as Starbucks do here in the States. It's sort of like how fast food places are a different thing entirely in Italy. They offer far more healthy food that we get here. Italians expect things to be fresh--made the same day. They shy away from overly sweet things. They really don't overindulge on food or drink. You won't see coffee-addicted loners sucking up both bandwidth and caffeine in a cushy leather chair all morning in a local hangout. Italians like socializing. They go home for long lunches to spend time with family. The spend time with friends and family after work. They would never think of parking a huge paper coffee cup into their car's cup holder.
And they are frugal. One of the reasons they stand while drinking their espresso is that if they sit at a table, they will get charged much more for the table and the table service. And I really can't see an Italian spending 10 Euros on a Grande when they can buy an espresso for 1 Euro or a really nice bottle of wine at their local alimentari for 5 or 6 Euro.
Starbucks has their work cut out for them if they want to attract Italians into their shops...
Time will tell if their cup is half empty or half full.
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Check out this fantastic article by Veronica Di Grigoli on The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife blog that I came across. It profiles a wonderful Easter festival in Sicily where a fantasy village is built out of bamboo and artistic panels and decorations all made out of bread. Well worth a look! Loads of great photos...
Loafing around in Sicily’s Gingerbread Village
The people of San Biagio Platano, a village in south-western Sicily, have celebrated Easter every year since the 1700’s by decorating their streets with arches and towers made of bread. The entire community spends three months turning the place into a gingerbread village… yet Hansel and Gretel never come!
Click HERE to read the entire article...
Click the photo above to watch this Italia Slow Tour video on the high mountain plateau of Castelluccio in Umbria. Lentils are considered good luck when eaten on New Year's Day in Italy. This video shows how the plants were harvested in the old manner--with winnowing baskets. The variety of lentil grown in the high altitude of Castelluccio is a PGI product and is very high in iron and protein. Wath this charming older woman as she shows how to seperate the lentils from the chaff.
Italian Toaster: La Brustolina
When I was a kid, I just loved toast with butter. My Dad had a special way of making it. Although we had a "normal" electric toaster, Dad would pull out his old-fashioned, four slice toaster gizmo and place it over one of the gas burners of our cooker. There was something special about the taste and texture of toast made like that... more blackened spots here and there, more smokey tasting and although the bread was crunchy on the outside, the bread stayed moist inside.
When we Voyaged to Italy, we discovered an Italian kitchen tool that brought back memories of my father's special, stove-top toaster--the brustolina. Nothing more than a simply designed sheet metal device with holes on one side and a wire rack on the top side and a retractable wire handle to make storing in a kitchen drawer or on a shelf practical. You lay the brustolina on top of a burner on your stovetop with the wire grid on top and then place your bread for toasting. Flip the bread by had to toast the second side. Simple.
Brustolina, tostapane, and graticola are common names for this kitchen staple throughout Italy. Virtually every kitchen has one. The Venetian word brustolina is a derivative of brustolar, meaning toast or roast, and can also mean toasted pumpkin seeds. Tostapane is the Italian word for a bread toaster, and graticola is the word for a grill or grate. One brand name is La Gratella.
A brustolina has many uses: grilling slices of polenta, toasting thick slabs of Tuscan bread for bruschetta, roasting peppers, eggplant or zucchini, or heating up slices of pizza, focaccia or cornetto and other sweet breakfast rolls.
Here are some ideas...
Everyone loves to bake, eat and share Italian Christmas cookies during the holiday season, which in Italy is quite long. To get you all the way through to the Ephipany on January 8th, here is a list of the 10 best--along with links to authentic recipes from Italy...
