This month the Italian Food, Wine & Travel - #ItalianFWT - blogging group is celebrating Italian holiday wines, culinary traditions and Italian Christmas festivities. Jennifer at at Vino Travels invited us to gather around the table and share thoughts of winter, food, wine, and traditions.
More Christmas and Italian holiday treasures to be discovered. Join my fellow bloggers below and if you catch us in time, chat with us live on Twitter this Saturday December 3rd at 11am EST #ItalianFWT.
The #ItalianFWT Line-Up
- Vino Travels – Christmas in Molise
- Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth or Tradition?
- Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti
- Avvinare – A Florentine Christmas
- L'Occasion – 5 Italian Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings
- The Wining Hour – A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food,Tradition
- The Wine Predator – Italian Holiday Traditions Adapted to CAlifornia Conditions: 3 dishes with wine
Next month Susannah from Avvinare will host coastal reds and whites along with foods and travel to coastal regions on January 7th.
I love the smell of roasting chestnuts and the advent of winter meant that the chestnut vendors appeared on the street corners of Rome. Maybe other Italian cities, too. But I lived in Rome, so I'll stick with what I know.
I might have had roasted chestnuts before, but living in Rome was the first time I really fell in love with them. I remember being at the market one day and spotting these bizarre looking pods with spikes.
Che cos'è questi? I asked, pointing that them.
Le castagne, he answered.
They looked so impenetrable and daunting. But, when cooked or candied, they are tender and so tasty. And that was it; my lasting chestnut obsession was in full swing. I haven't lived in Italy in almost twenty years, so, perhaps it's less of an obsession and more of a smoldering infatuation.
Whenever I come across chestnut flour, I buy multiple packages! And, this year, I found a French chestnut paste. So, for my #ItalianFWT offering, I decided to celebrate the chestnut. And, as I nibbled on these and sipped my vin santo, I remembered my Christmas in Rome. Buon Natale!
Biscotti di Castagne
- 1¼ C organic dark brown sugar
- ¼ C butter, room temperature
- 3 large eggs (2 for dough and 1 for finishing)
- ⅓ C whole milk
- 1½ t chestnut paste (you can use vanilla bean paste also)
- 1½ t baking soda
- 1½ t ground cinnamon
- 1 t ground ginger
- 1 t ground nutmeg
- ½ t ground cloves
- ½ t ground star anise
- ½ t ground cardamom
- ½ t freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ C molasses
- ¼ C honey
- 4 C gluten-free flour
- 2 C chestnut flour
- ½ C candied ginger (diced or use flakes)
- 4 egg whites
- 4 C organic powdered sugar
- ¼ t pure vanilla extract
Beat brown sugar and butter together in a large bowl until well-combined. Add 2 eggs, milk, and chestnut paste; beat again until smooth. Add baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, molasses, maple syrup, and candied ginger. Beat again.
Stir in gluten-free flour. Gradually add chestnut flour, using a wooden spoon. Once the dough starts to become stiff, quickly knead in the rest of the flour. It should come together into a ball.
Split dough into two balls. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper to approximately ¼" thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out your cookies. I used hearts. Place on prepared baking sheet. Re-roll dough and repeat until your dough is gone.
Beat the remaining egg, then brush a thin coat over the dough before you put it into the oven. Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes - until cookies just start to turn golden around the edges and are slightly raised.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once they are cooled, you can decorate them with royal icing.
Beat egg whites in a large clean mixing bowl until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and lemon extract. Beat at high speed until thickened. The mixture should hold light peaks.
Use a piping bag, decorating tube, or a ziploc bag with a tiny hole cut out of the corner. Decorate your cookies as you wish. when the royal icing dries it will lose its glossy sheen. Once it's hard, the decoration will not smudge or move.
In My Glass
Vin Santo is a dessert wine produced all over Italy, but Tuscany appears to be its original home. Meaning "Holy Wine," dating back to the 14th century, it's a sweet wine that is a wonderful accompaniment to not-too-sweet deserts. You will often find it slightly chilled and served with almond cookies. So, I didn't think my chestnut cookies were too far off the mark.
I poured a Badia a Coltibuono, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2008. In the glass, it was a brilliant, golden amber hue. On the nose, its aroma had hints of vanilla, honey, and - dare I say - roasted chestnuts. And, on the tongue, it was simultaneously clean and voluptuous. Dominant notes were concentrated fruit with a long finish. This is definitely a sipping wine and one I'll squirrel away for special occasions.