These are one of Campania’s several Christmas spice cookies. They are sometimes half covered with chocolate fondant, half with white and sometimes only with chocolate. They are also made “imbottiti”, that is stuffed with dried fruits or a chocolate cream which seems always to be chocolate-coated and shaped more like bon bons than cookies. Having eaten many, over the years, I think that these days they are most often more chocolate truffle with the thinnest layer of spice cookie than a cookie with a filling. This recipe is from New York-based, Neapolitan-American pastry chef, Nick Malgieri, who worked out a great recipe his “Great Italian Desserts”.
Recipe makes 36 cookies.
FOR THE COOKIE DOUGH
2 CUPS BLEACHED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
1 CUP SUGAR
1/3 CUP WATER
½ TEASPOON AMMONIUM BICARBONATE
(OR ½ TESPOON EACH, BAKING POWDER AND BAKING SODA)
¼ TEASPOON GROUND CINNAMON
¼ TEASPOON GROUND PEPPER
¼ TEASPOON GROUND CLOVES
GRATED ZEST OF 2 ORANGE
FOR THE CHOCOLATE ICING
6 OUNCES SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE
¼ CUP WATER
¼ CUP LIGHT CORN SRUP
¼ CUP SUGAR
- PREHEAT OVEN TO 325º
- IN A MIXING BOWL COMBINE THE FLOUR AND THE SUGAR
- POUR THE WATER INTO A SMALL BOWL AND STIR IN THE REMAINING DOUGH INGREDIENTS. STIR THE WATER MIXTURE INTO THE DRY INGREDIENTS AND CONTINUE MIXING UNTIL THE DOUGH BEGINS TO HOLD TOGETHER. IF IT SEEMS DRY, ADD MORE WATER, NO MORE THAN A TABLESPOON AT A TIME, SPRINKLING THE WAER ON THE DOUGH. DO NOT ADD SO MUCH WATER THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO ADD MORE FLOUR.
- TURN THE DOUGH OUT ONTO A LIGHTLY FLOURED SURFACE AND KNEAD A MINUTE OR SO JUST UNTIL THE DOUGH BECOMES HOMOGENOUS AND SMOOTH. DO NOT KNEAD TOO MUCH OR THE DOUGH WILL BE DIFFICULT TO ROLL AND THE COOKIES WILL BE TOUGH,
- SHAPE THE DOUGH INTO A FLAT DISK ABOT 6 INCHES IN DIAMETER AND THEN WRAP IT IN PLASTIC. LET THE DOUGH REST AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES BEFORE SHAPING AND BAKING IT. (OTHER CAMPANIAN BAKERS SUGGEST LETTING THE DOUGH “RIPEN” FOR FROM 1 TO 3 DAYS IN THE REFRIGERATOR.)
- PLACE THE DOUGH ON A LIGHTLY FLOURED SURFACE, DUST THE TOP VERY LIGHTLY WITH FLOUR AND THEN ROLL IT OUT TO A 12 BY 9 INCH RECTANGLE AND NO MORE THAN ¼ INCH THICK.
- WITH FLOURED KNIFE OR PIZZA OR PASTRY CUTTING WHEEL, CUT THE DOUGH INTO 6 STRIPS, EACH 2 BY 9 INCHES. CUT EACH STRIP DIAGONALLY AT 2 INCH INTERVALS TO MAKE 6 DIAMONDS. YOU SHOULD GET 36 IN ALL. (MALGIERI SUGGESTS THAT YOU DO NOT MASS THE SCRAPS BACK TOGETHER – THE REULTING COOKIES WILL BE OVERLY TOUGH – BUT BAKE THEM AS THEY ARE)
- TRANSFER THE MOSTACCIOLI TO GREASED COOKIE SHEETS OR TO COOKIES SHEETS LINED WITH GREASED PARCHMENT PAPER. BRUSH THEM LIGHTL WITH COLD WATER.
- BAKE IN THE MIDDLE LEVEL OF THE OVEN FOR ABOUT 20 MINUTES, UNTIL THE ARE VERY LIGHTL COLORED. REMOVE THE COOKIES TO A COOLING RACK AND LET COOL COMPLETELY.
FOR THE ICING
CHOP THE CHOCOLATE FINELY AND SET ASIDE
IN A SMALL SAUCEPAN, COMBINE THE WATER, THE CORN SYRUP AND THE SUGAR. BRING TO A BOIL STIRRING OFTEN.
REMOVE THE PAN FROM THE HEAT AND ADD THE CHOPPED CHOCOLATE, SWIRLING THE MIXTURE AROUND THE PAN TO MAKE SURE THE CHOCOLATE IS IMMERSED IN THE SYRUP. ALLOW TO STAND 3 MINUTES.
WHISK THE ICING SMOOTH
WITH A PASTRY BRUSH, PAINT ICING ON THE UNDERSIDE OF EACH MOSTACCIOLI. ALLOW THE MOSTACCIOLI TO DRY, ICING UP, ON A RACK FOR 5 MINUTES.
TURN THE COOKIES OVER AND BRUSH THE TOPS WITH THE ICING. (IF, AS YOU WORK, THE ICING BECOMES FIRM, ADD 1 TABLESPOON WATER AND REHEAT IT GENTLY OVER LOW HEAT, STIRRING CONSTANTLY.) ALLOW THE ICING TO DRY AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR AT LEAST 1 HOUR, THEN ICE THEM AGAIN AND LET DRY AGAIN.
PACK THEM INTO A TIN BETWEEN LAYERS OF WAX PAPER. THEY KEEP WELL.
Note: I was happy to find this recipe as this is one of those cookies that I remember from years gone by that you really don’t see anymore. It would be a shame to lose them.