The Inaugural Italian Gals Cookie Exchange

Italian cookies This cookie platter is the result of four Italian gals chatting on Facebook about some of the cookies we were baking, Adri, Linda, Domenica and myself.

Over the years we have formed friendships through the world of blogging, and have expressed several times how fun it would be if we could cook and bake together.

Almost immediately Linda  suggested we do a cookie exchange through the mail, we all loved the idea and within minutes Linda took charge and sent us all an email with instructions for the first, Inaugural Italian Gals Christmas Cookie Exchange!

Each person was to bake and mail two dozen cookies to three people. The cookies should be the type that ships well, something like pizzelle would be too fragile. Then place them into a tin of some sort and send them either Fedex or U.S. Mail, she even listed the rates for us.

We baked them just a couple of days before we sent them out for optimum freshness and not too long after boxes started arriving at my front door!

cookies by mail Beautiful boxes wrapped in ribbons with cards.

Italian cookie exchange

This tin was from Adri, the cookies are called, Three Nut Fingers, a recipe she adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book called, Rose’s Christmas Cookies, they are filled with almonds, hazelnuts and pecans and she even added in a little Frangelico, they were heavenly! Here’s Adri’s version.
Italian cookie exchange The next day I received this tin of crunchy Cranberry-Hazelnut Biscotti, a recipe Domenica adapted from her new and forthcoming book called Ciao Biscotti, which will be released this March, ( you can pre-order now) how lucky were we to be able to taste a recipe from her new book. Wonderful with morning coffee or tea!

Italian cookie exchange And last but not least Linda’s, Italian Christmas “Brownies” glazed with Lemon Icing. A cookie filled with chocolate and pungent spices, a perfect after dinner treat, it even includes a surprise ingredient that makes the flavor even more intense and delicious.

fig filling for cucidati My contribution to the cookie exchange was Cucidati, a traditional Italian cookie originating from Sicily that I make every year with family, it’s filled with figs, nuts, dates, orange, raisins and spices along with a little rum or whiskey to top it off.

making Italian fig cookies They’re a labor of love and can be time consuming to make, so when we do it we do it big, at least 400 or more so that everyone will have a good amount to take home and share. It’s become an annual event at my house where we spend the whole day baking Cucidati from early morning until late afternoon. We start out drinking coffee but end up sipping Dumante ( a pistachio liqueur) before the day is over. It’s a fun day and we look forward to it every year!

 

Italian fig cookies My tables and counters quickly get filled up with these figgy little gems!

boxing up Italian fig cookies I actually whipped up a fresh batch of cucidati for my Italian Gals cookie exchange two days before I mailed them. I layered them in a box with lots of waxed paper in between and they all arrived safely!

Italian cookies So you see, you don’t have to live near each other to have a cookie exchange, you can do it through the mail like we did, though you might want to limit the amount of people involved due to shipping costs.

Italian cookies This was so much fun, and it was the next best thing to us all being in one of our kitchens and baking together!

Italian cookie platter

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Pandoro Christmas Tree Cake with Amaretto and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

pandoro Christmas tree I’m excited to share this festive cake with you and you don’t even have to do any baking, it has a beautiful presentation because it resembles a snowy Christmas tree, it comes together in no time and it will certainly impress your guests!

Do you want to know what it is?

pandoro at Eataly Chicago It’s called Pandoro, or golden cake and it’s something you buy, it’s sold almost everywhere during the holidays. You can find it along with Panettone at most supermarkets, pastry shops and Italian markets, I’ve even seen it in T.J. Maxx and Marshals this time of year. I went to Eataly Chicago last weekend and they were displayed everywhere.

Pandoro is a traditional sweet bread from Verona, golden in color because of the large amount of egg yolks used, there are no nuts or dried fruit like in Panettone and it’s baked in a star shaped mold. Trust me, it’s heaven in a pretty box!

pandoro You can buy  the large size as well as the smaller, more individual ones, pretty much the same way they sell Panettone.

I have to be honest, I’ve never made this Christmas tree cake before so I opted for the smaller version just to see how it would turn out, I’ve seen it done on different blogs and websites in the past and always loved the look of it, such a festive dessert and the taste is decadent!