Struffoli: This is perhaps one of the most popular Christmas cookies known to most Italian-Americans. Italians in southern Italy inherited this recipe from the Greeks, after all, southern Italy was originally Magna Grecia--part of the Greek culture way before the Romans. They are small fried balls covered with honey and sprinkles, often piled into a little mountain. RECIPE
Zaletti: This biscotto gets its name from the Venetian dialect word for yellow--zálo. They are yellow from the stone ground corn flour they are made from. This is a very ancient peasant recipe which typically contains raisins soaked in either grappa or some other spirit, then dusted with powdered sugar. They are eaten with a sweet dessert wine or with espresso in the morning. RECIPE
Cuccidati: Cucciddato (also, Buccellati) is filled, shaped biscotto made in Sicily during the Christmas season. They are stuffed with dried figs, raisins, orange peel, honey, chocolate and dried fruit. They can be small, but can also be donut sized and can be made as a large ring torta. The traditional nut used are pistachios, but walnuts or almonds can also be used. RECIPE
Mostaccioli: These chocolate covered, spiced biscuits are essentially the gingerbread of southern Italy. The recipes can vary greatly, but usually contain some sort of holiday spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, citrus and perhaps wine must (the root of the name). They can be hard or softer depending on the regional recipe, with the hardest recipes being used to create shaped mostaccioli (animals, religious figures, etc.) . The most popular shape for home bakers is a diamond or rhombus. RECIPE
I hope you enjoy making these recipes. You might have to do some metric conversions but the slight trouble will be worth it.
Buon appetito e Buon Natale a tutti!
--Jerry, Lisa and Lucas Finzi
Now I've heard that in Pienza (our favorite Tuscan village) loves hosting some odd festivals from time to time (like cheese rolling contests), but this one takes the cake--literally.
The Torneo Gioco del Panforte (Tournament Games of the Panforte) takes place from December 26 - 30 in the Piazza Pio II Loggiato del Comune, with competing teams throwing a panforte cake to a table from 15 feet away. The team throwing and sliding the panforte closest to the edge of the table is the winner.
Panforte is a sort of flat, disc shaped Italian fruitcake made by Italians during the Christmas season.
For info: www.commune.pienza.siena.it
In the centuries before the iconic Bialetti Mokka pot, people drank the new beverage in coffeehouses, an idea that started in Constantinople around 1550, but also spread to Mecca, Damascus and Cairo. Although David ibn Abi Zimra (a Cairo rabbi) ruled in 1553 that Jews could drink coffee prepared by a non-Jew, he also warned against patronizing public coffeehouses and suggested that instead, they have their coffee deliver to their homes--especially due to its medicinal use.
Initially, in the 15th century, the drink quickly spread throughout the Ottoman Empire, enjoyed with large amounts of sugar. Jews and Muslims alike found that it helped them stay awake and alert for nightly prayer services. For Muslims, it took the place of forbidden alcoholic beverages. For the Jews, its adoption was tentative with rabbis debating whether it was Kosher, what blessing it required or whether it was actually a medicinal drug.
Coffee in Italy had a slow start, partly due to it being declared a Drink of the Devil by the Catholic church, and because it was a very expensive drink for the elite. It wouldn't be until 1603 when Pope Clement VIII tasted--and liked--coffee and gave the drink full absolution from its sins. This helped open the floodgates for coffee in Italy and the rest of Europe.
In 1632, the Jews of Livorno--a port city that was given over to the Italian Jewish population which became a center of Mediterranean trade--imported the first coffee into Italy and then opened the first coffeehouses (Bottega del Caffè). By 1624 and 1650, large shipments were shipped to Venice and by 1683, the first coffeehouse in Venice opened.
In researching this article, I actually discovered that in 1766, an ancestor with my family name, Beniamino Finzi (an Italian Jew) was given management of a coffeehouse in Livorno. He managed to get the Jewish leaders to rescind a law forbidding games of chance in coffeehouses frequented by Jews. He was the first Jew to be granted a permit to allow gambling with card and board games in a coffeehouse. From this time on, a Jew could only run an "entertainment room" for gambling only if they also served coffee!
Coffee was becoming mainstream.... within 200 years of the first sip being tasted in Italy, the craving for coffee had spread throughout Europe and even into the New World.
As an advertising photographer, at times in my career I had to create art using food--fresh food, cooked food--often using strange food stylist techniques to make the food look its best (brushing steak sauce on a near-raw turkey and torching it), to last longer (using mashed potatoes in place of a scoop of melting ice cream), or making soups more appealing (marbles under the ingredients so they show). In drinks we used non-melting, hand sculpted acrylic ice cubes and silver cards behind to reflect the color. But for my more artistic work, I loved using food in surrealistic ways... huge tomatoes sitting atop a lamp table in a miniature set, or a "gigantic" wine bottle and glass with a tag saying "drink me" in another miniature room.
