Category: Desserts & Sweets | Blog URL: http://turosdolci.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/traditional-holiday-cookie-cartellatecluster-are-filled-with-honey-nuts-spices/
This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.
Photo: Patricia Turo
You ask, what could be more decadent, and I say absolutely nothing. Cartellate are traditionally made during Christmas. They are traditional Pulgiese fried pastries filled with roasted almonds, honey, spices and chocolate.
Apulia is a peninsula that forms the heel on the "boot" of Italy and has had many conquerors. The Greeks, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Argonese, Spanish, the German emperors, Burbons, Turks, Venetians and more. Referred to as a melting pot - each left their mark on the region. You can see the influences in the clusters of white stucco flat roofed dwellings. But the influences of these cultures are also evident in the food and none more then Cartellate.
I have eaten many Cartellate in Puglia. I can honestly say my aunts recipe is the best. She came from Peschici, Foggia and called them “Cluster”. Cartellate is dough mixed with wine, formed into a wagon wheel shape and fried. The pockets in the wheel are the receptacles for honey or mosto cotto (a syrup made from fruits or grape skins), spices, nuts and chocolate.
The Cluster I have had in Puglia are delicious and the syrup is mostly made with honey or mosto cotto, mixed with lemon zest and walnuts. Some have no nuts and might have a sent of cinnamon. My aunt filled hers with roasted almonds, chocolate, spices, both cinnamon and clove melted in honey. The combination is positively addicting. In earlier times my family only made them at Thanksgiving and Christmas. As time passed and the love of Cluster overtook us, we began to make them the star of our Thanksgiving desserts. They were never included in the “Torta di Biscotto di Nozze”, biscotti trays for weddings, as they are usually dripping with honey, but today we also make a separate tray of Cartellate for weddings.
These cookies are a labor of love and not easy to make, but the good news is that you can place the shells in a brown paper bag for a few weeks. I make the filling and store it in a glass container so that they are ready to fill and take center stage for our holiday desserts. The only problem is that having them around challenges your will power.