Spiced Saba, Raisin, and Nut Cookies

There’s one thing about Italian sweets that fascinates me. Sometimes the flavour mixtures are surprising and scrumptious, and generally the draw is apparent as with gelato. I used to be fortunately transported to Italy and particularly with some recipes to Sardinia whereas studying my overview copy of La Vita e Dolce: Italian–Inspired Desserts by Letitia Clark. Clark, and English pastry chef, wrote this e book from her house in Sardinia simply because the pandemic was getting began. She writes that she wished to “cling to and celebrate those moments of sweet, everyday pleasure.” Making candy treats at house is a straightforward solution to expertise and share a little bit of pleasure every day. And for me, making and sharing Italian sweets is especially fulfilling. I’ve posted earlier than about my deep affection for anginetti cookies that are lemony, little spherical delights, and I used to be thrilled with pezzetti di cannella that deliver collectively cocoa, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a superb, glazed cookie. And, after all, the savory-sweet mixture of grapes and rosemary in schiacciata all’uva is divine. So, I couldn’t wait to peruse this new e book. It consists of cookies, tarts, truffles, spoonable sweets, yeasted and fried treats, gelato, and sweets to offer as presents. The recipes have been all created in a really approachable method for the house cook dinner. I may spend severe time with the gelato chapter alone. From the Sparkling Lemon Sorbetto to the Ricotta and Fig Ripple Gelato, there are ideas for finest outcomes and anecdotes about gelato outlets in Italy. I obtained caught within the Gifts chapter eager to attempt the Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Sour Cherry Salame and realizing I’ve by no means made Panforte, but. As I learn via the e book, I made a decision I want extra Torta della Nonna in my life in addition to Crostata de Marmellata. I shortly grew to become jealous as Clark described the standard of the fruit out there in Sardinia. Still, I need to attempt the Citrus, Campari, and Yoghurt Upside-Down Cake with what I can get right here. First, although, the Pabassinus cookies or Spiced Saba, Raisin, and Nut Cookies had my full consideration. The mixture of cinnamon, cloves, aniseed, and lemon zest with saba and the nuts and raisins seemed like a mixture I needed to style. The proven fact that the cookies are historically adorned with sprinkles simply strengthened my curiosity in them. 

In the top observe, it’s defined that the cookies’ title comes from the Sardinian phrase for raisin which is “pabassa.” Step one was procuring some saba, and that was straightforward sufficient with a web-based order. To start the cookie dough, slivered almonds and walnuts have been toasted and then chopped. The aniseed was toasted in a dry skillet and then crushed with a mortar and pestle. The raisins have been soaked to plump them, and I used orange juice for that. The prepped nuts, aniseed, and drained raisins have been combined with flour, sugar, softened butter, egg, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, floor cloves, saba, and lemon zest to kind a dough. After chilling the dough for half-hour, it was rolled and lower into diagonal shapes. The lower cookies have been baked, cooled, and dipped into confectioner’s sugar glaze earlier than being showered with sprinkles. 

How can sprinkles not make you cheerful? The thought of this e book was to unfold pleasure, and these cookies most undoubtedly did that. I liked the combo of flavors from the spices, the brightness of the citrus zest, and the tangy sweetness of the saba. It’s going to be enjoyable to have much more Italian candy treats to take pleasure in at house and to share with others. 


Spiced Saba, Raisin, and Nut Cookies
Recipe excerpted with permission from La Vita e Dolce: Italian–Inspired Desserts by Letitia Clark, revealed by Hardie Grant Books, June 2021. 

These little diamond-shaped biscuits are discovered throughout Sardinia, with recipes differing from area to area. Pabassinus, deriving their title from the Sardinian phrase pabassa, which suggests ‘raisin’, are historically made for All Saints’ Day (1 November), the addition of spices, citrus zest and a big amount of dried fruit and nuts being the edible markers of spiritual festivals. Crumbly, nutty and splendidly spicy, they’re so inseparable from the interval main as much as Ognissanti that after I requested a buddy if she would make them with me in September, she point-blank refused. I first made these with a buddy’s aunt, who measured all the things by eye (‘quanto basta!’) and baked them in a wood-fired oven as she had executed on the identical day yearly for her total life. Many households in Sardinia nonetheless have these ovens, that are lit for particular events. Traditionally bread is baked first, then, because the temperature cools, the dolci are baked afterwards. Saba, or sapa is a darkish, richly flavoured syrup created from cooked grape should. Traditionally in Sardinia this was additionally created from prickly pears (fichi d’India), which develop wild all around the countryside. They have been gathered with canes and then boiled down with water to supply a thick, dusky syrup which was then used as a sweetener. Few individuals make this syrup now, however sapa created from grapes continues to be used for a lot of conventional dolci. If you possibly can’t discover sapa, then a darkish honey, black treacle or date molasses are all good substitutes. The biscuits are often adorned with a easy white glacé icing and multi-coloured sprinkles (Sardinians are inordinately keen on sprinkles) however they’re additionally superb un-iced and unsprinkled. They maintain properly in an hermetic container for a couple of days. 

Makes 30 bigger or 40 smaller cookies – sufficient for a festa 

100 g (3 1⁄2 oz) blanched almonds 
70 g (2 1⁄2 oz) walnuts
2 tsp aniseed

120 g (4 oz) raisins 
270 g (10 oz/2 1⁄4 cups) 00 or plain (all-purpose) flour, plus further to mud 
140 g (4 1⁄2 oz/2 2⁄3 cups) sugar

120 g (4 oz) butter or lard, at room temperature

1 egg and 1 egg yolk

1⁄2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of floor cloves (non-compulsory) 
1 tbsp saba

zest of 1 lemon

zest of 1 orange 

For the icing 
130 g (4 oz/1 cup) icing (confectioner’s) sugar 
2 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon, roughly) 
sprinkles (non-compulsory) 

Preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF/Gas 4). Arrange the almonds over the bottom of a baking tray (pan) and roast within the oven till simply calmly golden, about 8–10 minutes. Remove from the oven and chop the almonds lengthways into nibs. Chop the walnuts roughly. 

Toast the aniseed in a dry shallow pan for 1–2 minutes or till it begins to scent good. Remove and bash the seeds gently in a pestle and mortar, or in a deep bowl utilizing the underside of a rolling pin. Soak the raisins in boiling water (or tea or espresso or something scorching you need to hand – fennel tea would even be good) till softened (round 3 minutes). Drain them properly in a sieve, squeezing to take away any extra liquid. 

In a bowl, combine collectively the chopped nuts, bashed aniseed and soaked raisins with the remainder of the substances utilizing your fingers (messy however satisfying) or utilizing a picket spoon till you could have a easy dough. Wrap the dough in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and depart to relaxation within the fridge whilst you clear up. Once the dough has rested for half-hour, roll it out on a piece floor dusted with flour. Roll out to 1 cm (1⁄2 in) thickness, then lower diagonally into large-ish diamond shapes, re-rolling and reducing any edges till you could have used the entire dough. 

Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and bake for 12–quarter-hour (maintain an in depth eye on them as they burn quick). Remove and depart to chill. 

To make the icing, combine the icing sugar with the lemon juice in a small bowl till simply at pouring consistency. Decorate the biscuits with the icing and sprinkles, if utilizing.

Note: These are nearly all the time made into tough diagonals right here in Sardinia, however for those who favor to make use of your favourite cookie cutter then be happy to take action. They’d make superb Christmas cookies too.

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