Thursday, January 19, 2017

Piedmont canestrelli

Cookie lovers, Piedmont offers an endless list of delicious cookies and many share the same name like canestrelli!
In fact, according to where you'll visit, you can find waffle like cookies, thin wafers or wafer sandwiches, could it get anymore scrumptious?

Piedmont canestrelli from Val di Susa (the waffle-like ones) and from the Canavese district (the large holy wafers)

However, if we look at the Piedmont map, it makes perfectly sense that in the mountain valleys bordering France and Switzerland, with a long trading history with other European countries like Belgium, people have been making thin waffle like cookies with the waffle iron. In fact, this is the same area where they make gofri (from the French gaufres or Belgian waffles).

In the Monferrato wine district, down in Southern Piedmont, the canestrelli cookie dough includes Gavi wine instead of milk and olive oil instead of butter. 
Vegans: canestrelli di Gavi are your cookies 😉

Up in the northern Biella valleys, where Ermenegildo Zegna is from, since 1800 canestrelli look like rectangular thin wafer sandwiches filled with an almond, hazelnut and chocolate cream 😍 Up to then, the wafer part was round like the Canavese ones and made with a mix of wheat and corn meals, but then two chocolate maker brothers decied to make them into a chocolate sandwich.

wafer-like and chocolate cream filled canestrelli di Biella 

In the prealpine Canavese district, where Erbaluce di Caluso wine is produced and where Ivrea is located, canestrelli look like large crunchy coins - thinner than pizzelles, or holy wafers as they modified from the mass wafers. 

According to some, the word canestrelli comes from canestro or basket probably because way back in the time that's where they were put to cool down and then served in. These are very ancient cookies: the Canavese and Val di Susa variant, the one that looks like a large coin or chocolate/vanilla holy wafer, dates back to the Middle Ages and were made to celebrate weddings, holidays and the whole Carnival season.

The original recipes of those looking like holy wafers and waffles didn't include the eggs so that they could last many weeks. Traditionally each family had its family first letters graved in the waffle iron so that the cookies were like a coat of arms. 
Because for many centuries the canestrelli recipes were transmitted orally, many families modified the "original" recipe adding rhum, vermouth or marsala wine; cloves or nutmeg, vanilla and eggs not always available.  

waffle-like Vaie canestrelli
Every year, for 6 weeks, from May to mid-June, up in Val di Susa, near the St Michael's Abbey, in Vaie there is the "canestrello di Vaie Fair" where you can make, buy and eat all sorts of this waffle like cookie. The original one is lemon scented but nowadays you can also find it with cocoa, hazelnuts, oranges and mint.

Because of their simple recipe we are sharing the Gavi wine canestrelli recipe so everybody, even our vegan followers can enjoy them wherever they are!

Canestrelli with Gavi DOCG wine

To make about 50 canestrelli: 

500gr - 1.1lb  flour
120ml - 1/2 cup Cortese di Gavi DOCG wine
120ml - 1/2 cup EVOO
120gr - 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
10gr - 2+1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tps of salt

In a bowl, mix the flour, the wine and then the EVOO. Add the sugar, the salt and the baking powder. Knead till getting an elastic and smooth dough. Let it rest for 5 min, not longer because traditionally these cookies need to be firm and crunchy.
Knead the dough a bit more and cut it into 4-5 parts; with your hands roll down sticks of about 1cm - 1/2 inch thick and 12cm/6in. long. Make a ring with each one of them closing the extremities.
Bake at 180C/350F for 10-15min till golden.

Gavi DOCG wine Canestrelli

As these variant of canestrelli doesn't contain any eggs, as long as you keep them in an air tight container, they can last up to a month! 
Needless to tell you they won't make it because you can enjoy them at breakfast with your coffee or tea, at mid-afternoon with some gelato, regular ice-cream, yogurt, hot chocolate and even in the evening, dunking them in a nice glass of wine.
Preferably, of course, you have to pair them with the Cortese di Gavi DOCG, Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG or a raisinated wine.

As for the other variants of canestrelli, you can also pair them with: Alta Langa DOCG Rose' thanks to its delicate scent with vanilla hues, Erbaluce di Caluso and any dry Spumante wine like Asti.

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