Meat and Trees

Hopefully everyone’s Thanksgiving was peaceful and happy. It may have included two items that are indisputably associated with the holiday season, but not Italian staples: Buche de Noel and Mincemeat pie.

Buche de Noel or Christmas log is a rolled cake created in France sometime in the 1700-1800s that is still made today to mimic the Yule log during the holidays. The log is usually made of a sponge cake called a Genoise, named after the city of Genoa in Italy. The cake can be simply rolled with jam or buttercream, or elaborately iced to look like the texture of bark on a tree branch. It can be festively decorated with holly leaves and mushrooms made of marzipan (sweetened almond paste) or meringue. Or it can be a swiss roll cake filled with ice cream or mousse or any creative filling you desire.

Another must-have for many Christmas tables is Mincemeat pie, a type of pie that has evolved over the centuries, and has its origins in the Middle Ages. Yes, it originally was a pie of meat, much like the shepherd’s pie that is a British staple.

The word mincemeat referred to the preparation of the meat—cut into small pieces or “minced.” Today, mincemeat pie is known for the variety of chopped dried fruit, liquor, and spices that make it taste fermented. The original beef or venison, and beef fat that was part of the recipe is now commonly replaced by butter or shortening.

English recipes dating back to the 15th, 16th, and 17th century say a mixture of meat and fruit were used as a pie filling. They also included vinegars and wines. By the 18th century distilled spirits such as brandy were being used instead. The use of spices, like clove, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon, was common in late medieval and renaissance meat dishes. Added sugars, and sweetness from fermentation, made mincemeat more of a dessert than a savory dish.

Italian Traditions for the Holidays

This time of year there is no shortage of special treats to celebrate the season. Although I won’t have a new location open for this holiday season, I thought I’d use my website to write about the many seasonal specialties that Italians prepare for the holidays to get us in the spirit.

Most notable among Italian holiday traditions is Panettone, the sweet bread dotted with candied fruit and renowned for its buttery texture. Panettone is a traditional sweet bread served at Christmas in Italy and around the world. It was created in Milan, and is made with a bounty of ingredients, including butter, eggs, candied fruit and raisins. The preparation of Panettone is a day-long process composed of several stages to incorporate the butter and other ingredients, and develop its delicate texture.

Many stories are told about the origins of Panettone. One says that it was named for the man who first made the bread, a poor baker named Tony in the 15th century. Hence, pan (bread) di Toni or Panettone.

For now, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and wonderful holiday season!

That’s it for now

This week is the last one I’ll be taking orders on the website because I will be focusing my efforts to open a brick-and-mortar store in North-Northeast Portland. There are lots of locations available, and I will be researching them to pick the most convenient one that will bring in the most customers and provide a cozy atmosphere.

It has been fun spending the summer filling your orders, and I’m grateful to those of you who braved the online system to place them. Special thanks to the folks at The Arrow Coffeehouse who helped provide the location for pickups and were always ready to help me in my endeavor.

Hope to see you soon in the neighborhood or at my new store in the future!

End-of-Season Sweetness

A rustic tart is the special this week. A galette featuring a cornmeal crust and the end-of-season sweet peaches. The cornmeal gives a sweet taste and ample texture to the tart.

The cookies include Frollini, with two halves sandwiching strawberry jam and an end covered in chocolate, and Della Nonna, the slightly savory sesame seed cookie.

No gushing but high praise

If you never have had a cannoli, or if you haven’t had one in a while, here’s your chance to get one. Not to brag, but I’ve heard many people exclaim after first tasting my cannoli that it “is as good as the ones from New York.”

As a former New Yorker, I take this as high praise because Italian American food is a distinctive and well-loved cuisine, and New Yorkers are not the type to gush with praise. Purchase my mini cannoli for $3.50 each, or three for $10.

The special tart of the week is a mascarpone mixed berry tart. Sweetened mascarpone and heavy cream with a hint of orange is topped with an assortment of fresh berries.

The cookie box includes Zaletti, with crunchy cornmeal and sweet currants; and Frollini, crumbly butter cookies dunked in chocolate.

Pasticciotti are a favorite

This week’s special tart will be Pasticciotto. This almond custard-filled tart is made with a short crust pastry and topped with sliced almonds. It is popular in Sicily and other regions of Italy including Naples and Salento in Puglia. It’s made with different flavored custards and some are filled with sweetened ricotta.

To celebrate Labor Day weekend, try some of our cookies by the pound. For our cookie box this week we have Anise biscotti, S cookies, Amaretti, and Nocciola, a hazelnut butter cookie coated in powdered sugar.

August Zeppole Day

We had such a good time last month that we are repeating Zeppole Day again this Saturday, the last Saturday of August, noon-2 pm. Note the time change!

In honor of the eclipse, this week’s special will be—Black and White cookies. They will be mostly black to mimic the eclipse and sold individually.

For the cookie box there are Rum Raisin biscotti and Della Nonna sesame seed cookies.

Summer Basics

When I was a kid, the last days of summer before school began found me a little nervous and excited. Nervous to start a new year with all of its challenges, and excited to pack in as many fun activities as possible. If you are going out of town for the eclipse or to get your last summer outing in, hopefully you’ll be back in time to order our biscotti box. It includes the basics this week: Anise biscotti, S cookies, and Amaretti. Gluten/wheat-free Amaretti are full of almonds and have a chewy texture. They are different than the Saronno style cookies that are made with finely ground almond flour and are densely crunchy. As always, cannoli are available with chocolate chips and pistachios. Mark the occasion of the total eclipse with a special treat from DiPrima Dolci!

A Hot Treat

Last weekend was so much fun! Our zeppole day was very successful and it was great to see so many wonderful people. Thanks to all of you for coming.

To treat yourself for getting through the hottest days of the year, this week I’m featuring some of my most favorite cookies: Baci di Dama (Lady’s Kisses), Anginetti (Lemon Drops), and my most favorite biscotti—Honey Almond. Baci are made with hazelnuts or almonds; I use the latter. And the cakey Anginetti are coated with lemon juice-flavored icing so they are nice and tart. The honey biscotti are tawny and crunchy. They are different than any other biscotti you’ve tasted; full of flavor and sweetness of honey.

If you haven’t had frangipane, you’re going to have a new favorite. It is basically almonds, butter and egg, making a rich companion to juicy plums in my Plum Frangipane Tart.

Wheat-not Want-not

With so many people struggling with aversion to gluten, it’s nice to offer a traditional cookie that is naturally wheat-free, and not a poor substitute for something with gluten. Croccantini are one such cookie that is delicious to all, not just those watching wheat and gluten. The name means “little chocolate thing”, though they have great flavor from the walnuts and chocolate. The cookie box also has Nocciola, a hazelnut butter cookie, and Espresso Lemon Biscotti. The biscotti has a rich coffee flavor with a distinct lemon tone due to the candied lemon pieces baked in them. Our tart this week is a Peach Gallette, made with our cornmeal dough and plump, juicy peaches.