Cartellate, a honey jewels originate from Puglia, Monte Leone. It is also called “crispelle,” but they are more commonly known as cartellate (or pinwheels). We coat them in honey, or sometimes a dusting of icing sugar, but can also be soaked invin cotto (cooked wine) or a combination of vin cotto and honey. Others still create ones that are rolled with a filling of nuts and dried fruits.
What just boggles my mind about cartellate, and a few other Italian cookies, is just how complicated the process of making them can be to explain. As usual with traditional Italian recipes, the ingredients are simple – flour, eggs, oil – but getting to the final, delicious product will take a few steps. And here’s an interesting tip from this recipe, the one small oz. of liqueur in the ingredients can add flavor to the dough, but its real function is to keep the oil from foaming when cooking these treats.
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 a cup for kneading
4 large eggs
1 oz. Italian liqueur – Anisette, Amaretto or, if preferred, Rum. If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can substitute in vanilla.
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon of sugar
Canola oil for frying
1 and 1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon water
Making the dough can be done by hand or in a mixer. By hand, start by making a well in a pile of flour on a wooden or marble board. In the well, add the eggs, liqueur, canola oil and sugar. Begin mixing the ingredients with a fork, scrambling the eggs and incorporating the other liquids with them. Slowly draw in the flour from the edges with your fork until a sticky dough forms. Then, using a scraper, continue to mix the dough by cutting it together until it begins to look like a jumble of large pieces. Now, you can go in by hand and knead the dough together. This is harder dough and should be the consistency of pasta dough. Continue to add flour to your board while you knead it if it feels too soft.
Knead the dough until it begins to look smoother. Let it rest for a few minutes until it begins to soften, then begin the kneading process again. Don’t worry about getting it completely smooth – the pasta roller will help you along too.
Remove a palm-size piece of the dough, wrapping the rest of the dough ball in plastic, to begin rolling out sheets. Flatten your small piece of dough with your fingers a bit then begin to run it through your pasta roller. Start on the widest setting Once the dough has been rolled though, fold it in half or thirds and run it through the pasta roller again. Repeat this process up to three times. Now move up to a thinner setting, for example, and repeat the process. You should have a nice thin (but not see-through), length of dough.
Lay the dough out flat on your board and cut in into finger-width strips with a fancy cutter. To form the cartellate, you’ll want to turn these strips up on their side and create a loop at one end, pinching the dough together to form a circle. This is the center of the cartellate. Next, create another loop, pinching the dough to the center circle. Repeat with a third loop. The fourth loop can be attached to the second and so forth, moving out from the center.
Another way to form cartellate, or use ends of the dough, is to create knots. Cut wider pieces of dough, two fingers wide, and mark silt in the center. Pull one end of the dough though the slit to make a knot.
With the cartellate formed, lay them on a tray cover them with a kitchen towel and let them rest 30 minutes before frying them.
To cook them, heat canola oil in a large frying pan, at least 1 or 1 1/2 inches deep on medium heat. Fry the cartelatte until a light golden brown flipping once. This should take 2-3 minutes per “cookie”.
Remove from the oil and drain in a colander. When you are finished frying, it’s time to cover these in honey or sugar. If you cover them in honey right away, these sticky treats can last up to a week on the counter (if you don’t eat them all first).
In a small pot, mix together the honey and water. Warm it up on medium until it reaches a simmer. As soon as it begins to bubble slightly, turn the honey mixture to low. Don’t allow the honey to boil – it will thicken and burn. On low, dip and coat the cartellate in the honey mixture. Do this only one or two cartellate at a time, any more and you risk breaking them. As you remove them from the honey, stack them on a piece of parchment paper.
Alternatively, you can sprinkle powdered sugar on the cartellate for a brilliant snow-covered effect that also provides a more toned-down sweetness than the honey.
Prof. Alok Prasad