Rame di Napoli are famous Sicilian cookies intensely flavored with chocolate and spiced with cinnamon and cloves, a perfect taste combination for the fall and winter seasons. They have a soft and cakey consistency, topped with a dark chocolate glaze and sprinkled with grated pistachio nuts. The pop of color on the dark cookies makes them look as beautiful as they taste.
Originating from Catania, a city on east coast of Sicily, these cookies are a traditional part of the fall season for the catanese. They are associated with and made specifically for All Saints Day and All Souls Day celebrated on the first and second of November, but can be found in most pastry shops in Catania for a few weeks around this time of year. Because Rame di Napoli are usually only available for a short period of time, it is necessary to make them yourself if you want to enjoy them any other time of the year. Making them at home has the added benefit of filling your house with the smell of fall as the scent of cinnamon and cloves wafts through your kitchen.
Before we begin with the recipe, I thought it might be relevant and useful to bring up the topic of recipe translations and the difficulties with them. This is something I struggle with in most of my posts, and this recipe for Rame di Napoli is a pretty good example of that. It is translated from an Italian one, and if you’ve ever encountered an old school traditional Italian recipe you already know that there is a fair chance the directions are not at all specific. Although I do my best to translate the traditional recipes I post so that they are easily understood and followed, I admit that my mind still works like that of an Italian in the kitchen. This means I usually cook “by eye”, estimating amounts with sight and adding/subtracting things as I deem necessary to create the proper outcome. This recipe relies on such a method, so coming up with exact amounts has proven to be a bit of a challenge in this case. If you have any questions or run into uncertainties trying these cookies, just ask! The ingredient list also contains a few things that are probably not already in your kitchen, but they are not difficult to find and totally worth the effort to keep this recipe authentic.
Rame di Napoli
Sicilian Cocoa & Spice Cookies
- 1 cup frollini or plain tea biscuit cookies, ground into coarse crumbs
- milk as needed (approximate amount around 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 cups “00” flour or cake flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup lard, melted
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp orange marmalade
- 7/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/2 tbsp ground cloves
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp vanilla, or 1 packet vanillina (vanilla powder)
- 1 tsp baking ammonia
- For the chocolate glaze:
- 1 cup dark chocolate
- 4 tbsp butter
- shelled unsalted pistachios, to taste
Put the cookie crumbs in a medium bowl, just barely covering them with milk. Allow them to sit and soak until the crumbs have absorbed the milk, then stir well until the mixture reaches a creamy consistency. In a separate large bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add the milk-soaked crumbs to the mixture and combine well. At this point add more milk into the batter, a little at a time, and using a wooden spoon stir until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick paste, like that of pastry cream. The amount of milk you add will depend on the type of cookie crumbs used, but the amount will likely be approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Look for a somewhat loose and creamy consistency that still holds its shape and is not runny or liquid. Let the batter rest for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 325 and prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the batter into individual oval shaped cookies onto the parchment paper using a spoon. Bake for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the tops of the cookies appear dry. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. Begin making the glaze only when the cookies have cooled and you are ready to frost them.
To make the glaze, melt the chocolate and butter together using a double boiler on low heat, stirring constantly. Once the chocolate has completely melted and the consistency of the glaze is a thin liquid, remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze, coating the surface evenly, and then return them to the cooling rack to dry. Using a grater or zester, grate some pistachio shavings on top of each cookie.
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