In the month of September, typically known for the grape harvest and the grape harvest, we find a famous traditional dessert from Umbria
According to tradition, mostaccioli were the favorite dessert of Saint Francis who tasted these “good and fragrant” biscuits, as the saint said, during his first stay in Rome.
Offering what would become her perennial “sin of gluttony” was Jacopa de’ Settesoli, a Roman noblewoman, who became a collaborator of the newborn Franciscan movement and a dear friend of Saint Francis, so much so that he affectionately called her Friar Jacopa. It is said that Saint Francis liked these sweets so much that he desired them even at the point of death!
Flour 600 g
Sugar 200 g
Raisins 50 g
Brewer’s yeast 50 g
Must 300 ml
Zest of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons
Anise seeds (if desired)
After sifting the flour, arrange it in a well and add the oil, sugar, sultanas and anise seeds. Mix everything and, once the brewer’s yeast has dissolved in the must, add it to the mixture, continuing to knead until you obtain a dough that can easily be detached from the work surface.
At this point, stretch the dough with your hands to obtain a cylinder, cut it into small pieces and give your mostaccioli the appearance you prefer: diamond-shaped or in the shape of a small donut. Then place them on the baking tray with baking paper. Bake them at 180 degrees and let them cook for about 30 minutes. Once ready, sprinkle a little icing sugar on top.
Cooked must was a typical sweetener throughout peasant Italy and was obtained by cooking fresh must for many hours in low, wide copper containers. Over time, this delicious but time-consuming ingredient has been replaced by sugar.
Cooked must is produced by pressing well-ripe grapes, with a higher sugar quality than that required for the production of wine (23-25% sugar), subsequently filtering the juice obtained. After this, the juice is cooked in containers traditionally made of copper or terracotta, but today replaced by stainless steel. Once boiled, it continues to cook over a low heat for several hours, until the liquid shrinks by a quarter of its initial volume. In many southern regions, “mostaccioli” are famous, desserts made from cooked must, but with a rhombus shape that differentiates them from our tradition.
Copyright foto La gazzetta del gusto
We are approaching Easter and on the Umbrian tables, laden with delicacies and decorated by the scents of spring with its colors and the sweet sound of the singing turtle doves, two traditional dishes of the Umbrian culture and food and wine cannot be missing: the sweet Ciaramicola to be enjoyed for breakfast or at the end of the meal paired with an Umbrian Vin Santo from Grechetto and Trebbiano, and Torta al Formaggio that accompanies rich and tasty cold cuts and appetizers.
The Ciaramicola and its origins
A donut known in the Perugian villages as early as the 15th century, it is a leavened cake covered with candid meringue and enriched and adorned with colored sugared almonds. Its internal dough has a red/pink color given by the liqueur used for this dessert: Alchermes, based on cochineal, rose water, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and coriander. An Italian liqueur much loved by the Medici family.
The name Ciaramicola, etymologically, derives from various nuances
• Da Ciaramella: for the circularity of its shape;
• From Ciarapica: the dialectal name of the Cinciallegra, the spring bird;
• Da Ciara: in reference to the meringue made from egg whites or egg whites.
Tradition also wants the Ciaramicola to be a dessert that girls gave to their future husbands at Easter as a good omen.
Another important tradition of the Umbrian territory is linked to the feast of Sant’Ubaldo, patron saint of Gubbio. In fact, a text from 1431 states that the Ciaramigola was made to be prepared and offered to the people of Gubbio on the occasion of the feast of the saint on 15 May.
Finally, it often happens to find the Ciaramicola with 5 “tufts” of meringue, representing the five Perugini districts: Porta Santa Susanna represented by the blue color of the sugared almonds (due to the orientation towards Lake Trasimeno della Porta), Porta Eburnea by the green (the vegetable gardens), Porta Sant’Angelo with its red color (the sword of the Angel), Porta San Pietro with its yellow color (like wheat), Porta Sole as white as meringue and like the light of the sun (in fact the sun is the symbol of this Gate).
