Catholic Recipe: Croccante Quaresimale
- Scant 1 cup (120 grams) hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
- 2 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (100 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 egg whites, plus 1 Tablespoon if needed
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
- Confectioners' sugar
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) whole peeled hazelnuts
- 1 Tablespoon egg white
- 3 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted
- Yield: 24 cookies
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Difficulty: • • • •
- Cost: $$$$
- For Ages: 11+
- Origin: Italy
Also Called: Crunchy Hazelnut Cookies for Lent
These authentic Lenten cookies from Umbria are nicknamed cazzotti quaresimali (Lenten Punches) because, like biscotti, they are so hard they pack a real punch. Sweet and crunchy with the flavor of hazelnuts--you may choose to make half these cookies chocolate--there is nothing remotely penitential about them.
Remembering St. Clare and St. Francis are from the Umbrian region make this is a simple treat to serve on their feast days.
Grind 1 cup hazelnuts to a powder in a nut grinder or process them with 1/4 cup of a granulated sugar to a fine powder in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the remaining granulated sugar and the flour and process until finely ground. Place the nut powder and the egg whites in the food processor or in the bowel of an electric mixer; process or mix until the dough is the consistency of a firm, slightly sticky almond paste.
If you want to make some chocolate cookies, divide the dough in half. To the half in the processor or mixing bowl add the cocoa powder and mix in well. Sift confectioners' sugar over a work surface, keeping a mound of extra sugar nearby, and place the plain dough on it. Knead in half the whole peeled hazelnuts. Although you may be tempted to do the kneading in a machine, don't, because the hazelnuts break up too much. Work the rest of the hazelnuts into the cocoa-flavored dough. The dough should be firm; if it seems sticky, scrape your hands and the table clean and sprinkle both with more confectioners' sugar.
Assembly: Sprinkle the work surface well with confectioners' sugar. Pat each part dough into a fat log about 2 inches wide, about the width of 3 fingers. The trick is to make sure that the dough is firm enough to keep its shape when it bakes, but not so hard that it's inedible. If the dough seems too sticky, add a little extra flour. Flatten the top with your palm and pat out dough until it is 16 to 18 inches long. Be sure to even the edges. I like to use a dough scraper to keep them neat. Do not worry about mistreating the dough when you bang and flatten it because it can take anything. Cut into chunks about 3 inches long. Set on parchment-lined baking sheets. Mix the icing and brush it over the tops. Don't worry if it drips over the edges. Leave uncovered at room temperature about 15 minutes.
Baking: Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake until firm, and in the case of the nonchocolate croccante, lightly golden, about 30 minutes.Recipe Source: Celebrating Italy by Carol Field, William Morrow and Company, 1990
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