Christmas has been going on for over two millennia now. In the northern hemisphere, it occurs just after the winter solstice, at a time when the days are shortest, the animals are hibernating, the ground needing little in the line of husbandry. A perfect time for celebration, whether you are pagan, atheist or believer in a transcendent god.
For over 5,000 years, our own Newgrange has stood as a neolithic testament to that time of year when, due to the earth’s axial tilt, our long nights begin to shorten again. As the golden pencil of light creeps along the floor leading to the corbelled burial chamber, dawn floods the room and silences those present. Those outside on the crisp, frosty grass looking down on the Boyne valley rejoice in the coming of a new year, the prospect of the return of spring bringing life in all its manifestations.
People always celebrated this time of year. They went visiting and received visitors. Hospitality was provided. Food and drink were shared and enjoyed during the long nights. The respite from having to work on the land allowed everyone time to enjoy each other’s company.
In the spirit of the festive season, the Irish Food Bloggers Association has arranged a cookie exchange. Those who sign up are paired with another blogger and exchange recipes for Christmas cookies.
I was paired with Veru of La Cuochina Sopraffina (www.lacuochinasopraffina.com/en) who sent me a recipe for Ciambelle al Vino. On first reading, the recipe seemed unusual, but then, it was Italian, and even though we are more than familiar with and fond of Italian cuisine, I know nothing about Italian baking, apart from making focaccia and the occasional pizza base. This was my introduction.
Ciambelle al vino/ Wine Donuts
1 glass sugar
1 glass of good extra virgin olive oil
1 glass of full bodied red wine
flour as needed to obtain a firm dough (I used about 1 ½ lbs cream flour)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1. Heat the oven to 250° and oil a baking tray.
2. Mix in a large bowl sugar, oil and red wine following this order.
3. Add baking powder and flour in such a quantity as to form a firm dough that does not stick to the hands.
4. Mix well and then pick up small balls of dough, forming cords to roll up on themselves by giving them the shape of a donut. Dip each donut in a bowl full of white sugar, arrange on the baking tray leaving enough space so they won’t touch each other.
5. Bake at 180 degrees for 25-30 minutes, making sure that you do not burn them. Allow to cool and eat alone or dipped in red wine.
The idea of mixing sugar with olive oil, and then adding red wine was a first for me, but the dough began to come together well with the addition of flour, and gave that familiar, comforting activity of kneading pliable dough. Dipping sugar coated doughnuts in red wine seemed strange, but in reality, it worked really well. Il mio marito liked it a lot. The baking smells in the kitchen reminded me of those bustling centre city Italian cafés where impeccably groomed and dressed men and women stand and have a quick espresso with a small pastry held in fine tissue paper, on their way to work or to their next appointment. I could just imagine these elegant creatures dipping little morsels of the wine donuts in their wine later in the day. La dolce vita!
Thank You, Veru for the recipe and for bringing a sense of Italy into my kitchen this cold winter’s day.
Thank You to the mavens and connectors of the Irish Food Bloggers Association for arranging it all.
Buon Natale a Tutti