Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Calginetti

Everyone's heard of pizzelle and biscotti, but I'm betting that these intriguing little fried pastries are new to even some die-hard Italian cookie aficionados. As a kid, I remember them popping up at my grandmom's house around the Christmas season, and I can't say they were always my favorite – the combination of cinnamon and citrus zest flavors with chocolate, along with the somewhat unusual texture of the filling (and the fact that there were chick peas - in a cookie?), was a bit of a challenge to my young palate. But as time went on, I gained an appreciation for these crunchy morsels, not just because they tasted good, but because they represented a who-knows-how-old tradition.

Calginetti ready to be fried

So it was a little bit heartwarming, a little bit fun, and a fair amount of work when my mom showed up to join Lauren and me in making these Christmas treats, pronounced cahl-jin-EETS (or at least that's how we say it in the South Philly Italian-American dialect). For a sense of historical perspective, here's the original recipe card upon which my grandmother passed down the instructions for making these. Like a lot of old recipes, this one doesn't tell the whole story, because when we followed it we ended up with WAY more filling than dough to wrap it in, so you may want to either half the filling portion or double the dough recipe to start out with. I'm also going to attempt to streamline the process versus what you'll find in the above-linked original recipe.

Calginetti (Mrs. Curcio)
1 (small) can chick peas/garbanzos/ceci
Zest of one tangerine, grated
1 8 oz. semisweet chocolate bar, chopped
1-1 1/2 C chopped walnuts or almonds
3/4 C cocoa
2 tbs cinnamon
Honey (about 3/4 of a bear's worth)

Rinse and drain the chick peas. Skin them by squeezing or rubbing with a towel. Place in the bowl of a food processor along with all of the ingredients aside from the honey. Process until mixture is finely chopped, then add honey until it has a firm consistency. Place in refrigerator while preparing the dough.

1/2 C rosé wine
1/2 C water
1/2 C vegetable oil
Flour (about 2-3 C)

Combine wine, water and oil, then mix in enough flour to make a dough that is thick enough to be rolled out. Divide dough into manageable portions and roll out to about 1/8" thick. Cut circles out of the dough with a three-inch diameter glass, biscuit cutter or ring mold. Place about a scant teaspoon of filling in each dough circle, then moisten the edges with water, fold over, press to seal and crimp with a fork (similar to making ravioli).

Deep-fry in hot vegetable oil (a deep fryer at 375° is best) in small batches, turning once, until golden brown all around. Drain and remove to a rack to complete draining and cooling. When cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Store in an air-tight container once totally cool and sprinkle with more confectioner's sugar before serving.

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