I found this scrap of paper amongst my mom’s notes, in a notebook she took from my grandma. I was hoping to find a recipe for the Fave dei Morti, as the 1st of November was approaching and the elderly of my family are used to buy various kinds of baked goods for the day of the dead. I found these instead.
Italian November sweets all follow a pattern of very simple ingredients, and all the sweets for the holidays were assembled with humble, simple ingredients that farmers were likely to have at home. There are no eggs and no butter, as that would have been too much of a luxury. Dried fruits, flours, stale bread and wine adorned their otherwise barren pantry. And wine, the wine that was always present at every table as the only consolation against poverty, the only real heat source when in the cold of november they had no glass on their windows and they’d wake up with a thin layer of ice over their blankets.
And isn’t it wonderful to find these old papers, written in the staggering calligraphy of a woman who could not go to school but tried her best to learn anything she could from life? All the Italian elderly buy these sweets because it’s tradition, and because – now more than ever, they are scared of death. But isn’t it wonderful, when you can find these modest remainders of life tucked in a book and bring it back to life again?
Knowledge is immortal. With past knowledge, we shall not fear the dead.
So here is the recipe for these cookies, to be enjoyed today’s afternoon. Everybody loved them. They are packed with Italian fall fare: chestnuts, pine nuts, raisins and wine. But why not play around with the garnishes? Try chocolate chips or other kinds of nuts, and try topping them with cinnamon sugar instead of vanilla sugar. Customization is always the best.
Although I am positive these would work pefectly with gluten free flour, I have not tested anything yet so I can’t give you any guarantees. I will try a GF version for sure, but I can’t see why they shouldn’t work. Chestnut flour is already gluten free, and you could substitute spelt and whole wheat flours with GF oat flour and another tasty, nutty flour you like.
Oh, and these guys also happen to be a perfect vegan treat.
In any case, these guys are super easy to put together and very apt for the inexperienced baker. Make them smaller if you so wish. They will be cuter and less heavy.
Dolcetti al Vin Santo – Vin Santo Cookies
Makes 8 3″ cookies
NOTE: You can also halve the size, and get 16 smaller, more manageable cookies.
For the Rum Raisins
- 100g (1/2 cup) Raisins
- 1/2 cup warm water
- A couple tablespoons dark Rum
Two hours prior to preparing your cookies, soak the raisins. Do not leave them for less than one hour. When ready, squeeze and drain. Note that this is quite a lot of raisins for this recipe, so feel free to cut down a bit if you want.
For the Cookie dough
- 100g Flour
- 80g Farro (Spelt) flour
- 70g Chestnut flour
- 70g Brown sugar*
- 2 heaping tbsps Honey or Agave syrup
- 50g Vin Santo + A couple tablespoons Rum
- 40g Milk (regular or plant)
- 50g Vegetable oil**
- 40g Pine nuts, or a mix of toasted hazelnuts and pine nuts
- 2 tsps baking powder
- A pinch of Salt
- Flavorings like a teaspoon of vanilla or a dash of cinnamon
- Rum Soaked Raisins
* These cakes are not overly sweet – the rum, wine and raisins provide a nice kick of sweetness of their own, so i wouldn’t recommend increasing the amount of sugar, but add a tablespoon more honey or syrup if you have a very sweet tooth.
* These cookies are not dry, but they aren’t the standard american cookie, either. The have a nice, soft texture, which turns more crumbly the next day, but not hard at all. If you’d like a moist cookie, add a tablespoon or two more oil – though the dough can absorb no more than a certain amount of fat.
Preheat the oven to 180 C˚ (350 F˚) and line a baking tray with some parchment paper.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, and stir well to incorporate. You should have a sticky dough. If you can’t incorporate all the flour, add a splash more liquid.
Using a spoon and a teaspoon (or -much easier, your hands if you don’t care about getting dirty), shape balls of batter on the paper. Make sure they are not too close to each other, as they will raise a bit while cooking. Bake for about 15 minutes, and lower the oven if they threaten to brown too quickly.
They might look ready but seem too soft – worry not! They will dry out slightly as they cool and hold together perfectly. Let cool completely, and sprinkle over them a dusting of vanilla icing sugar.
Savor with milk or, even better, dipped in Vin Santo or any sirupy wine you like!
I love to serve these cookies in a vintage box, which also works wonderfully for a gift.
And enjoy – as every celebration, even when intended for those who passed, is a celebration of the living.
If making 8 cakes:
44 g Carbohydrate
– 4 g Fiber
5 g Protein
9 g Fat
If making 16 cookies:
21 g Carbohydrate
– 2 g Fiber
2.5 g Protein
4.5 g Fat