My Nonna Caterina, - "pace all'anima sua" (rest in peace) - used to tell me about the story of San Martino during we were preparing these cookies. Saint Martin was a knight who was passing through the Roman empire when he noticed a poor man stumbling along the road. It was cold and the man had no clothing to protect him from the chilly air, so Saint Martin pulled out his sword and sliced his heavy military cloak in two so he could give half to the poor man.
This is why in Italy we refer to "l'estate di San Martino" (the summer of Saint Martin) around the time of Saint Martin's day when the weather is unseasonably warm, especially here in our lovely Sicilia. Perhaps it's Saint Martin looking down on earth and giving us a small reprieve from late autumn chill.
The typical biscuits that we prepare in this period are crusty dry rounded cookies that we usually eat with Moscato wine or other sweet wines.
For example, I always prefer have these cookies with some Marsala. So, once you are ready with your cookies or in case you have a chance to buy its, you can break its and sop up in your sweet wine glass.
You will not regret to do it and you will have a nice Sicilian traditional experience.
The recipe! What you need and how to prepare the cookies:
- 500g all purpose flour
- 75g lard
- 100g sugar
- Anise seeds or Fennel seeds, about a spoon full, or more if you like a stronger liquorish flavor.
- 10g beer yeast - a pinch of salt - just a pinch of cinnamon.
1. crush the seeds a bit to release their aroma
2. mix all ingredients together with just enough water to make a soft ball =)
3. leave it to rise (about an hour)
4. punch down the dough and form into shapes*
5. let them rise for another few minutes
6. crush the risen cookies with an egg wash (yolk and milk) and sprinkle with sesame seeds for decoration if desired
7. bake at 400F/200C for 15 minutes, or until the cookies have a nice brown gloss.
Now all you need to do is try to make our delicious biscuits at home!
*featured above are a few classic shapes including a common Italian bread shape called "the mafalda"