The recipe of Ciaramicola
Ingredients for the donut:
• 550g of 00 flour
• 250 g of sugar
• 150gr of lard (butter alternative)
• 4 eggs
• 1 sachet of baking powder
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 200ml of Alkermes
Ingredients for the meringue:
• 100 g of egg whites
• 200 g of sugar
• 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
• Colored sugar sprinkles
Let’s start by whisking the egg and sugar until obtaining a homogeneous foam to which we will add the sifted flour and yeast, the lard at room temperature, the grated lemon zest and finally the Alchermes. After mixing all the ingredients, pour it into a buttered pan. In the oven for about 45 minutes at 160°C.
For the meringue, whip the egg whites at high speed with the cream of tartar and gradually the sugar. It should be firm, soft and shiny.
Once the donut is cold, we cover it with meringue and finally with the colored sprinkles. Back in the oven for 25 minutes to cook the meringue at 90°C.
Torta al Formaggio
A leavened product rich in cheese and flavors typical of the Easter holidays in Umbria but which can be eaten and consumed all year round due to its goodness, simplicity and ease of combination with cured meats, especially capocollo and pork butchery.
Not infrequently, the cheese cake is eaten for breakfast on Easter morning, which is why it is also known by the name of Easter cake.
In De Agri Coltura, Catone writes about a cheese cake that is especially famous in Tuoro sul Trasimeno.
Torta al Formaggio recipe
• 500g of 00 flour
• 100gr of grated parmesan
• 75g of grated pecorino
• 10gr of brewer’s yeast
• 100 ml of extra virgin olive oil
• 150m of milk
• 100g of Emmentaler cheese
• 4 eggs
• 10g of salt
• Pepper as needed
Let’s start by dissolving the yeast in the warmed milk. In a bowl, mix flour, pecorino and Parmesan, eggs, milk with yeast and finally the oil slowly and begin to knead well until all the ingredients are mixed well and a homogeneous and smooth dough is obtained. Add the salt, pepper and the finely chopped or grated Emmentaler cheese. Place the dough in a buttered mold and let it rise for 2 hours then bake it at 180°C for about an hour.
Copyright foto Torta al Formaggio by Spicchio d’Aglio
#COOK WITH UMBRIASI
We told you about Carnival, its origins and traditional Umbrian desserts.
Today here we bring you the recipes of the Carnival:
Prepare the apron, the work surface and ready to knead and then enjoy!
500 g of 00 flour
Lemon peel to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder
250 g of butter
100 g of sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 liter of peanut oil
Powdered sugar/honey or alkermes
Create a fountain of flour on the work surface and arrange the baking powder in the centre, start mixing flour and baking powder, then always in the center add the eggs, the lemon peel (pay attention to the white part of the lemon which is more bitter) and the pinch of salt. Once the ingredients are mixed, add the butter at room temperature and the sugar. The dough will be ready when it is smooth, homogeneous and will come off easily from your hands. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered with cling film.
After 30 minutes, roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it forms a sheet that is not too thin. With the washer, cut the dough into rectangular strips with a small cut in the center where you pass one end of the frappa through the middle, simulating a bow.
Fry the frappe in hot oil for about 5 minutes. Once ready and cooled, decorate them with icing sugar, honey or alchermes as you like
230 g of 00 flour
½ sachet of baking powder
4 Tablespoons of sugar
1 small glass of liqueur (mistrà, sambuca)
50 ml of milk at room temperature
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Lemon peel to taste
1 pinch of salt
Plenty of peanut oil
Icing sugar/honey or alchermes and colored sugared almonds
Break the eggs into a small bowl and mix with the sugar until you have a frothy and light consistency. The sugar must be well mixed. Add the sambuca, slowly add the milk and oil and finally the grated lemon peel (pay attention to the white part, as above!). Mix everything until all the ingredients are well blended. Then add the flour and baking powder until you get a batter-like consistency.Let the mixture rest covered for about 10-15 minutes.Pour the batter into hot oil (help yourself with a spoon to form balls) and turn them halfway through cooking. Once ready, decorate with alchermes honey sugar and colored sprinkles
N.B There are variations that also include filling them with cream, chocolate cream or cream!
400 g of flour
6 tablespoons of sugar
1 small glass of Mistrà or Sambuca
1 lemon peel and lemon juice
1 cup of milk
25 g of baking powder
6 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 liters of peanut oil
With a whisk, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until you obtain a frothy consistency. Whip the remaining egg whites until stiff and add them to the yolks and mix well. Add the lemon peels and slowly add the oil and milk.
