Ciambelline al Vino (Red Wine and Fennel Ring Biscuits)

The other day, as I was checking my email, I came across a recipe for Ciambelline al Vino. I looked at the image of these little Italian cookies and I thought, “Hmmm…those look like an interesting cookie to try.” Especially considering the fact that I am totally down for anything Italian. I looked over the recipe and sure enough, I had all ingredients on hand.

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According to Italy Magazine, “Like other hard-as-rocks ringed-shaped baked goods ciambelline al vino appear to have originated as a subsistence food. Drier-crumbed biscuits and breads modeled into a ciambella or ring could be stored more easily for long durations, making them a favored staple of sailors and soldiers who often had to venture far away. These preparations were softened and consequently made more palatable by dunking them in water, wine or oil.” These are a fairly popular fall cookie in the Lazio region of Italy. Typically they are served with a bit of dessert wine to dip them in, such as a Vin Santo or Moscato. Though, they’re also good with a cup of coffee or tea.

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There isn’t a whole lot of ingredients that go into this cookie. It’s a fairly quick and simple dough to put together, but it is a bit dry. The dough really only consists of olive oil, wine (red or white depending on what flavor profile you’re looking for), sugar, flour, salt, and fennel or anise seeds. Apparently some people like to add a teaspoon of baking powder to the mix, but I decided to follow this recipe as is and did not add any.

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In between batches, I covered my dough with saran wrap so it wouldn’t get too dry. They made the house smell great as they were baking. They smelled of a sweet yeasty bread in the oven. The real test was giving them to my husband, Bill. He tried one by itself, and he liked it. They’re not too sweet, which he thought was great, especially since you would usually serve them dipped in a dessert wine that is usually pretty sweet.

This recipe makes about 30 biscuits.

Ingredients

125 mL Olive Oil
125 mL Red wine
125 g Sugar, plus extra for coating
500 g Sifted flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fennel or anise seeds, crushed (optional)
Salt, a pinch

Preparation

In a bowl, combine olive oil, wine and sugar. Add flour, salt and, if using, fennel (or anise) seeds, in a slow and steady stream. Bring the ingredients together and transfer to a clean and lightly-dusted work surface. Knead until you have a smooth dough that no longer sticks to the your work surface.

Take walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll into logs 8 – 10 cm long. Curl each log so their ends meet and overlap. Pinch gently to form rings.  Dip the rings face down into a shallow bowl filled with sugar until well-coated. Arrange sugar-coated rings on a lined baking tray.

Bake in a pre-heated oven set at 180º C (about 350º F) for 25 to 30 minutes or until dry to touch, golden and crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

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