Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Bit Of Italy On Christmas Day

For those that have emailed me, you probably know from my last name I am Italian; Panciarello.  Both of my Grandfathers were from Italy and came to the U.S. (settled in New York) as so many did in the early 1900's.  My Grandmothers were born in the U.S. but full fledged Italian.  You would have thought my Fathers Mother was from Italy, but no. My Mothers Father was "Landi" I love that name.  Anyway, as we all know back in the day no one measured or wrote anything down as far a recipes are concerned.  Luckily my Mother (a very, very smart woman) who was an Executive Secretary for the President of a Company that is now part of Armstrong Carpeting.  She had beautiful handwriting, took short hand and could type (on the old manual machines) like  a crazy lady while she was conversing and never looked at the keys; I can only imagine how fast she would be on todays computers.  She would watch her Mother cook and bake and before she added anything into a bowl or pot she would measure it and write it down.  Boy am I glad my Mother did this!

My Fathers side is from Bari, Italy and my Mothers side from the northern suburbs of Naples.  Two distinct styles of cooking and living.  My Mothers side always seemed reserved, quiet and the food was lighter.  The opposite held true for my Fathers side.

Both sides of my family made the below Christmas "Pies" recipe, each a bit different than the other.  My Mothers side made it lighter and sprinkled (dipped) sugar on the little pies, my Fathers Mother saturated them in honey.  If my knitting friends in Italy know the proper name of this wonderful Christmas treat please let me know.

Here is Grandma Landi's recipe for "Christmas Chocolate Pies":

1  lb. dry Chestnuts, soak overnight, boil until very soft
2  Cans Garbanzo Beans (15 oz ea)
1-½ lb. Mixed Nuts (in shells) OR  24 oz unshelled mixed nuts
1  Large Can Pears (in own juice)
6-12 Ginger Snaps (grated with roasted nuts)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup VERY strong espresso
Grated Rinds of 2 Oranges, 2 Tangerines & 2 Lemons 
½ lb. Milk Chocolate, melted
½ lb. Semi Sweet Chocolate, melted
3 tablespoons Grape Jelly (odd huh?)
3 tablespoons Candied Citron (can't find it?  leave it out)
¾ Teaspoon Cinnamon (I like a bit more)
Pine (Pignoli) Nuts (place 2 in each pie, I leave these out)

NOTE:  You can find dried chestnuts in Italian specialty stores or Asian markets.  If not, you can use fresh, do not use the prepackaged shelled variety.  If using fresh you must allow for the weight of the shells, purchase 1-½ lb.  Cut a cross in them and boil for about 20 min.  Take them out and while hot peel them.  Place back in boiling water and cook until very soft, drain.

Roast mixed nuts in oven until their color start to deepen, 5-10 minutes turning as needed.

In a blender or food processor, grind up the roasted nuts with ginger snaps (until similar to bread crumb consistency), add the Chestnuts and pears (use pear juice if needed to process).  Pour into a large container.  Blend remaining ingredients EXCEPT citron and pine nuts (in batches as this make quite a bit).  Pour into container and mix well add the citron.  The mixture will be VERY thick.  If not add some more ginger snaps.  Refrigerate overnight.

6-7 Cups Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
1-½ teaspoons Salt
3 Sticks Margarine (1-½ Cups)
2 Large Eggs (slightly beaten)
Orange juice 

1 beaten Egg White (to brush on edge of each pie)

Mix dry ingredients then work in margarine with hands until well incorporated.  Add eggs and some orange juice, keep adding the orange juice until the door holds together.  Turn out onto a smooth surface and knead well until dough is elastic and smooth.

Cover dough and let it rest 15-30 min.

Taking about 1/8 of the dough, roll out on a floured surface into a large circle (the bigger the better will reduce the rolling).  Dough should be thinner than regular pie crust. Cut with a 6" bowl into individual circles.  Brush ½ of each circle with egg white and place 1-2 tablespoons of filling on each (this is where you can add the pine nuts).  Fold over dough and pinches edges with fork (dipped in flour) to seal them.

Fry the pies in oil heated to 375℉, fry until rich golden brown, drain on paper towels or brown paper.  Cool completely and store in refrigerator.  Pies are best when fully chilled as filling sets up and flavor is at it's peak.

I dip mine into white sugar then shake off the excess.  You could try the honey by drizzling warm honey on them just prior to eating.  This recipe can be cut in half as estimated amount of above is 100 pies.

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