Sunday, 20 May 2012
Ferri di Cavallo. Buona fortuna! (Horse Shoe Shaped Italian Biscuits)
Rossana on her wedding day, in Bari, Italy
My aunts all had daughters. I was the baby in the family, the youngest of the nieces, loved and cherished by all. When my big cousins got married, I always was chosen to be the "damigella": the bridesmaid!
I must have been just three or four, the first time I was a bridesmaid, with my light blond hair, dressed in a tutu` I hated, white shoes, bright red lips and a shy smile. I was four when I first smelt the fragrance of a traditional, old fashioned Italian bouquet of fiori d'arancio (orange blossom) and gardenias.
In an old photo, I'm standing next to my mother, at one of these weddings. Babbo, my dad, on her left, in his dark suit and tie, very slim, lovely, lovely smile. My mother is wearing her dark blue dress with printed green roses and matching bolero, I used to wear when I thought she wasn't looking, with her high heels.
I remember walking into the restaurant: live music, laughter and all the family in one place. What more could a child want? Wedding were and still are very beautiful, in Italy. City weddings, are very sophisticated, expensive affairs. Lots of lovely food is consumed, and expensive wine and spumante. Everyone is dressed beautifully, in a kind of understated elegance, typical of a stylish wedding.
My niece Rossana's wedding reception (first dance)
When I was a little girl, at the end of the reception, every family would receive a bomboniera (wedding favour, a gift, with confetti, sugared almonds-has to be just 5... can't be more, can't be less!) and a tray of pasticcini, little cakes.
Strange enough, last year we went to a wedding in Campania (different to the weddings we have in our city) and... we were presented with an old fashioned small tray of pasticcini, just like the ones I remembered from my childhood. Amongst the pasticcini, a couple of " Ferri di Cavallo" delicious little horse shoe shaped biscuits, which I remembered very well, as, when I was a child, I used to love them!
By the way! In case you are wondering: the beautiful bride in the photos is Rossana, my niece. The wedding took place in Bari, but we couldn't go... What a shame! Look at the venue! Look at the cake ( above) ... look at that dress... look at the beautiful smile! I think my mum would have been very proud of her grand daughter!
I think she looks a bit like me!
Today I made Ferri di Cavallo. I was very pleased with the result and felt very nostalgic. I could hear music and voices in my head... the past never, ever goes away...
Ferri di Cavallo
(makes about 50 biscuits)
400g (14 oz) plain flour
100g ( 3 1/2 oz) corn flour
250 g (8 1/2 oz) butter
4 egg yolks
some vanilla extract
100g (3 1/2oz) confectioner's sugar
plus some extra icing sugar
100g (3 1/2 oz) good plain chocolate
This is very quick and easy: weigh all the ingredients and grate or chop the butter, ready to be used.
In a small bowl, separate the eggs and have the yolks ready to be used.
This is what I did: I sifted flour and corn flour onto a board, then made a well in the middle. I grated my butter, which was very cold and quite solid, and added it, with the sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I combined these ingredients together, very quickly, till I got a mixture which resembled crumbs.
Next, I added all my egg yolks and quickly worked them into the mixture. Mine was a little bit dry, so I added a tiny bit of milk, till I got a silky, soft dough.
In order to make my horse shoe shaped biscuits, I took small pieces of dough, rolled them, till they became about 12cm long, then placed them onto a lined baking tray, giving them the shape I was after.
My Ferri di Cavallo then went into a hot oven ( 190C, 375F, Gas 5 ) for about 15-20 minutes, till they became pale golden and were cooked.
This mixture is very "short" and crumbly, so I didn't remove my cakes, till they felt cold and solid. A few of them broke, to my disappointment, but most looked delicious and became even more delicious after I dipped both ends of each in plain chocolate 75% solid cocoa, which I melted in my microwave (should have been done in a "bagnomaria," but... it worked!)
A gentle sprinkling of icing sugar made my little "pasticcini" look really pretty!
And here they are!
FERRI DI CAVALLO!