Saturday, April 27, 2013

The 'We Knead to Bake Project' 2013 - Torcettini di St. Vincent





I've always dreaded the third time I undertake any project, there usually seems to be a jinx associated after that.. 3 weeks of working out in the gym, or following a dietary regimen, three baking tasks etc. . the 'We knead to bake project was no exception. Even as  I took it lightly that the 24th of the month was some ways of, BAM!.. it crept up before I knew it and I had no cookies to show for it. Of course there was no way I was going to let a bad case of the common cold let me miss this session, so better late than never, Here is the recipe that Aparna Balasubramanian picked out for April - Torcettini di St. Vincent.

So what is a Torcettini? Its believed that the cookie originated as a variation of the classic Italian breadstick, the Grissini. A baker in Valle d'Aosta had some leftover butter that he decided to incorporate into  his last batch of dough,shaped it into a twist, and rolled it in sugar to differentiate it from the regular bread sticks & voila, the torcettini was born. The cookies probably soared in popularity when Queen Margaret, the wife of King Umberto of Savoy, loved these so much that she directed her kitchen staff to always keep an abundant supply of the ingredients to make this whenever she wanted.

The cookies have a lovely crunchy exterior that gives way to a chewy center, reminiscent of pretzels except that they are sweet from the sugar crystals with just a touch of saltiness from the dough.




Torcettini di Saint Vincent:




(Adapted from 'A Baker's Tour' by Nick Malgieri)

You need:


1/2 cup warm water, about 110F

1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 1 tsp instant yeast)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon cocoa powder (if making chocolate torcettini)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lime/ lemon zest (replace with orange zest for the chocolate version)
40gm unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
about 1/3 cup  Turbinado cane sugar for rolling the cookies

Method:



Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, in a small bowl and keep aside.

Put the flour and the salt in the food processor bowl (or a largish regular bowl if kneading by hand) and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the butter is well mixed and the flour-butter mixture looks powdery.

If making chocolate Torcettini, remove 2 tbsp all-purpose flour and add the 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder mentioned in the recipe. Don’t add the lemon zest/ anise. Use orange zest and maybe add 1/ 2 tsp instant coffee powder with the flour.

Add the yeast-water mixture and pulse till it all comes together as a ball. Do not over process or knead. Place the ball of dough in a oiled bowl, turning it so it is well coated with the oil. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise quite a bit.
This dough does not really double in volume, but it should look “puffy” after about an hour or so. When you pinch off a bit from the top you can see the interior looking a bit like honeycomb. Press down the dough and deflate it, wrap it in plastic film and refrigerate it for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.
 

When ready to make the cookies, take the dough out and lightly roll it out into an approximately 6” square. If the dough feels sticky, scatter a little sugar on it. Using a pizza wheel cut the dough into four strips of equal width. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, by cutting across, making a total of 24 pieces. The measurements are not very critical in this part because this just makes it easier to have 24 equal sized bits of dough, as compared to pinching of bits of the dough.




Roll each piece into a pencil thick “rope” about 5” long. Sprinkle a little sugar on your work surface and roll the “rope” in it so the sugar crusts the dough uniformly. Form the “rope” into a loop crossing it over before the ends.

Place the Torcettini on parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2" between them. Leave them for about 20 minutes or so till they rise/ puff up slightly. Don’t worry, they will not “puff up” much.



Bake them at 160C (325F) for about 25 minutes till they’re a nice golden brown. Cool the cookies completely, on a rack. Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature.




  Serve as a tea time snack with a piping hot cup of Cafe au Lait or tea.



Bon Appetit!

Some tips to keep in mind:
Once your Torcettini have been shaped, don’t let them rise for longer than 20 minutes. If you do, your Torcettini will more bread-like on the inside due to the extra “rise”.
  To make sure the Torcettini dough does not rise for more than 20 minutes, it’s a good idea to work on shaping the 2nd batch while the first batch is in the oven.

A Gorgeous set of Pewter measuring spoons I picked up at my neighborhood yard sale!


This recipe is being Yeastspotted.

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