Hey there. I’m sorry it’s been so many weeks since I last wrote. This past month wasn't so great and it was tough to to try to write about happy cakes when I didn’t feel all that joyful.
But things aren't all bad. They never are. I was lucky enough to take a solo vacation to Rome last month. And I even learned a few valuable things.
1. First of all, American tourists, especially the older ones, are the kindest people on earth. If you are ever lost or sad in a foreign country, strike up a conversation with an American tourist. You'll be rewarded with warm smiles and more encouragement than you could ever hope for.
2. I'm sorry to say it, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I don’t like guanciale. Guanciale, or cured pork jowl, is undoubtedly cool. Mario Batali loves it and I love Mario Batali. But now I can say that I’ve given guanciale a very fair shake and I’m ok with being uncool. It’s just too pork-forward for me.
2. I have finally experienced the true joy that comes from the perfect cannoli. All the cannoli I had in my life up until last month was fauxnnoli. Leave the gun and take the cannoli indeed! That heavenly combination of crunchy fried cookie crust and perfectly sweet whipped ricotta filling is beyond good. Now I get it.
4. Last but not least, I learned that a vacation alone is a special thing. It’s solitary and strange. And empowering. Absolutely worth a try.
This week I wanted to make you something inspired by my Roman holiday. A quick bookshelf brainstorm lead me to a pretty book called Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Constantino. These almond cookies are an adaptation of her Intorchiate. I changed the recipe a bit to include the almond paste I brought home from Italy. They’re good and subtle. Perfect for a cup of tea.
According to Rosetta, the cookie is meant to represent arms held in an embrace. I like that. It’s a good to know that when you need an extra hug, you can easily just bake one.
Intorchiate (Almond Cookie Twists)
Makes 18 cookies
This recipe is slightly adapted from Rosetta Constantino's book Southern Italian Desserts. I took out the olive oil, and added an egg yolk, some almond paste, and a little almond extract. I also cut her recipe in half hence some of the weirdo measurements.
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for coating the cookies
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons almond paste
6 tablespoons white wine
1 large egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
about 1/2 cup blanched almonds
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, almond paste, wine, egg yolk, and almond extract and process until the mixture forms a sticky dough.Transfer to a work surface and knead to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Divide the dough into about 18 equal pieces. With lightly floured hands, roll a piece of dough into a 10-inch rope. Fold the rope in half, then twist the two ends around one another to form a twist.Press the ends together at the bottom to seal them. Transfer to the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough.
4. Put a big of sugar onto a small plate. Take one cookie at a time and press the top side into the sugar. Return the cookie to the pan sugar side up. After coating the cookies, press three blanched almonds into each cookie, one in each space. Bake the cookies until light brown and set, rotating the sheet halfway through, about 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.