Gradually add the flour, baking powder, lemon juice and liqueur. Knead until you get a smooth and homogeneous dough. Sprinkle it with oil and cover it with a cloth to let it rest for at least 2 hours.
Slide the balls of dough into the hot oil (again with the help of a spoon). To help the dough remain round, slowly rotate the pan (with the handles) in which you are frying the strufoli (be careful! )
Once cooled, sprinkle them with honey melted in a bain-marie.
300 g of 00 flour
30 g of butter
1/2 grated lemon peel
Alchermes to taste
2 liters of peanut oil
400 g of honey
dried fruit like almonds cut into strips
100 g of candied fruit
On a pastry board, mix the flour with the eggs, the lemon peel, the butter at room temperature and the liqueur until a homogeneous and smooth consistency is obtained. Create sausages from the dough from which to obtain the irregular balls cut with a knife and fry them in hot oil. Heat the butter and once melted, pour the fried balls and mix well. Then add the sugared almonds, candied fruit and almonds to taste.
Then cut into strips 150 gr. of peeled almond
50 g of 00 flour
70 g of sugar
500ml of milk
200 g of macaroons
50 ml of mistrà liqueur
100 g of dark chocolate
1 grated lemon peel
With a whisk or mixer, blend the amaretti biscuits. Then proceed by beating the yolks with the sugar until you get a frothy consistency; then add the minced chocolate, the liqueur and the milk slowly. Finally, the amaretti biscuits and the flour little by little, together with the grated lemon. Whip the egg whites until stiff which will then be joined to the mixture from bottom to top. Grease and flour a baking tray (24 cm in diameter) and bake at 180° for 60 minutes.
2Amiche in Cucina
The ancient Latin saying reads
“semel in anno licet insanire – once a year it is permissible to go crazy”
The common thread that binds Carnival, the mask or masquerade party par excellence, all over the world seems to be precisely the concept that is furthest from what the Romans called mos maiorum, good morals, morality.
But before we get to the Romans, let’s take a few steps back.
The origin of the Carnival dates back to 4000 years ago with the Egyptians and the rites in honor of Isis, the goddess of fertility.
With the Romans, the Carnival Festival coincided with the Lupercali, in honor of the God Luperco, symbol of Roman fertility. The period, for both Egyptians and Romans, is celebrated at the end of February.
Sacred and Profane
The Carnival, between banquets, parties and masks, thus becomes a sort of social “level”: a disguise that hides the status of belonging and allows everyone to set aside moral rigidity for a day.
With Christianity, Carnival from the Latin “carnem levare”, Shrove Tuesday becomes the last day to eat meat before abstaining from consuming it during the period of Lent but also the last opportunity to fill your belly with sweets rich in sugars!
Tipical sweety food in Umbria
Whether it’s Egyptian, Roman or Christian, the “reasons” of Carnival are disguise (masquerade) and the consumption of food, especially sweets!
Let’s see what are the typical ones in Umbria:
Strips of sweet puff pastry in the shape of a bow. Covered with alchermes sugar or honey, they can be either fried (as per the original recipe) or baked in the “lighter” variant. In any case, the result is a crunchy, sweet and tasty pastry.
The name derives from the memory of the small chestnuts with their rounded shape. The dough is composed of flour, eggs, sugar, yeast and an aromatic liqueur. Also these sweets, as per tradition, are fried paying particular attention to making them golden on the outside and cooked well inside, helping them to remain round during cooking by moving the pan in a rotating direction. Then covered with sugar, honey or alchermes.
Traditional from Perugino, they resemble castagnole with the difference of having a softer texture and are, on the other hand, larger in size. They are then covered with sweet dripping honey.
- Cicerchiata umbra
From the name of the Umbrian Cicerchia, a rounded legume, the cicerchiata is a crown of sweet balls covered in honey.
- Crescionda spoletina
With this dessert we move to Spoleto with its Crescionda.
Originally prepared with chicken broth, or lard, in fact also known as “grescia unta” for being particularly fat, sugar, cheese, chocolate and breadcrumbs were then added. Or the version prepared with apples and dried fruit. Today his recipe marries modernity using chocolate, milk and amaretti biscuits. It is also recognized as a Traditional Umbrian Agri-Food Product.