But the absolute king of using food in surrealistic ways was the 16th century Italian artist, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, born in Milan in 1527. Coming from artistic stock (his father was Biagio, a painter during the Renaissance), Arcimboldo at first had more traditional commissions: stained glass window designs in the Duomo; frescoes for the Cathedral of Monza; the design of a large tapestry for the Como Cathedral; and he was a court portraitist to Ferdinand I in Vienna, and to Maximilian II and his son Rudolf II in Prague where he also took on duties of court decorator and costume designer. His work took a turn toward surrealism and food themes when King Augustus of Saxony commissioned a copy of his "The Four Seasons" which incorporates his own monarchic symbols.
Arcimboldo's traditional religious works have mostly fallen into oblivion, but his portraits of human heads made up of vegetables, fruit and tree roots, were surprisingly admired by his contemporaries and remain unique examples of surrealism today. Debates continue as to whether his paintings were purposeful by design or the product of a deranged mind. Many art scholars argue that given the Renaissance fascination with riddles, puzzles, bizarre subject and even metamorphic art (an image of one thing also being seen as a second thing) that he was simply following his own interpretations of poplar trends.
Food Art Turkeys: Gobble, Gobble
We Three... that's what we call our little family. Traditionally, we keep our Thanksgiving feast for our little family unit. We are thankful for each other, for our health and happiness, and for keeping us safe in our home in the country which we've dubbed "Buddleside".
When we were young, both Lisa's family and mine used to go all out, serving essentially two meals--the Italian and the American Thanksgiving spread. When arriving at the family home, we'd dig into antipasto. Then after a couple of hours of food prep, teasing each other and watching the parade on TV, we'd sit down for the Italian meal: Lasagna or home made ravioli served with meatballs, brasciole, and sausage. After this, we'd all need couch time to digest--a couple of hours.
Then would come Turkey Time. Turkey, stuffing, gravy (the brown American kind, not the Sunday Gravy red type), sweet potatoes and marshmallows, cranberries--the jellied, canned type for my family. Then later on, my Dad would roast the chestnuts in the oven, Mom would pour the coffee and tea and we'd head back to the table to dig into the spread of Italian pastries: Cannoli, Babà al Rhum, Eclairs, Napoleone, Sfogliatelle, Tricolori (Rainbow cookies), Amaretti (macaroons) and my favorite, Pasticiotti (we called them "Passa-Chutt"... little custard filled pies).
The chestnuts, pumpkin seeds, tangerines and pomegranates would finish off the day of feasting with sips of almond flavored Amaretto (almond) or Sambuca (anise) liquors.
I have no idea how we ate so much damned food back then.
For We Three nowadays, the meal is still abundant, but trimmed back a lot--yet still we have tons of leftovers for other meals). We start with an antipasto to honor our Italian roots, but we really have that as our lunch around 1pm. Provolone, salami, imported olives, pepperoni and slices of crusty bread are more than enough to hold us over while the turkey roasts in the oven in the afternoon.
Some of the sides we prepared the day before just so we could have time to relax with each other, play a board game, watch the Macy's Parade, the Dog Show and March of the Wooden Soldiers on TV (we love Laurel and Hardy). In the last few years, due to the odd marathon programming of cable channels, tuning in for our favorite parts of the Godfather trilogy is also something that Lisa and I enjoy, though I must admit, watching guys getting whacked on Thanksgiving Day strikes me as very odd.
As for the leftovers: Perhaps a second turkey dinner, turkey panini, turkey pasta, turkey barley soup, and our special, once-a-year pizza, which I call Thanksgiving Day Pizza. The turkey gravy (the brown stuff, not Sunday Gravy red) becomes the pizza sauce, the turkey and all the trimmings (cheese potatoes, cranberries, stuffing, etc.) become the toppings, all topped off with grated fontina cheese. Hey... I just looked at the time as I'm writing this on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I've got to get my dough started for the pizza tonight! I've been waiting all year for this...
Happy Thanksgiving to all our Grand Voyage Italy friends!
--Jerry, Lisa and Lucas
Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) is a 23 year-old pastry chef from Monza, Italy, who builds surrealistic scenes using food and scale railroading vehicles and people. A modern day Gulliver might be pleased with the people of Lilliput creating such tasty sweets for him to indulge in. Enjoy the slideshow...
Although there might still be a few homes in rural Italy where the fràscere or braciere (brazier) might be found, this tool for heating and cooking is more than likely a memory for older Italians. Typically an ancient-looking copper pan set into a wider wooden base, many recall their mothers placing the braciere full of hot coals from the home's fireplace into the middle of the room so all members of the family could sit around warming their feet on a cold winter's evening.
