I have to say at this point, after a considerable feast at Bakery Caroppo earlier today, I didn’t think I could fit another thing in!
It was exceptionally dark in Donno’s Pastry shop in Cutrofiano, lit with only a couple of very green strip lights, stretching my Canon 5D Mark 2’s high iso capabilities to the full.
The space was set out more like a science lab than a kitchen, immaculately sterile. There was a talk given by a local dignatory who praised Roberto Donno for his unrelenting dedication and hard work promoting traditional foods of the region.
Donno went on to explain that because Salento is in the centre of the Mediterranean, many different cultures have played out through the food. Pasta Frolla (originally from 1700’s), used to make the crust was made with a kind of pork fat and this gave the pastry an original taste. Donno eloquently demonstrated making the pastry with both lard and olive oil. The olive oil version is the modern, healthy way and uses a food processor. He explained that heat from your hands makes the dough more elastic, which isn’t necessarily a good thing when making pastry.
Pasticcioto started life as a pie but back then only aristocratic families could afford desserts and sweet things. People started making a smaller version for consumption at breakfast time. In Italy, food has always been a reason to bring communities together. When people were in mourning, they would not leave the house for two weeks so would spend the time making pastries which would be offered in condolence : expressing sympathy through food and family.
Pasta Frolla – Donno’s method
400g suet (pork fat), 1 kilo plain flour, 500g caster sugar
20g bicarbonate of soda, 4 whole eggs
Preheat the oven to 250c˚ to aim for a temperature of 200. Baking time 20mins until golden.
Make a well with the flour and place the suet in the centre. Make another well in the suet and pour the sugar into it. Mix the sugar into the fat avoiding introducing the flour. Sprinkle the bicarb on top of the flour. Mix the 4 eggs in a bowl and pour onto the suet (pork fat), keeping the flour untouched. Using your hands, pull the flour into the centre, mixing with the eggs, fat and sugar. Don’t knead as too much body heat will affect the pastry. Your pastry will change colour depending on the eggs you use.
Once it’s all mixed you can freeze a large amount for use later or buy it ready-made in good supermarkets if you want to avoid the hassle! The pastry will last 10 days in the fridge though.
Cut the pastry into small pieces, dust with flour and use the palm of the hand or a rolling pin to flatten to around 5mm thick, making it as uniform and even as you can. Place the pastry into pasticcioto tins and push gently so that it reaches into the full depth of the tin. Fill the cases with pastry cream. (Donno didn’t show us how to make the cream but here’s a good version) and cover with a pastry lid. Brush with beaten egg to give a beautiful golden colour when baked. I wondered whether we could use English Custard as a replacement.
Place on a baking tray and take care not to let too much heat escape when placing in the oven for around 20 mins until golden.
Almond Dough (1700’s)
Benedictine monks brought this dough to the Salento region which produced and exported a huge amount of almonds at this time. Later, production moved to Bari. Bari almonds (higher in essential oils) are smaller and less attractive to look at but are tastier than their Californian cousins which are more fibrous and woody.
1/2 kilo ground almonds.
1/2 kilo caster sugar.
Whole eggs. ( Around 4-6 until mix is sticky.)
Flavourings: lemon or orange rind, vanilla pods – optional.
Preheat the oven to 170˚C – Baking time 25mins.
Put the almonds in the freezer for around 30 minutes before you process.
Place the almonds in a processor and grind.
Add the sugar and any flavourings to taste.
Slowly add the eggs until the mix turns into a paste. It needs to be very sticky.
Using a piping bag, pipe peak-like shapes onto a baking tray. Topping with nuts or dried fruits will release delicious aromas.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes at 170˚C. Allow to cool.
Chocolatey and Delicious – CioccOliAmoci
Finally, Roberto showed us his conceived delicious chocolate sauce product called CioccOliAmoci. Drizzled over Pan D’oro, he passed a delight around to us all. This is a chocolate sauce made with olive oil, smooth and flavoursome. Can this be healthy you’re asking? Perhaps…. if it’s made with olive oil….