This past weekend, at my parents' house, Bertie and I relaxed with a casual feast of homemade pizza and a delightful salad. Four Italian cheeses, olives, caramelized onions, fresh herbs, zesty olives and sundried tomatoes topped my mother’s special pizza sauce and a crust fashioned from homemade dough. My parents actually made five pizzas. One for dinner and then four smaller ones—two of which I brought home.
The salad featured pear, pineapple, Stilton, avocado, hearts of palm, radishes, olives and all sorts of other goodies. It was a lovely meal. One my all time favorites, in fact!
And, then, dessert...another family favorite!
One of my earliest baked-good-related memories is my love of “Grandma Cookies.” We’ve always referred to these light, doughy confections by that name since they came from my maternal great grandmother who frequently made them.
The proper name of the original “Grandma Cookies” is Anginetti. These knots of dough are tender and lightly sweet with a sugar-lemon glaze adorned with colorful sprinkles. Anginetti are a traditional Italian cookie which was often prepared for weddings—the knot symbolizing the union. I remember eating these as a little boy and I love them just as much today. They’re refreshing with a mild citrus taste. The secret is using fresh lemon in the glaze. Once upon a time, I even showed you how to make them.
My mother has adapted the same dough into other variations. The “S” Cookies are so-called for their shape, but also in reference to their Italian name, Sapienze. These cookies are said to have originally been baked by the nuns of the Monastero Della Sapienze. Though the base dough is the same, the flavor is quite different. Instead of being glazed, they’re elegantly dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
A flavorful third variation uses the same dough, but, this time, is layered with apricot or strawberry jelly to create a sweet, luxurious pocket. They, too, are glazed. Moist and delicious, they show that this versatile dough is scrumptious in many forms.
This goes to show that one of the best ways to remember the history of your family is to continue their culinary traditions. Eating the same foods that our ancestors ate makes them feel that much closer.