I’m here to say this is a wonderful addition to your holiday table, I know now by making the smaller version, that the larger one will be on my table.

sliced pandoro  Horizontally cut the Pandoro gives you beautiful star shaped slices that you can now layer with whipped cream, mascarpone or a custard, you can also flavor it with Amaretto, Limoncello, Rum,  chocolate, whatever you so desire.

sliced pandoro I used Amaretto to brush on my slices and to flavor my cream mixture, it was divine! You can embellish it anyway you want even using fresh fruits and nuts.

pandoro christmas tree The layers build upon each other to form the look of a Christmas tree, the perfect addition to your sweet table this holiday season!

Pandoro Christmas Tree Cake with Amaretto and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • This recipe is for a 3.5 oz. Pandoro, you can double everything for the larger size.
  • 1 cup, heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup of mascarpone, room temp
  • 1 heaping tablespoon, powdered sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons of Amaretto to flavor the cream mixture,plis additional for brushing layers
  • toasted sliced almonds for garnish and between layers,
  • white sprinkles, optional

Instructions

  1. Cream Mixture
  2. In a mixing bowl add the mascarpone and the heaping powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  3. Add in the heavy cream and the 2 teaspoons of Amaretto and beat mixture into stiff peaks.
  4. Slice the Pandoro horizontally, being careful not to break the points of the star shape. Place the largest slice on a serving dish then brush with Amaretto, then spread cream mixture on top with some toasted almonds.
  5. Place the next largest slice on top placing it on an angle so the points of the stars are staggered alternate layers.
  6. Repeat with the Amaretto and cream mixture on every slice and continuing to stagger the layers until you reach the top.
  7. Place cream mixture on the very top, sprinkle with almonds and other garnishments.
  8. Dust all over with powdered sugar.
  9. This can be made a few hours ahead of time and kept in a cool place.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/12/pandoro-christmas-tree-cake-amaretto-mascarpone-whipped-cream.html

 

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Cappuccino Biscotti

cappuccino biscotti Tis the season to start your Christmas baking! Each year you can count on me to make my two favorite biscotti,  Fig and Pistachio and traditional Anise flavored. Biscotti are wonderful crunchy treats to have on hand when friends and family stop by and you need a little something to go with your coffee.

cappuccino biscotti This year I wanted to add another one to my list especially since I have a deep love for all things coffee, so I decided to make Cappuccino Biscotti.  How could I resist, these crunchy little gems have two of my favorite ingredients, espresso and Kahlua liqueur, plus pecans and mini chocolate chips!

cappuccino biscotti dough The dough comes together quick, one bowl with no mixer, which really appeals to me.  Form your logs, place on parchment, bake, then let them cool down before slicing.

cutting biscotti Have I told you how awesome it is to slice your biscotti with an electric knife? This was a tip my sister-in- law gave me a few years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Don’t get me wrong you can still use a serrated knife, but you have to go nice and easy and you might get more crumbles if you have a lot of fruit and nuts inside,  but if you have an electric knife in your pantry somewhere, dust it off and give it a try, I promise you will use it every time, it makes a beautiful sharp clean cut and the slicing process goes really fast!

twice baked cappuccino biscottikahlua and biscotti Since I had the kahlua out I mixed myself up a vintage Kahlua and cream like I use to drink in the old days. Wow, I forgot how good it was, and the biscotti was  the perfect compliment!

cappuccino biscotti and espresso But I still think the absolute best way to enjoy these is when they’re sitting alongside a nice cup of hot coffee or espresso.

Happy Baking!

Cappuccino Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips, semi sweet
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tblsp kahlua liqueur
  • 1/2 cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl combine sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and instant espresso, use a pastry cutter to blend in the cold butter until the mixture is fine and crumbly.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips, pecans, eggs and Kahlua until dough gets nice and moistened, knead on a floured surface until dough is soft and slightly sticky.
  4. Divide dough into quarters and with floured hands shape each quarter into a 9" long roll. Place 2 rolls 4" apart on each baking sheet. Gently flatten each log into a 2' wide slab.
  5. Bake in oven for 15 to 30 minutes, mine took 15 but check to make sure the tops of the slabs are firm and dry and watch bottoms so they don't burn.
  6. Remove and reduce oven to 325F, set the slabs on a rack to cool down for about 10 minutes.
  7. Cut slabs crosswise into 1/2 " thick slices. Place slices cut side down on baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes, turn them over to the other side and bake another 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer to rack to cool down completely. Store in cookie tins.
  9. RECIPE ADAPTED FROM CRUMB; A FOOD BLOG
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/12/cappuccino-biscotti.html

 

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