Fiadone, Fiadone Dolce, Fiadoni, Fiatoni, Fiadoni Dolci, Sciatun, Hiaune, Hiadone or H'iatun'***
For the Pastry Dough [makes about 36 fiadoni]
6 extra large eggs
6 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons oil
Flour as much as is needed [about 3 3/4 cups ]*
* It all depends on the size of the eggs and the type of equipment one is using to make the dough (The resulting dough should be more on the soft side than on the hard side -- kind of like a "cavatelli" dough).
For the Filling
2 containers of ricotta, drained** (450 grams each)
2 egg whites, beaten
6 tablespoons sugar
For brushing the tops of the fiadoni
4 egg yolks, beaten
**Saputo ricotta is the best for this recipe as its ricotta is the thickest. The other brands contain more liquid in their ricotta containers, so after draining the ricotta, one ends up with less filling. Also, the thicker the ricotta filling texture is the less "airy" it is -- a good thing, as this will help the pastry pocket's filling from "popping out" from its air vents.
*** Fiadone (singular) or fiadoni (plural) were originally known as "h'iatun'" or "hiadone" or even "sciatun" in the Molise countryside. However tourist brochures from this region now refer to them as "fiadone." On the world-wide web this style of cheese pastry has many different names, including: fiadone con ricotta, fiadone al ricotta, fiadone di ricotta, fiadoni con ricotta, fiadoni al ricotta, fiadoni di ricotta, ricotta fiadoni, fiadone dolce, fiatoni di ricotta, and sweet fiadone. The desserts are sometimes referred to as cheese pies and sometimes as cheesecakes. In actual fact, Italian recipes for this style of cheese-filled pastry vary in shape -- some look like regular pies or rustic torts, some look like pastry pockets or turnovers, others look like sweet ravioli (square, round, half-moon or crescent-shaped). Generally speaking, in the 1930s most home cooks in the Molise countryside owned rectangular pie pans, so fiadoni at that time were presented in a rectangular shape, with lattice toppings (See Zia Teresa's recipe, entitled "Fiadone di Casacalenda" for the true "traditional" version of this old recipe.)
To make the dough
o Using an electric mixture beat eggs.
o Add oil. Mix.
o Add sugar. Mix.
o Add one cup flour. Mix. Another the second cup of flour. Mix. Add the third cup of flour. Mix well.
o Remove the bowl, and take out the soft dough mixture out. Place the soft dough mixture in a clean bowl add another 1/2 cup of flour; mix well by hand until you have a soft and malleable dough.
o Clean the bowl attached to the electric beater and then add the soft dough lightly kneaded by hand. Change the egg beaters to dough hooks. Add the dough and knead for about 8 minutes. The resulting dough should Not be hard like a spaghetti dough, but should be soft, like a cavatelli dough. (P.S. If one were to make the dough, using the traditional method, one would make a mound of flour on a wooden board, make a well in the center and then add eggs in the center, oil etc. Incorporate. Repeat the process until a soft dough is formed....
o Divide the dough into two parts (or three parts). Shape the divided dough into balls and wrap each ball in clear plastic wrap (Obviously the dough was not wrapped in clear plastic prior to World War II, cooks simply placed the dough in a container, and then covered the container with a linen towel.).
o Place each ball of dough wrapped in clear plastic in a dish. Cover the container with a linen towel or place it under another larger container (My mother's method).
o Let the dough rest for about 6 hours in a cool place, away from the sun or direct heat (In Italy the dough was allowed to rest at room temperature but one has to keep in mind that these Easter treats were done in the early spring when most homes in the South were rather cold and damp). Ideally, the temperature of the room should be about 58 degrees F. A fridge is too cold, and a living room is too warm. Nowadays most cooks let the dough rest in the fridge, worried about the eggs spoiling.
To make the ricotta filling
o Place the ricotta in a bowl and add the sugar. Beat the egg whites with a fork for a minute or so (Do NOT make stiff peaks, as this will create air bubbles in the mixture and ruin the fiadoni!).
o Mix the ricotta, sugar and egg white mixture with a wooden spoon until it is nice and smooth (Do NOT use a blender, as the ricotta will have a stronger flavor if it is kept in its natural state).
o Keep the mixture in the fridge till needed.
To make the fiadoni
o After the dough has rested take one ball of dough and knead for a few minutes. Shape into a log.
o Cut a portion of the log (about an inch or two) and pass it through a pasta machine -- but not to the last number (but the second to last number). The dough should not be as thin as lasagna noodles, but just a touch thicker (possibly no. 7, not never 8 if one has numbers on one's pasta machine). P.S. The length of the resulting pastry sheet will not matter so much as it will be cut up, but 12 inches or so in length would be O.K. Also, any left-over dough cuttings can be re-shaped into small balls of dough, and then passed through the pasta machine again.
