I’ve made these exotic Italian cookies the last two Christmases before this one. Not this year. But they are so pretty, I’m going to post the photos for your enjoyment–and the recipe, too. I got the recipe from a library book ages ago and don’t know where to give credit.
I looked at scads of other Neapolitan recipes on the Internet–I forget why–and they were all dreadfully inferior. This one uses two different doughs, each with many tasty ingredients, whereas the others I saw used just one fairly simple dough that just had different food colorings added. This one also has no food coloring other than what is in the candied fruits.
These Italian cookies present an interesting way of making icebox cookies. They are dramatic and unusual. You will make two entirely separate recipes for the dough—and it must chill overnight.
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. powdered cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
6 oz. (1 cup) semisweet chocolate morsels
½ pound (2 sticks) butter
2 tsp. finely-ground coffee beans
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
5 oz. (1 cup) green pistachio nuts
You will need an 11x5x3” loaf pan, or any other loaf pan with 8-9 cups capacity (or use two smaller pans of equal capacity—two medium loaf pans worked for me). To prepare the pan: Cut two strips of aluminum foil or two strips of wax paper (see Notes), one for the length and one for the width; they should be long enough so that they can be folded over the top of the pan when it is filled and should cover the whole surface. Place them in the pan and set aside.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cloves, and cinnamon and set aside. Grind the chocolate morsels in an electric blender (or they may be finely chopped, but they must be fine or it will be difficult to slice the cookies), and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter. Add the coffee and brown sugar and beat well. Add the eggs and beat to mix. Beat in the ground chocolate. On low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until blended. Beat in the nuts.
Transfer the dough to another bowl, unless you have another large bowl for the electric mixer. Set the dough aside at room temperature and prepare the following light dough.
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ pound (1 stick) butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 ½ oz. (3/4 cup) currants, unchopped, or raisins, coarsely chopped
Finely grated rind of 1 large lemon
6 candied red cherries or maraschino cherries, cut into quarters
6 candied green cherries, cut into quarters
Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside. In a clean large bowl of the electric mixer, with clean beaters, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, the sugar and water, and beat well. Add the egg and beat to mix. On low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until blended. Mix in the currants, lemon rind, and both kinds of cherries.
To layer the doughs in the prepared pan: Use half (about 2 ¾ cups) of the dark dough and place it by spoonfuls over the bottom of the pan. Pack the dough firmly into the corners of the pan and spread it as level as possible. With another spoon spread all of the light dough in a layer over the dark dough—again, as level as possible. Form an even top layer with the remaining dark dough. Cover the top with the foil or wax paper and with your fingers press down firmly to make a smooth, compact loaf.
Chill the dough overnight in its pan(s) in the freezer or refrigerator.
To bake the cookies: Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 400°. The cookies may be baked on unbuttered cookie sheets or on sheets lined with foil–or parchment paper, as I used. Have the sheets ready.
To remove the dough from the pan: Use a small, narrow metal spatula or table knife to release the dough from the corners of the pan. Fold back the foil or wax paper from the top of the loaf of dough, invert the pan onto a cutting board, and remove the pan and the foil or paper.
With a long, heavy sharp knife cut the dough in half the long way. Wrap one half and return it to the freezer or refrigerator while working with the other half.
With a very sharp knife cut the dough into slices about ¼” thick. Place the slices 1 to 1 ½ inches apart on the cookie sheets. (It’s best to use insulated sheets to prevent burning.) The second half of the dough may be sliced and baked now or it may be frozen for future use.
Bake for about 10 minutes, reversing the cookie sheets top to bottom and front to back as necessary during baking to insure even browning. Bake until the light dough is lightly colored, but watch them carefully—the dark dough has a tendency to burn.
With a wide metal spatula transfer the cookies to racks to cool.
NOTES: The original recipe said that if the dough crumbles when you slice it, it hasn’t chilled enough. But as mine had been in the freezer overnight, I didn’t have this problem.
If you use wax paper instead of foil, each piece should be folded so that it is two or three thicknesses. Wax paper is weaker than foil and a single layer would tear.