Torcettini di Saint Vincent – Yeasted Cookies

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This month’s challenge of ‘We Knead to Bake’ is something new to me – yeasted cookies !! Never knew cookies can be made using yeast.. These are not overly sweet , just perfect with a cup of tea !! The one thing I love about baking is the excitement kids have when they get the aroma of ‘something special’ from the kitchen oven !!

The recipe doesn’t have  much long procedures. Mix the flour , butter and yeast to make a dough and let it rise ( I left mine overnight in fridge) .. Then take small portions out of the dough ,roll each of then into a rope shape and twist to form the loop . Coat them with sugar , let them rise again and bake .

Torcettini are smaller versions of Torcetti (meaning small twists), and these pear/ teardrop shaped twists are made of a dough of flour, yeast and butter which are shaped and then rolled in sugar before being baked. These biscuits are synonymous with the town of Saint Vincent in Valle d’Aosta, a small mountainous region in North-Western Italy.

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Torcettini di Saint Vincent

(Adpated from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri)

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup warm water, about 110F
  •  1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 tsp instant yeast)
  •  1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder (if making chocolate torcettini)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lime/ lemon zest (replace with orange zest for the chocolate version)
  •  40gm unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  •  about 1/3 cup sugar for rolling the cookies

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Preparation

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, in a small bowl and keep aside.
  2. 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.
  3. If making chocolate Torcetti, 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 cling warp and refrigerate it for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. Although, I found them best the day they were baked. This recipe makes 24 biscuits.

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They are delicious served warm and equally good cold, and keep very well if stored in airtight containers.

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