o Cut another small portion from the log and keep passing it through the pasta machine (bearing in mind that the dough will harden after awhile, so it's best if one does 1/2 [or 1/3] of the fiadoni at a time -- passing the dough through the pasta machine, then cutting it, filling each circle and folding it into a half moon, and then baking the fiadoni. If one doesn't bake the first third right away, the ricotta-stuffing will end up making the pastry dough soggy, so it is imperative to do the fiadoni in batches!).
o After the first portion of dough has been passed through the pasta machine, make half moon-shaped pastry pockets. You can either use a 4 inch cookie cutter or if you don't have one you can use an espresso cup saucer (Place the plate on the pastry dough and cut around it with a sharp knife or pastry cutter.). Any left-over dough can be re-shaped into a ball, and then put through the pasta machine, to get more circles. This will inevitably be necessary if one has an average-sized pasta machine where getting four-inch circles will take time and effort [Fiadoni can also be made with store-bought gadgets that help in the stuffing and pressing of the pastry dough, but these gadgets generally come in small sizes, so one doesn't get much filling in them and as the best part of these pastries is the filling, the end result will be a bit disappointing if one uses store-bought pasta presses.]. N.B. Instead of flouring the wooden board one can place silicon parchment paper and process the dough on the paper. "Chef Elite silicone parchment paper" can be had at dollar shops and it works really well -- actually better than flour.
o Dot about a tablespoon and a half of ricotta filling [as much as possible] on the cut-out round-shaped pastry noodle and then fold the dough over and press the edges together with a fork to form the half-moon shape. (If too much time has elapsed and the dough has hardened one can soften inside of the pastry pocket edges with an egg that has been beaten with 1/2 cup of water, however, this dough has a lot of oil in it so it shouldn't happen!).
o Make two tiny air vents on the top side of the pastry pocket with wooden toothpicks.
o Brush the prepared ricotta-filled pastry pockets with beaten egg yolk.
o Grease the baking sheets.
o Bake in a slow oven (about 325 degrees F) on the medium rack for about twenty-five minutes or until the pastries are golden. N.B. Cheap aluminum cookware is the best, as the aluminum does not conduct heat very well, making it less likely that one ends up with burnt fiadoni bottoms. Using silicon baking mats to line the baking sheets is Not recommended for this particular recipe, as one cannot grease silicon baking mats, and the greasing of the baking sheets actually seems to improve the flavor and texture of the bottom side of the fiadoni pastries.
o Repeat the steps for the remaining ball (or balls) of dough.
o Keep the cooked fiadoni in the fridge until ready to serve.
These are my favorite Easter treats and that's why I actually managed to make them right (Well, there' not as good as my mom's, but good enough). Of course, when my mother was a young girl, a rolling pin was used to flatten the dough, but nowadays everyone (my own mother as well) uses a pasta maker. Dusting flour on the dough prior to using the pasta maker increases the chances for success. This is one recipe that is rarely found in pastry shops, and yet of all the traditional recipes brought over from the "old country" this is by far the easiest to do, and the most fun to eat. If I can do them, anyone can.... It has been pointed out that many first generation Italians from the Molise countryside don't actually call this recipe "fiadone" (even though that's how Molise's government tourist booklets call them). In Montagano, Campobasso, Susan Marbello, noted that her grandmother calls them "sha-done" and in other areas in Abruzzo they may be called "theadone." My own mother calls them (to my ears) "hugh-don'" and/or "shiaton'." Some North Americans call them "Ricotta cookies" why this should be so is beyond me as they are not cookies by a long shot. Nor are they cheese pies. However, quite a few original recipes for "fiadone" do look like cheese pies and/or cheese tortes so that's quite understandable. In any case, they aren't really "pastry pockets" or "pastry envelops." They are really in a class of their own..... Who knows how many more variations there are? In any case, the reason these Easter sweets may have been called "fiadone" is because the word, "hiadone or "hugh-don"," in the Molise dialect means out of breath or all puffed up. As these pastry pockets look "puffed up" that's why they are called what they are (Well, this is the explanation given by my brother-in-law, a first generation Italian who grew up in Santa Croce di Magliamo, Molise). One more thing -- I always assumed Casacalenda's traditional fiadone came in the half moon shape that my mother did. However, one of my cousins told me that this is an error on my part. Supposedly, prior to World War II those living Casacalenda made their fiadone in rectangular shapes and topped them with lattice strips. It seems the "pastry pocket" version of the fiadone comes from other areas of Molise and/or Southern Italy. My mother, as well as some other townspeople from Casacalenda, supposedly modified their recipes when they first came to Montreal in the mid 1950s after coming in contact with other immigrants from other areas of Italy. This may or may not be so. In any case, I prefer the "pastry pocket" version for various reasons, including the fact that this is how my mother presented the "fiadone" for the past 50 years. P.S. Yes, yes, yes, the "traditional" fiadone recipe from Casacalenda was made in a rectangular form and topped with lattice strips -- this information comes from a very reliable source -- my aunt, Zia Rosina. Zia Rosina, may be in her early 80s but she has the mental agility of a young woman -- if anyone's memory regarding culinary traditions can be trusted, it's hers.... Photo: Mary Melfi.