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Baresi cucinetti cuscinetti chucinetti
Chucinetti, Cuscinetti or Cucinetti (Fried Barese Christmas cookies filled with roasted almonds, flavored with lemon zest)
Originated from: Palo del Colle, Bari, Puglia
Occasion: Christmas
Contributed by: Mrs. Portzia Vessia

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For pastry dough
1 kilo (about 2.2 pounds) flour
100 grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) olive oil
100 grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) white wine
50 grams (about 1 2/3 ounces) sugar
a touch of water

For filling
1 kilo (about 2.2 pounds) blanched almonds, roasted and ground
800 grams (about 1 3/4 pounds) sugar
a touch of water
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

For frying
about 2 cups vegetable oil

For baking*
about 1/2 tablespoon for greasing pan

Equipment needed
a 3-inch cookie cutter (or an espresso cup saucer)

*Traditional" chucinetti (cucinetti, cuscinetti) pastries are supposed to be fried but more and more households in the Bari area are baking them, resulting in chucinetti that have fewer calories, but whose exterior pastry shell is less delicate and tasty.


To make the filling

Lightly roast whole blanched almonds.

Grind the almonds (Freshly ground almonds will provide a much better flavor than store-bought powdered almonds).

Add the lemon zest to the ground almonds and mix well. Keep aside.

Using a double boiler, liquefy the sugar, adding a touch of water to aid in the process.

When the sugar has turned into a liquid, add the ground almonds.


To make the pastry dough

Make a pastry dough using flour, olive oil, white wine and sugar (add a touch of water if the dough is too firm).

Divide the dough into 2 portions; wrap one portion in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge , while the first portion is processed (The fresher the dough, the easier it will be to handle it.).

Using a pasta maker, or a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch thick.

To make the Chucinetti

Using a 3-inch cookie cutter or an espresso cup saucer cut pastry rounds.

Place about 2 teaspoons of almond filling in each round, and seal the pastries, using the side of your thumb.

Place the chucinetti on a pastry board (or kitchen table) that has parchment paper on it (To avoid the dough from sticking to the surface.).

Continue processing the pastries until all the dough is used up (including the one resting in the fridge).

When all the dough has been processed, heat up the vegetable oil in a large pan.*

Place two or three "chucinetti" pastries in the pan and fry them until golden.

Using a slotted spoon remove the chucinetti and place them on kitchen paper towels (to remove excess oil).

When all the chucinetti have been fried, place them on a decorative container.

Keep in fridge until needed.

Serve at room temperature.

*If one is not frying the cookies, but baking them, simply place them on a baking on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 350 F. degrees oven until golden -- about 20 minutes.


Recently Mrs. Portzia Vessia, an 80 year old woman from Palo del Colle, Bari, came to visit her brother, Jerry Vessia, in Montreal, Quebec and to her family's delight she was able to provide the recipes on how to make "taralli Baresi" as well as "chucinetti," (or possibly, "cucinetti"/"cuscinetti," spelling varies) Puglian Christmas sweet fritters. Mrs. Vessia indicated that nowadays fewer and fewer home cooks in the Bari area are making these traditional recipes in the "traditional" manner. They don't make "taralli Baresi" in the "traditional" pretzel shape anymore, but make them as half bows. And now, most home cooks prefer to bake their calzone-style cookies rather than fry them as their grandparents once did. And of course, few people knead their dough by hand, but use kitchen appliances.... Comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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