I sometimes find myself looking at the calendar in astonishment after I realize how quickly the months slip by. Is it really two months until Christmas?
And is October really almost over (already) without my having written once about my Flavour of the Month, Father Giuseppe Orsiniâ€™s Italian Baking Secrets?
Who is Father Giuseppe Orsini? Based on what I can gather from the biographical information in the book, heâ€™s a Roman Catholic priest who has an enormous passion for baking and in particular for Italian baking.
Italian Baking Secrets is a collection of all those handwritten recipes you find stashed away in tins or tucked into books. The book is straightforward and charming in its simplicity. While there are some bread recipes towards the beginning of the book that required multiple steps, most of the recipes are ones that I could imagine my grandmothers making. Just a few ingredients and there you go, the perfect cake or the perfect cookie to dunk in your coffee.
I bought the book after seeing it on a shelf at Torontoâ€™s The Cookbook Store. I didnâ€™t take any time to read through it I just picked it up and walked immediately to the cash register.
Had I actually spent some time looking through the book, I would have noticed a few inconsistencies. For some reason there are a few recipes that are repeated in different sections of the book. And the measurement units used for ingredients are not always consistent. But these minor peculiarities somehow add to the bookâ€™s overall effect. It really is like those handwritten recipes scribbled onto bits of paper!
One of the recipes in the book that caught my eye was a recipe for cookies called crumiri. If I close my eyes, I can almost see my little self sitting at a table at my auntâ€™s house in Italy having breakfast. Our breakfasts in Italy, especially as children, didnâ€™t consist of oatmeal or cereal, but rather huge mugs of hot milk coloured with espresso. Those mugs were accompanied by cookies or bread onto which we would spread butter and homemade jam.
That was breakfast.
My favourite, of course, were the cookies. I remember theyâ€™d come in these colourful bags and I would love to read the story of the cookies printed on each package. For some reason, the ones I remember the most are the crumiri.
In my memory, they are golden and crumbly with a not-too-sweet flavour. They taste of vanilla too. But most of all, I remember their shape and texture. The adults around me would say that they are shaped like horseshoes but to me they look like little boomerangs with ridges on them.
In my memory, I wonder what would happen if I actually threw one across the room. Would it boomerang back? But of course I would never do this as I can just imagine the stern look on the face of my aunt â€¦
Memory is an incredible thing. In the wake of my 34th birthday, I laugh at how often my friends and I will joke that our memories are â€œgoingâ€. I will forget grocery lists, what I told my brother yesterday, that 10:00 meeting and my keys.
And yet, I will see a recipe for a cookie and remember the exact texture of that very same cookie when I ate one years and years ago.
I can still remember the taste.
Hard on the heels of that memory, is the realization that I suppose it doesnâ€™t really matter that I sometimes forget the grocery list.
But to forget the memory of my little self eating cookies and slurping warm milk under my auntâ€™s watchful eye, somehow, that would be unbearable.
From Italian Baking Secrets by Father Giuseppe Orsini.
1-3/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar (I like to use vanilla sugar)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla or almond extract (if you’re not using vanilla sugar)
2/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes. The mixture should be very light in colour.
Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition.
Mix together the flour, salt and cornmeal and add slowly to the butter mixture, with the motor running on low speed. As soon as the flour mixture is added, add the extract (if using).
The cookie dough will be thick. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped tip (3/4 of an inch to an inch in width).
Pipe the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets in whatever design you like. The cookies shouldn’t be longer than 3 or 4 inches and should be spaced 2 inches apart.
Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, anywhere from 12 to 14 minutes.
Let cool on a wire rack.
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