At the end of every wine making season, there are two bi-products I make sure I have in my pantry; one is a few bunches of dried shiraz grapes (a variety papa` uses for his wine making) for my cheese board and biscuits, and the other is our vin cotto. The drying of the fruit has only recently become a passion as I love this small variety of grapes used that contains all those typical flavours found in shiraz wine – touches of berry, coffee, chocolate, black pepper and violets. The making of vin cotto however has been a family practice passed down from generations. It is known by regional names such as vinocotto, saba or mosto cotto. Essentially vin cotto means 'cooked wine' though made from un-fermented grape juice or must and contains no alcohol. I will share our family vin cotto making recipe along with a moreish semifreddo desert as part of my Cucina Conversations edition later this month.
This light agrodolce (sweet & sour) syrup is the perfect balance for sweet and savoury dishes. Although this ingredient has been utilised by my family for a very long time, in more recent times it has only ever been included in sweet dishes such as lagana chiapputa, panzarotti, ciambelline al vincotto and mamma often uses it within a remedial brew with other wild herbs for a chest cold. Papa` often talks about nonna's rustic mostaccioli biscuits, known as mustazzuli in their dialect. Unfortunately this family recipe was never documented, but from my understanding it was very similar to the original ancient base recipe consisting of flour, vin cotto, olive oil and some spices. If one was fortunate to have access to other ingredients which my grandmother was as they ran a general store, then they were added along with honey. The more ingredients you add the richer the outcome; and in my search for a recipe from the Lucania (Basilicata) region of Italy, I was able to find several recipes that made reference to similar ingredients. Some suggested adding almonds while others have also included honey, chocolate and/or mocha coffee. The recipe I share with you here is the closest I could find that fits the description given by papa`. This recipe has been adapted to include papa`s list of must have ingredients, but mention goes to Il Baronello as I was also inspired by the shaping of Angela's mostaccioli which I totally had fun making. The traditional shape of mostaccioli in the Lucania region is a slab rolled out to approximately 1 ½ cm in thickness and then cut into diamonds or rectangles, and the way mamma makes them.
Makes about 40 biscuits depending on size and shape
· 160 g whole un roasted almonds (125 g or 1 cup finely ground after roasting)
· ½ cup sugar
· ½ cup honey
· 3/4 cup vin cotto *(refer to note below)
· 1/8 cup vegetable oil
· 3 eggs
· 2 tsp baking powder
· 1 tsp cinnamon
· 1 tsp all spice
· ½ tsp vanilla extract
· Finely grated rind of ½ orange
· Finely grated rind of ½ lemon
· All-purpose flour (as much as needed) I used 5 cups, and dependant on the size of your eggs)
*I generally don’t promote products, and as mentioned I made these mostaccioli with our family’s vin cotto; however in order for you to try this recipe you will need to purchase commercially produced vin cotto (unless you also make your own). Below are 2 I recommend as they are the closest to the 'home made' product and are Australian made, in keeping with my philosophy on buying local. As I have not cooked with these products before, I don’t feel confident highlighting one over the other. Click on their link:
Pre- heat oven at 180 C degrees
Spread 160 g almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for approximately 15-20 minutes in a moderate oven, being careful not to burn them. Allow to fully cool down before grinding finely and weigh out 125 g.
In a bowl sift flour and baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl, add eggs and beat with an electric beater. Add vegetable oil, honey and vin cotto to the egg mixture and mix well. Then add the sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, all spice and mix well. Finally add the ground roasted almonds, finely grated zest of half an orange and half a lemon and mix through.
Add the flour and baking powder one cup at a time mixing with a wooden spoon, until you have a consistency of a cookie dough that can easily be rolled out. Knead the dough until all the flour is thoroughly combined. Roll into a ball and place in a bowl covering with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for about ½ an hour.
Divide the dough into quarters, working with one quarter at a time while covering the rest. Dust your work bench with a little flour and roll out the first quarter of the dough to about a 1 ½ cm thick rod. Cut to desired length and shape into an ‘S’ shape or cut into the ends and twirl them out. Lots of creative freedom is given here!
Place the mostaccioli on a line tray and bake for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until they are golden in colour. They will harden as they cool down. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy!