I am continuously amazed at how many cookies there are out there that I have yet to discover. As many cookies as I’ve baked, and I’ve baked many, there are always so many more waiting in the wings.
During the course of a day, when some people might stare out the window, go for a short walk or go grab a coffee in order to take a short break, I will take a few minutes to troll my favourite food sites. This always perks me up.
I have never heard of these cookies, which are a mixture of almonds, chocolate pieces and a good shot (or two) of a liqueur called Strega.
They are apparently from the Basilicata region of Italy and while not pretty to look at, they were a lovely combination of crunchy exterior and soft interior, thanks to the almonds and liqueur.
While they were on the sweet side, there was a very pleasant herbal tone to the cookies provided by the Strega.
For those that don’t know, Strega is another in a long line of liqueurs that Italians seem to be adept at producing. This particular liqueur is on the herbal side in terms of flavour and taste since it’s made using a number of herbs. The very distinct colour comes from the use of saffron as part of the process of making the liqueur. In Italian, the word “strega” means witch.
Growing up, my parents had a special cupboard in the basement that was the storage place for (what seemed to me) a fairly healthy supply of certain alcohols that seemed to be very important to the family.
My determination that these liquids were important to the family was based on the following: a) we were never allowed to run out of them, b) when going to visit someone or when someone came to visit us, these always seemed to be the gifts of choice and c) my mom used them generously in baking and cooking.
I speak of whiskey, rum, brandy, anisette, cognac, amaretto, grappa (heaven help you if the grappa ran out …), alchermes, vermouth and amaro.
The one that used to terrify me was the amaro. My parents always had a brand called Centerba that was once foisted on me when I had a tummy ache. I was told it would help settle my stomach and make me feel better.
I was lied to.
While Strega was not a liqueur we had in stock, it is one that I’ve warmed up to in my adulthood and I certainly enjoy a sip every now and then.
Mixed with the almonds and chocolate, it makes for a very interesting flavour combination and one worth trying.
I was so happy to come across these cookies. While humble in appearance, they were distinct in flavour and reminded me again that Italy has such a rich and varied sweet tradition.
Also, the cookies helped keep my mind of the Centerba.