Some have shared memories with me: Mama putting large black olives in to heat them up, and then squeezing them onto pieces of toasted bread... or melting pieces of cheese on forks. They also remember how their fathers warmed up some zuppa for an evening snack before heading off to bed. A second braciere might have been placed in their bedroom to take the chill off as they drifted off to sleep.
And their mothers may well have covered the braciere with a scaldapanni (or sciuttapanni)--a dome cover made from bent strips of wood--and then draped a damp washcloth, panties, socks or a cloth diaper to dry overnight. In school the next day, there might have been a braciere--perhaps more than one--sitting on the floor between desks to help warm their scholastic endeavors, even if just to toss a crumpled mistake into the coals when their maestra was dissatisfied with their work.
The "conca" (basin), as it was casually referred to, was an ancient household invention thousands of years old that could be perceived as a sure sign of poverty in Italy, but there were riches in its use, too... family members--young and old, children through grandparents-- gathered around, telling stories, sharing gossip, knitting or repairing garments, toasting bread, laughing together, the children always being the closest to the warm, glowing circle. Occasionally, a lemon or orange peel was tossed onto the coals to send a simple but glorious scent into the air and if you were a good child, your father might let you use the little shovel to perk up the glow of the coals.
The family hearth might have been small, but the memories were warmer than that pile of coals could ever be...
Copyright 2016, Jerry Finzi/Grand Voyage Italy - All Rights Reserved
Waffles are something we enjoy almost every Sunday for colazione (breakfast). Lisa has a great recipe which includes egg whites that makes that light and crispy. Lucas' favorite breakfast is waffles with Nutella and banana. But the ancestor of our favorite waffle is something much more delicate... more like a waffle ice cream cone... the pizzelle. (We'll use the name "pizzelle" in this article for both singular and plural--singular is actually pizzella). "Pizze" is from the Italian word for "round" and "flat" (pizze)--yes, just like the word pizza. The "elle" ending means small. Pizzelle are indeed small, flat and round. They are light and crispy Italian waffle cookies made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter or oil, flavored with vanilla, anise, anisette, lemon or even chocolate. Depending on how they are made, pizzelle might be soft or crisp.
Pizzelle are made by cooking batter in between two iron plates that have decorative patterns on them--usually in a sort of snowflake design. There are electric versions that are used just like waffle irons, and there are cast metal ones that you hold over a flame to cook the pizzelle, turning to cook each side. The interesting thing about pizzelle is that when they first come off the iron, they are soft and pliable. You can actually mold them around a tube to form a cylinder used in making cannoli, a cone shape for gelato cones or mold them into bowls or cups to be used as containers for sweet treats and desserts. Once cooled they become hard and brittle.
They can be colored (like the Italian flag, for instance) with food coloring, or dipped into chocolate or icing and sprinkles. The simplest way to serve them is dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar. Tuck them into a scoop or two of ice cream in a bowl. Two can be filled (Nutella!) like a little sandwich. Around the holidays, packaged pizzelle can also be found in many varied flavors and designs.
Pizzelle--at least, the Italian version we know today--were originally made in Ortona, in the Abruzzo region. Centuries ago, the families would have pizzelle irons specially made with family crests, special dates, or other celebratory designs. Although once enjoyed at annual festivals, these cookies can now be found at nearly every holiday celebration, in Italy and beyond.
Other countries have their own pizzelle type of cookie, too... like the Norwegian Krumkake. This is perhaps because it is one of the world's oldest cookies--it's ancestor most likely was the Roman crustulum, a flat bread treat cooked in a Roman pancake pan and on top of a craticula (a sort of Roman BBQ grate cooker). Pizzelle are known as ferratelle in the Lazio region and in Molise they may be called ferratelle or cancelle.
The history of pizzelle might go back even further in history, however. There are ancient examples of bread stamps--some being a similar size to modern pizzelle--in both ancient Rome and Greece. Flat breads throughout the Middle East and the Greek and Roman areas of the Mediterranean were often stamped in geometric patterns. Some stamps were small but used in a repeating manner to create a large pattern on the face of a flatbread. The larger ones in the early days of Christianity were used to impress flat breads with a cross or religious pattern, the bread being used as the Holy Eucharist during early masses. St. John Chrysostom (a Greek, 347-407AD), noted in his writings that all bread was “sealed”, most likely with a cross.