2Amiche in Cucina
The typical sweet of the tradition to celebrate San Costanzo is, in fact, the Torcolo, behind which there are many legends and mysteries related to the Saint that still today make this sweet full of charm and history.
In fact, it is handed down that the torcolo is in the shape of a donut to remember the crown and flowers that were placed on the body of the Saint after the decapitation or even that the hole represents the severed head of the Saint and lastly that its donut shape refers to the crown paraded from the head of the Saint once he was beheaded. That’s why a dessert studded with colored candies, in memory of the precious stones of the color! The five cuts on the donut are, however, attributable to the access doors to the five districts of the historic center of Perugia: Porta San Pietro, Porta Sole, Porta Eburnea, Porta Susanna, and Porta Sant’Angelo.
The torcolo di San Costanzo, despite the great importance it holds during the feast of January 29, is a dessert that is now enjoyed in Umbria throughout the year!
Let’s see the Recipe:
600 g of flour
330 g of warm water
170 g of sugar
85 g of extra virgin olive oil
85 g of butter
25 g of brewer’s yeast
170 g of candied citron
170 g of sultana raisins
170 g of pine nuts
anise seeds to taste
Arrange the flour on a pastry board, or in a bowl, crumble the yeast in the center and begin to knead with the warm water, gradually collecting the flour from the edges. Once the dough is homogeneous and well blended, let it rest and rise for about 2 hours in a warm, dry place.
Once the leavening is complete, turn the dough over (it should double) onto the work surface, spreading it slightly with the palm of your hand and add the butter cut into small pieces (room temperature), the sugar and the oil. Once the ingredients are mixed, add the diced candied citron, the raisins, the pine nuts, anise to taste. Knead it until all the candied fruit and dried fruit are well blended, form the donut and put it in a buttered cake pan to let it rise for about 3 hours.
After the last leavening, brush the surface of the Torcolo with egg yolk and make 5 light cuts with the tip of the knife.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for about 45 minutes.
Recommended pairing: Vernaccia di Cannara or Umbrian Vinsanto.
DANTE AND THE OLIVE TREE
The oil and therefore the olive tree is deeply rooted in our tradition and in our culture. It finds origins in the classical age and uses already in Roman and then medieval times. Within the Divine Comedy, references to food or everything related to nutrition is treated not from a material and therefore nutritional point of view but from a purely spiritual and religious point of view.
During the writing of the Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri gives great importance to the olive tree citing it twice as an element rich in religious symbolism: Beatrice herself presents herself to Dante with the olive crown: «sovra candido vel cinta d’ulivo/donna he appeared to me under a green mantle» (vv. 31-32, canto XXX of Purgatory)
The common thread of this book is to talk about Dante through food and wine immersed in central Italy with the connection to Umbria which acts as a bridge, like a flow of thought, roots and traditions.
AFTER THE GREAT WAR
“Oil is rooted in our culture but it is also a product reserved for the few until the Second World War. In fact, the invention of owning an olive grove was bourgeois, as lard and butter were reserved for the poor class. It is only in after the Second World War that the consumption of oil undergoes changes. This surge in consumption for Umbria did not mean a sudden transformation of the characteristics of the market. However, the product is starting to have wider spaces also favored by the greater productions made in the previous decades.”- he explains Prof. Renato Covino, adding that “the pedological nature of the Umbrian hilly soils, often fliscioide (with a high limestone content) leads to the diffusion until recent times of Moraiolo, which produces a few kilos per plant and therefore less oil, and a geographical location especially around the Trasimeno basin, which guaranteed a temperate climate effect, and along the hills that surround the Umbrian Valley (from Assisi to Spoleto). The presence in mixed crops, where it supports or replaces the vine and coexists with cereals, makes it a production intended for substantially domestic use, which becomes part of the subsistence economy of the sharecroppers and of consumption of the landlords”.
UMBRIA, THE GREEN HEART OF ITALY
Ivo Picchiarelli underlines how “in the perception of the imagination of Umbria the gray-green of the olive trees has recently leapt into evidence, in particular that of the piedmont olive belt which, uninterrupted, from Assisi to Spoleto overlooks the Spoletana Valley. Various factors contributed to this. Even the green region of Umbria seems to have chosen this color as its emblem”.
