Christmas in Puglia is based on sweets! If you question, in fact, to any man or woman of Puglia which are the typical dishes of the Christmas period in their country, almost certainly they will indicate a sweet, different perhaps for some particular due to the recipe followed and according to the province. Sure is that the Castagnelle bring in itself a mixture of aromas and flavours of this time of year and the products of the land of the region.
Pugliese Castagnelle’s recipe
- 250 g finely milled white flour “00” (all-purpose flour can be substituted)
- 250 g blanched almonds, toasted and chopped
- 250 g granulated sugar
- 25 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- water, as needed
- grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
- powdered cinnamon, to taste
- clove extract, to taste
Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, taking care to turn them from time to time so they brown evenly. Let cool.
Mix the flour with sugar, cocoa and cinnamon. Then add the chopped almonds, the grated lemon rind, the clove extract and the water to help in kneading the dough (some families prefer using milk or coffee).
The dough should be homogeneous and soft but not sticky, so adjust the amount of water accordingly.
Form the castagnelle by spreading the dough into 2- 3 cm thick logs, flatten them slightly with the fingers and cut them on the diagonal to create small diamond shapes of about 3-4 cm in length. Continue until all of the dough has been used.
Place the castagnelle on to a baking sheet and bake in the centre of a pre-heated static oven at 180° C for about 12-15 minutes (adjust the heat according to your oven).
After 10 minutes, check to see if done by touching them with a finger. They should still be soft when they come out of the oven.