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Cookies without Nuts
castagnelle Molisana cookies
Castagnelle (Molisani chocolate-covered vanilla-flavored cookies)
Originated from: Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time & special times
Contributed by: Adapted from "Southern Italian Cooking" by Valentina Harris (1993)

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Ingredients

For cookie dough
2 3/4 cups flour
5 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For chocolate icing
3 tablespoons water
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 pound cooking chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder

Yield: about 14 cookies.



Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs.

At low speed, add the flour, and blend well.

At low speed add the sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Blend well.

Using your hands, knead the resulting dough.

Form the dough into a ball, and roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut strips of dough -- about 2 inches long, 3/4 inch wide.

Shape the strips of dough so that they look a bit like thumb-thick cylinders or "ladyfingers."

Place the cylinders on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

Bake for until dry and crisp -- about 8 to 12 minutes.

Remove and cool.



Meanwhile prepare the icing (frosting).

Place the water in a pan and add the sugar.

Using low heat melt the sugar, stirring constantly, until a thick syrup is formed.

Gradually add the chocolate and the cocoa, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very smooth.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Quickly dip each cookie into the frosting (Should be thick), hold it on the end of a fork.

Allow the frosting to air dry for a few hours before serving.




Notes

The recipe in this entry was adapted from "Southern Italian Cooking" by Valentina Harris (London: Pavilion Books, 1993). The book can be borrowed for free at the on-line public library, www.openlibrary.org.... Valentina Harris' "Southern Italian Cooking" is one of the few Italian cookbooks written in English that includes recipes from Molise. Generally, most cookbook writers, put Molise and Abruzzo together; this is not all that surprising as Molise was part of Abruzzo until 1963. The region became independent in 1963.... Having been born in Molise it's heartwarming to see traditional recipes from this area cataloged and made available to a large North American public. Despite the fact that Molise is a very tiny region with less than half a million inhabitants, its cuisine is quite varied. Towns and villages have their own unique ways of preparing classic dishes. Actually, some dishes are only made in certain towns and villages. Each little town and village in Molise seems to be a little country on its own -- with its own language and culinary history. Personally, I am not familiar with the cookies in this entry. The name of these cookies is intriguing. Their name, "castagnelle," sounds like it might have something to do with chestnuts, as the word for chestnuts in Italian is "castagna," but it turns out the recipe does not call for chestnuts. Nor are the cookies shaped like chestnuts. In any case, I found the directions given for this recipe in Valentina Harris' cookbook a bit vague. While the proportions are clearly spelled out, the exact shape of the cookies is not. The directions call for the dough to be made into a ball, rolled out into thumb-thick cylinders, then cut into 2 inch strips. I gather the cookies should end up looking like ladyfingers, but I am not 100 per cent sure of this. All I am sure of is that prior to 1950 baking chocolate was very expensive in Molise, so any cookie that included chocolate would only have been made for very special occasions. Possibly the addition of a thick layer of chocolate icing to this cookie is a modern twist, post World War II. Italy's 30-something crowd might see anything done in the kitchen prior to 2000 as ancient history, but those Italians who immigrated to North America (I'm one) in the 1950s want to believe that the word, "traditional," applies to what was done prior to the 1950s. That might be unrealistic considering anything that is over a quarter century years old is well, old. Very old..... Personal comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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