Pizzelle - made with olive oil
Makes 2-3 dozen
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light olive
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Grated orange zest
1-1/2 tsp Flavoring extract (lemon, rum, almond, vanilla, or anise)
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and olive oil. Add the eggs, salt, zest, and
extract then beat well. Gradually stir in the flour until the mixture is smooth, soft and sticky.
Heat the pizzelle maker. Using a spoon, scoop some dough and place the dough on each cookie pattern of the pizzelle maker. It might help to wet your hands and roll a tablespoon sized dollop into a ball and then center it on the pizzelle iron. Close and clamp the lid and cook until about 30 seconds until light golden color. I have found that many pizzelle irons/griddles tend to squeeze too much batter forward (due to the rear hinge design)... compensate by positioning your batter slightly to the rear of center. Use a thin wooden spatula to remove the pizzelle from the griddle.
Transfer pizzelles onto a cool counter-top or cookie cooling rack to dry and harden. Repeat until all the batter is used up. If you need to mold them into a shape, do it immediately as they come off the griddle. Do not leave pizzelle out on damp, humid days. After drying, they keep well in Zip-loc bags.
Pizzelle - with butter
Makes 2-3 dozen. Butter will add flavor but they will be less crisp.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Cointreau or Triple Sec (or Liquor of your choice)
1-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the butter, vanilla,
and Cointreau. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until combined. The batter
should be thick.
(Makes 30 pizzelle)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder in a small bowl. In a second bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and whisk. Add the cocoa/flour mixture and mix until smooth. Make pizzelle the same way as previous recipes..
Pizzelle with Hazelnuts
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup ground hazelnuts
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt, then add the butter and blend well. Sift together all the remaining ingredients, except the hazelnuts. Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Next, fold in the ground hazelnuts. Make pizzelles as previously.
Follow the recipe for the Butter Pizzelles above.
Leave out the vanilla and Liquor flavorings.
Add 1 tablespoon of almond extract or 2 tablespoons of amaretto.
Add 3/4 cup of ground almonds to the batter.
Follow the recipe for Pizzelles made with butter.
Omit the vanilla and Cointreau.
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream shaved chocolate top top it off.
Black and White Pizzelle
Follow the Butter Pizzelle recipe.
Make one batch of the Chocolate Pizzelle recipe.
Place 1/2 tablespoon of each batter, side to side in the middle of the pizzelle baker's pattern and bake as usual.
If you enjoyed this article, please SHARE it and LIKE it on your favorite social media site. Buon Natale!
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Recipe: Coconut Chocolate Squares
I've always loved coconut and chocolate. Mounds candy bars were a favorite when sitting in the dark, echoing movie palace during Saturday matinees in my youth. In Italy, one of my favorite, two-scoop gelato treats was coco and cioccolato. So when my wife, Lisa made these Coconut Chocolate Squares for me last week, I was in heaven!
My wife, Lisa was making a surprise one recent Sunday morning for breakfast--some sort of German oven baked "pancakes". What we got on our breakfast plates was a 1" thick, gelatinous, rubber-textured, tofu-like squared portion. As our forks entered our mouths, simultaneously, our facial reactions were the same. Yuck! While they were edible--only after over-dosing with maple syrup--none of us could stand their rubbery texture, like stale Jello with lots of eggs. Lisa was beside herself, but not wanting her to feel bad I kicked into action with a very quick, impromptu rendition of eggs in purgatory.... for of course, purgatory is where all great cooks (my wife is a great one) go for penance after indulging in such a culinary sin.
This isn't a formal recipe, but more of a quick guide for a tasty breakfast using simply pantry ingredients--and no real recipe. I quickly got out 6 eggs, heated up a fry pan with drizzle of olive oil and turned on the oven to broil. Next, I poured enough tomato sauce (we always seem to have some) to cover the entire surface of the pan about 1/4" deep. I then broke the eggs into the bubbling sauce and salted, peppered and sprinkled them with dry basil.
After a few minutes when the eggs looked like they were cooked on the bottom, I placed the pan into the oven for about 2 minutes.
I popped some slices of ciabatta into the toaster. Lisa got new plates while Lucas cleared the table of the rubbery pancake remains, and then I plated. Two slices of bread on each plate, an egg and some sauce on each, and for a finish I shaved some Reggiano and topped off each serving.
