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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Torcettini di Saint Vincent (Sugar Crusted Twisted Cookies from the Valle d’Aosta)

 This month in We Knead To Bake group Aparna had decided to bake Torcettini di Saint Vincent (Sugar Crusted Twisted Cookies from the Valle d’Aosta).  In the We knead to Bake group, we are all experimenting with baking using yeast, under the expert guidance of Aparna.  Loved making these cute small biscuits this time.  Below is the information about Torcettiini, in Aparna's own words.  It was very interesting to read the origin of these biscuits.



Torcettini are smaller versions of the Italian Torcetti (meaning small twists), and these pear/ teardrop shaped twists are made of a dough of flour, yeast and butter which are shaped and then rolled in sugar before being baked. 

The origin of these biscuits is believed to be from Grissini (breadsticks) which were made from the leftover scraps of bread dough. According to one story, a Grissini baker had some leftover butter which he needed to use up. Inspiration struck and he decided to add the butter to the last batch of his Grissini dough for the day. To be able to differentiate this lot of “breadsticks”, he rolled them in sugar and shaped them into loops, and the Torcetti was born. Torcetti/ Torchettini taste even better when they’re flavoured with lime/ lemon zest or anise.
  
These biscuits are crunchy, not very sweet and pair very well with cold milk, hot chocolate, tea/ coffee or wine. They are delicious served warm and equally good cold, and keep very well if stored in airtight containers. 



Torcettini di Saint Vincent
(Adpated from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri)

Ingredients:
 1/2 cup warm water, about 110F
 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 tsp instant yeast)
 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lime/ lemon zest (replace with orange zest for the chocolate version)
 40gm unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
 about 1/3 cup sugar for rolling the cookies



Preparation:

1)   Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, in a small bowl and keep aside.

2)   Put the flour and the salt in the food processor bowl (or a largish regular bowl if kneading by hand) and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the butter is well mixed and the flour-butter mixture looks powdery.

3)   Add the yeast-water mixture and pulse till it all comes together as a ball. Do not over process or knead.

4)   Place the ball of dough in a oiled bowl, turning it so it is well coated with the oil. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise quite a bit.

5)   This dough does not really double in volume, but it should look “puffy” after about an hour or so. When you pinch off a bit from the top you can see the interior looking a bit like honeycomb. Press down the dough and deflate it, wrap it in cling warp and refrigerate it for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.

6)  When ready to make the cookies, take the dough out and lightly roll it out into an approximately 6” square. If the dough feels sticky, scatter a little sugar on it. 

7)   Cut the dough into four strips of equal width. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, by cutting across, making a total of 24 pieces. The measurements are not very critical.

8)  Roll each piece into a pencil thick “rope” about 5” long. Sprinkle a little sugar on your work surface and roll the “rope” in it so the sugar crusts the dough uniformly. Form the “rope” into a loop crossing it over before the ends.

9)  Place the Torcettini on parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2" between them. Leave them for about 20 minutes or so till they rise/ puff up slightly. They will not “puff up” much.

10)Bake them at 160C (325F) for about 25 minutes till they’re a nice golden brown. Remove them immediately from the parchment and cool them on a cooling rack.  Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature.