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The hallmark to any Italian gathering is food, drink, coffee and dessert. So what sets the holidays apart from other gatherings? More food, more drink, more coffee, and more dessert. Let's take a look at Christmas, as an example. The morning and evening literally start and end with espresso and dessert. So if you want to party like an Italian, this holiday season here is what you'll need.
During the Christmas season, Italians will be paring their morning cappuccino or latte with the famous panettone instead of their usual pastry - un cornetto- a variation of a croissant. Panettone is a type of sweet bread made with candied fruit originally from Milano, usually enjoyed for Christmas and New Year. Pandorois another very similar variant, but doesn't have the fruit and is usually shaped like a star.
Christmas meals will very from region to region in Italy as tradition dictates, but no matter what region you are in, you can rest assured the meal will invariably end with an espresso and dessert. Traditional cookies, tiramisu or cannoli will often accompany the after dinner espresso. A famous dessert is the Panforte from the Siena area. I guess you can say Panforte is like a fruitcake but that is a huge injustice to panforte. Trust me Panforte is not something you would regift.
Another way to finish off an Italian meal is with" un caffé corretto". "Un corretto" is an espresso that has been "corrected", usually with liqueur like Sambuca or my personal favourite, Grappa.
Sambuca is also served with three dark roast coffee beans or "mosche"(flies) floating in the drink. These are eaten to extract the essence of the bean which goes beautifully with this anise flavoured liqueur.
Most Italians will tell you their favourite holiday is Christmas. Why? Because it has all the important Italian elements: family, food and festivities. The holiday actually starts in early December when the matriarchs of the family start the Christmas baking marathons. They gather in each others; homes to bake the traditional cookies and sweets: cannoli, amaretti, pizzelle and more.
Here are the recipes for two all time favourites: Amaretti and Pizzelle. Amaretti are excellent to have in your repetoire because they are made with almond flour so they are ideal cookes for those who may have gluten intolerances.
Amaretti cookies are crunchy small Italian cookies with a lovely almond flavour. They are an ideal gluten-free cookie because the recipe is free of flour and instead uses ground almonds or almond flour.
Begin by preheating your oven to 350℉.
2 pounds of almonds finely ground (If you are going to make your own almond flour, be sure to use a Vitamix type blender. You need the flour to be dry. If you use a food processor you will end up with a oily almond mixture.)
2 (8 oz) cups of white sugar
4 large eggs
1 small bottle of pure almond extract (1. 5 oz or 43ml)
1 small bottle of pure vanilla extract (1.5 oz or 43ml)
1 teaspoon of cocoa
Candied fruit (cherries, red and green, cut in half) optional for garnish
Whole almond – optional for garnish
Beat eggs with sugar for 15 to 20 minutes, until small bubbles begin to form.
Add the almond and vanilla extract along with the teaspoon of cocoa and continue to beat all together for another 5 minutes.
Add ground almonds.
You should knead the mixture hand at this point.
Shape the dough into small balls. (Smaller than the size of a golf ball). Each cookie should weigh 3/4 of an ounce at most.
Roll in white sugar.
Place on cookie sheet one inch apart.
Place candied cherry half or almond on top for decoration.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. The amaretti cookies should be soft. Do not overcook.
Pizzelle are traditional Italian waffle style cookies. You will need a pizzelle iron to make these. Some Italian families have a customized iron with a family symbol or coat of arms decoration on it to distinguish their pizzelle from others.
12 tbsp. of sugar
12 tbsp. of sunflower oil
Zest of one lemon
1 pkge of sugared vanilla
Anise seeds ( You can also add 1 oz. of anise flavored liqeur, like Sambuca to intensify the anise flavour.
2 1/4 cups of flour
Beat eggs until foamy, Add oil, sugar, lemon and vanilla. Add flour at the end.
Ensure your pizzelle iron is hot.
Scoop a small amount of batter into the center of the iron. Cook until golden. These can be shaped into cups by putting them onto the bottom of an upside glass. Once they harden, they will keep their shape.
So if you want to party like an Italian at Christmas you need to make sure you are surrounded by family, good food, lots of desserts and a continuous flow of good espresso.
A way to ensure you have quick and easy access to good espresso is to have a good coffee maker at your disposal. Fully automatic espresso machines allow you to make espresso and specialty drinks like cappuccino or latté at the push of a button.
If you want any assistance with choosing the perfect espresso machine for your home or office, be sure to contact us.