Presto! Breakfast saved. Babbo is a hero and helped Mama save face (such a lovely face)... and I'm happy to report that she returned from purgatory to her righteous heavenly place in our hearts--and our kitchen.
In the small Sardinian town of Nuoro, there are a very few women (you might count them on one hand) who still know how to make what many say is the rarest type of pasta in Sardinia Italy and perhaps the whole world... Su filindeu, in the Sardinian language. In Italian it is called Fili di Dio, which can be translated as either Wires of God or Threads of God.
Filindeu is tied to a religious ritual celebrated in the region of Nuoro. Oddly, this celebration is tied to a murder in the year 800 AD. Accused of murder and being hunted down for his crime, a young man claimed innocence and took refuge in a cave about 15 miles from Nuoro. He was discovered, brought to trial and miraculously (to him) declared innocent. He had prayed to Saint Francis during his time of refuge in the cave and thus built a shrine in the cave in honor of his patron saint. Every May 1st and October 4th, there are processions to the cave and shrine followed by a celebratory feast of filindeu.
The dough to make this special pasta is durum semolina, water and a bit of salt. It is then kneaded for a very long time to stretch the gluten, making it very soft with amazing elasticity. The dough is rolled by hand into 8 long, thin snakes, which are folded, halved and pulled, only to be folded and stretched again--32 times in total--resulting in 256 thread-like thin bundles of parallel groups of pasta. These threads are then stretched across a large, flat tray called a fundu, traditionally woven from leaves of the local asphodel plant (a member of the lily family), often used in basket-making. To aide in the stretching, the dough is occasionally dipped in salt water--the timing of this sensed only by the experience of the artisan making the pasta.
This process is repeated until a single layer of "threads" cover the entire fundu. the basket is then rotated by about 60 ° with another layers of pasta "threads" laid down. This is repeated a third time creating three criss-crossed layers of "threads". The tray is placed in the sun to dry causing the three layers to stick together while creating a stiff fabric of pasta looking very much like a course textured cheesecloth.
For the feast, the filindeu is broken into pieces and put in boiling mutton broth. Grated pecorino (sheep) cheese is added to complete the soup. I don't know about you, but I've always loved my soup loaded with noodles...
If you're ever in Sardinia, look for packages of filindeau shards. Some have realized that this is a real Sardinian treasure and are trying to expand the availability of this pasta.
The weather on the Adriatic Sea on the eastern coast of Italy can get very rough--at times too rough for fishermen to voyage out to sea to fill their nets. About 2000 years ago, the Phoenicians invented a sort of land-based fishing machine that could catch fish even in rough seas. Although many believe this is the reason for their invention, some claim that farmers invented the structures to supplement their food supply during times of poor harvests. Whoever invented it, the trabucco (not to be confused with the same Italian word for a trebuchet, a military weapon) has become a proud part of the maritime history of Italy...
A trabucco (also, trabocco or travocc) looks like the upper parts of a sailing ship built on the craggy edge of a small prominence jutting out into the sea. To the a fan of Steinbeck stories, they might appear to have jumped right off the page from one of his stories about the fishing villages on the northern California Coast.
Essentially, a trabucco is a fishing shack with attached decks built on stilts. Nets are rigged onto long pine poles called antennae jutting out over the water and then dropped into the paths of passing schools of fish. Since schools of fish often navigate closely past such points of land, the trabucco became a very efficient method of fishing. In the early part of the 20th century, a successful trabucco could catch enough fish for up to 10 families.
Trabucci are found along the coasts of Abruzzi (especially along the Costa dei Trabocchi, a coastal area named for them) and the rocky Gargano peninsula in Puglia where they are protected as National Monuments. Although some are still used today for fishing, they have become treasured monuments to the history of fishing in southern Italy, many being restored into seaside restaurants and bars. They can also be found along the coastlines of the southern Adriatic, especially in the provinces of Chieti, Campobasso, and Foggia and also in some parts of the coast of southern Tyrrhenian Sea on the west side of the Boot.
If you are ever in Abruzzo or in Puglia on the Gargano peninsula (a fantastic beach destination), plan on having lunch or a romantic dinner at one of these trabucci turned into eateries. It will be a high-point of your voyage and one of the most unique dining experiences of your entire life...
Here is a tripadvisor listing of trabucci restaurants. Enjoy!