So we finally finished the first phase of renovations on our home about 6 months ago. Couple that with the fact that we love to entertain. And that we live on the water. And that means that we are lucky enough to have a constant stream of friends and family drop on by to check out the new digs or in summer, hang out on the dock. I have always wanted to live in a home where folks just dropped by for a coffee or a glass of wine and I pinch myself frequently when I realize that I now have that home. Ok, so it helps that we have a canal towpath just out the front door which means many of our friends are frequently biking or walking on by, making it really convenient for them to stop – or maybe it is that I stand out front and tackle them when they come by forcing them to stop whether they like it or not. (kidding!)
Where I am going with this? Well, we very frequently have half finished bottles of wine lying around. Instead of tossing it, I make these little Italian cookies that are super simple to make and only require a few pantry staples. I first came to learn of these wonderful little cookies during a cooking class from our friends at Locanda Demetra in Montalcino. Leftover wine from their dinner the night before was simply mixed with sugar, olive oil and flour to become these very tasty treats. The proportion was super simple – 1 cup wine to 1 cup sugar to 1 cup olive oil. Add enough flour to form a dough. Boom. Done. Never one to love overly-sweet desserts, for me this was the perfect ending to our meal – a rustic, humble cookie that I could dip into my glass of red wine, my espresso or my glass of Vin Santo!
These crunchy, somewhat-hard ring shaped cookies originally were made for those who traveled far from home as they could hold up for long trips and easily be softened when dunked into wine or water. My kind of cookie indeed.
The only time consuming part is shaping the cookies but I find it rather comforting and once you get the hang of it, the process zips along easily. Just pinch off bits of dough and roll it out on your surface to form a little log. (Note: When you roll out the dough, don’t add extra flour to your surface as the dough will grip better.) Then you simply cut off about a 4 inch piece and bring the two ends up to meet. Pinch the dough closed to form a little circle. Dip one side of the cookie in a bowl of sugar and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. That’s all there is to it. I love to have friends help me make these when they arrive for a dinner party. I make the dough in advance and let it rest as the guests arrive. Then together we roll and shape them. Great fun to do together.
I often have a jar of these cookies on the counter – waiting for the next cup of coffee or wine to come along. Don’t necessarily save them for dessert as they are great anytime of day. I typically use red wine for these cookies however, white wine works just as well. The choice of oil is a personal preference. I have made them with both extra virgin olive oil and a milder flavored oil. I like the subtle bite of flavor that the extra virgin olive oil gives the dough. If you’d prefer a milder flavor, do not hesitate to substitute a milder olive oil or other type of oil. I also have made these with and without baking powder. In Montalcino, we did not add baking powder to the dough. I do prefer the slightly puffier result from the baking powder so I do add about a tablespoon to the batter. Feel free to omit. Lastly – anise seeds. I do occasionally add anise seeds to the batter. I lightly crush about a teaspoon of anise seeds and toss them into the batter.
So whip up a batch of these the next time you find yourself with half a bottle of vino from the night before.
Ciambelline Al Vino
Leftover wine? Make these super easy Italian cookies instead of tossing it!
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 ½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, mix together the wine, olive oil, sugar and baking powder. Mix in 3½ cups flour. If the dough is still wet, add in the more flour until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the surface. Cover the bowl and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Form the cookies: Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pinch off a walnut sized piece of dough and roll out to form a log approximately 4 inches in length. Bring together and overlap the two ends of the log and pinch to form a ring. Pour some sugar onto a small plate. Dip one side of the cookie only in the sugar and place, sugar side up, on the baking sheet. Cook until lightly browned, 20-15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!