OLIVE OIL AND MODERNITY
Alessandro Giotti talks about the relationship between modernity, tradition and innovation also in the field of olive growing and how the advance of technology has effectively changed the production methods of “historic olive groves and ancient varieties” and the concept of oil in terms of consumption and use in the culinary field and beyond, and in particular he explains that “nowadays technology allows us to have technologically very advanced two-phase mills of small or medium size capable of producing very high quality. Therefore, many mills are spreading which are often born in the heart of the place of production of the olives, making the transformation process very efficient and fast. These crushers, having smaller dimensions, also allow you to manage even smaller batches, facilitating, for example, precision machining, essential for the production of monovarietals. The latter are starting to become more and more widespread and allow us to offer those who are or will be able to appreciate the incredible biodiversity we possess. Just think of Nostrale di Rigali, Borgiona, Dolce Agogia al Raio in our Umbria, not to mention of the prince of all Umbrian and Tuscan cultivars, the Moraiolo.
The intention is to give new life to enchanting places in Umbria, enhancing the territory and production quality and becoming a true destination for those in search of experiences and quality products”.
Perugia and Perugina
From the foresight, sagacity, vision and revolutionary and modern ideas of Luisa Spagnoli, Perugina was born in 1907 from a small laboratory in the center of Perugia, taking over a grocery store together with her husband Annibale Spagnoli and giving rise to a new idea of understanding and transform cocoa and chocolate: in Perugia, rich in small shops, industrial activities spread which expanded the chocolate market and above all the fame of Perugia.
“The famous creation based on chopped hazelnuts, gianduja and dark chocolate coating, a great intuition of Luisa Spagnoli over a century ago and still today the workhorse of Casa Perugina, originally had the shape and name of a fist or rather of a “punch”. A name that was later changed by Giovanni Buitoni in 1924 into the famous Bacio Perugina”.
The cultivation, dissemination, marketing and consequently the kaleidoscopic use of chocolate or cocoa is relatively recent. We are between the 16th and 5th centuries BC, in the Yucatan peninsula, when the monkeys began to feed on the cocoa fruit, the pod, eating the pulp and throwing away the seeds (what are known today as cocoa beans) and contributing to the spread of cocoa plants. And it is precisely by imitating the monkeys that the Maya approached the “fruit of the gods” starting from the fifth century BC and spreading cultivation. It is said that the entire Masomaerican population considered cocoa a divine gift: therefore linked to important celebrations and sacred rites. Nonetheless, the Mayans had understood the nutritional properties and the potential contained in the fruit: it was believed, in fact, that cocoa was a sexual tonic and therefore was given to the bride during the marriage ritual. Divine fruit, dish for rituals and still a currency of exchange, cocoa becomes an integral part of everyday life for the Mayan population. The modern processing of cocoa to obtain chocolate actually dates back to the Mayas, with small modifications, different cuts, new techniques but essentially it was the Mayas who taught us how to transform seeds wrapped in a white and stringy substance into modern chocolate: the the fruit (the cabossa) was opened leaving the seeds (the beans) to ferment in the sun; then followed the roasting and grinding with a rolling pin that broke the bean letting out the cocoa butter (the fatty part of the fruit) to which added flavorings and corn flour giving rise to the cocoa mass. They were then preserved by drying in pats and consumed with the addition of hot water, filtered and drunk cold as a drink after a meal and called by the Aztecs “tciocoatl”, while the cocoa plant was “cacahuatl”.
ChocoPills: chocolate and philosophy
“Chocolate was particularly appreciated by the Enlightenment. Voltaire consumed several cups a day, finding chocolate very useful for philosophical speculation: unlike alcohol which dulled cognitive abilities, chocolate stimulates them” – Luca Fiorucci, journalist
But we don’t listen to Voltaire and recommend chocolate with wine!
With chocolate we have organoleptic sensations such as succulence (salivation when tasted), the bitter tendency (linked to the cocoa % of chocolate which we remember have tannins like wine), fatness (linked to cocoa butter and milk), structure, aroma, intensity, sweetness and persistence. Depending on the organoleptic properties of the chocolate, we will be able to combine the wine that best marries and matches. For succulence, for example, we will look for a wine with alcohol and tannins. For the bitter tendency, alcohol and softness. For the fatness a savory wine.