Italian recipes /1: St. Vincent’s sweet breadsticks [Torcetti]

After months spent working on scones, hot cross buns, cupcakes, muffins, giant cookies and all things Anglo-American, I felt like I’ve been neglecting my native Country. I saw it as the perfect excuse for a new purchase from Amazon and bought La Dolce Italia, a book of traditional Italian pastry. It sat on the shelf for a few weeks, as I was waiting for a good moment to go through it, and yesterday I finally found a recipe easy enough to attempt. The recipes themselves are not difficult, but the ingredients have different names and different availabilities so it’s not always easy to get them straight away. For instance, for home baking, Italians don’t use self raising flour or the more common raising agents like baking powder and soda: they mostly use a blend. Their yeast is more commonly found in the shape of cubes. Stuff like this might not really represent a problem , but it can appear daunting when you’re already struggling to tame your new oven.

The book consists of many chapters, one for each Italian region, and includes numerous recipes: what I’d like to do is choose one from each region and share it with you. This week it will be Valle D’Aosta and its Torcetti di Saint Vincent [St. Vincent’s sweet breadsticks]. They only require a few, common ingredients but the procedure, especially the shaping stage, is quite painstaking: if you have a breadmaker, this is the right time to use it and make at least the first half of the job effortless [lazy, innit].

You can have them with hot chocolate as well as with some dessert wine.

Ingredients:

  • 500g plain flour
  • 150/200ml Lukewarm water
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 25g yeast
  • 200g sugar [white or demerara, your choice]
  • Salt

On your working surface, shape the flour into a fountain. Dissolve the yeast in a little amount of lukewarm water [about 5 tbsp] and pour it in the centre. Knead, adding water a little at a time until you obtain a smooth, elastic dough. Place in a bowl sprinkled with flour, cover it and let raise for about an hour in a warm place.

Put the dough back on your working surface and add the softened butter a bit at a time, and the salt, kneading it energetically. Put back into the bowl and let raise again for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Cut the dough in many pieces of the same size and roll them until you get sticks as thick as a pencil and 10-12 cm [4-5″] long. Roll them into the sugar so that their whole surface is covered, place the onto a tray lined with baking paper and bend them, overlapping the ends to form a loop. Bake them for about 15 minutes. They keep for a few days in sealed containers.

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