Intorchiate and I Trulli
I first saw these cookies – called “intorchiate” – in Rosetta Costantino’s wonderful book “Southern Italian Desserts.” They’re from the region of Puglia and I ate them for the first time while I was there this summer and stayed in the town of Alberobello.
Alberobello is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is known for its unique limestone buildings called “trulli.” They’re made in a conical shape using no mortar, a type of construction that dates to prehistoric times. You see them in various places in Puglia, but nowhere near as prevalent as you see in Alberobello, where they’re occupied as homes and shops.
Some of the owners have converted their trulli for visitors and rent them to paying guests. The one we stayed in this past June is the charming end unit in the photo below.
They’re larger than they seem. This one had a bedroom downstairs and a second bedroom in a loft, as well as a kitchen and dining area and bathroom. Everything was brand new and beautifully renovated.
Our landlady could not have been kinder, delivering home baked breakfast treats and fresh fruit in the morning. As we departed, she presented us with a tin of the family’s olive oil, beautiful linens from her shop, and these intorchiate. They were so delicious, I had to keep myself from eating the whole bag in one fell swoop.
Fortunately, (or maybe not for my waistline), Rosetta includes a recipe for the cookies in her cookbook, and with permission from her publisher, the recipe is provided below. In her book, Rosetta explains that the word “intorchiate” is a local dialect for “intertwined” and that the cookies are meant to represent arms in an embrace. They’re traditionally made for baptisms and weddings but can be found in bakeries all over Puglia.
The dough is very similar to the red wine cookies my friend Milena makes, in that there’s wine and oil in the dough, and they’re dredged in sugar. But these intorchiate use white wine, while Milena’s call for red wine.
Once you get the right consistency, the dough is very easy to roll into these twisted shapes. Initially however, the mixture was a bit too dry, so I needed to add a bit more oil and water. The ones from Rosetta’s book call for twisting the dough to make three separate spaces, although the ones I ate in Italy had four twists. I also found Rosetta’s dough to be a little less sweet than the ones I ate in Alberobello, and I might add a little more sugar next time I make them.
After twisting them, roll them in granulated sugar, then nestle an almond in each space. I used Marcona almonds, my favorite.
Since I was in a Puglia state of mind after making these intorchiate, I made a reservation for dinner at the restaurant “I Trulli” and wanted to share photos of the delicious food I ate there Saturday night. If you’re close enough to New York City, make a reservation and get set for a real treat.
As soon as you walk past the bar, you’ll spot a wood-fired oven that’s reminiscent of a trullo, with grey stones, similar to those on trullo roofs, clinging to the exterior of the oven.
The menu is loaded with offerings in every category, but we never got past the first page, which featured a multi-course dinner of Puglian specialties. Decision made easy – no further thinking required. The first thing to arrive at the table were these two panzerotti – fried dough – one filled with tomato and mozzarella cheese, the other with a savory and unforgettably delicious mixture of olives, anchovies and scallions.
Next came burrata cheese flown in from Italy and served on crostini with a bed of radicchio, every bit as creamy and flavorful as the burrata we ate in Puglia.
For the primo piatto you could choose between two hand-rolled pasta dishes – orecchiette in a rich rabbit ragù that had me lopping up the plate with bread “scarpetta” style.
Or opt for these cavatelli with broccoli rape and toasted almonds, bringing to mind fresh spring fields of wild greens.
The main course was either succulent roasted lamb chops with a potato tiella and sautéed Swiss chard…
Or you might prefer a zuppa di pesce laden with lobster, shrimp, calamari, and another white fish. Long pieces of cooked fennel punctuated the aromatic and flavorful broth.
Lastly came these two sweet offerings that capped the perfect ending to a perfect meal – one was a warm fried dough pillow oozing with nutella, and the other was a cartellate, a fried cookie drizzled with honey.
On the way out the door, I spotted this octopus dish sitting on the counter, waiting to go to some patron’s table. It was all I could do to keep from digging into it with my fingers. How did I miss this on the menu? Oh that’s right, I got seduced by the Puglian specialties on the first page and never looked further. Well, if I didn’t already have plenty of other reasons, now I know I have to go back to I Trulli to try their octopus.
The restaurant is also open for Christmas eve, featuring a “feast of the seven fishes” dinner.
My family would consider it blasphemous if I didn’t cook our traditional fish dinner on Christmas eve, but some year, if I ever do abandon my kitchen duties, I know where I’d like to be – at I Trulli in New York City.
Even if you can’t get to I Trulli for their Southern Italian specialties, you can still make Rosetta’s addictive intorchiate cookies in your own kitchen – and just in time for Christmas baking.
One last thing – the winner to my recent giveaway was Heather Zysk. Heather, please contact me for information on how to claim your slate cheeseboard.
recipe by Rosetta Costantino from Southern Italian Desserts
reprinted with permission of publisher
makes 36 cookies (I got 64)
3 3/4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar, (I would use 1 cup next time since I’d like them a bit sweeter) plus more for coating cookies
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/4 cup (56 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (180 ml) white wine
about 3/4 cup (115 grams) blanched almonds for decorating
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter, oil and wine and process until the mixture forms a sticky dough that balls up around the blade. (I added a little more oil and some water to the dough to get the right consistency.) Alternatively, you can mix the dough by hand, but it will require longer kneading to bring the dough together. Transfer to a flat surface and knead briefly to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (177 degrees C) with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Divide the dough into thirty-six approximately equal pieces; they will weigh about 3/4 ounce each (actually I got 64 cookies each weighing 3/4 ounce each). Roll a piece of dough with the palms of your hands against a flat surface to make a 10-inch rope that is about 1/2 inch thick. Fold the rope in half, then twist the two ends around one another to form a twist, with the dough strands crossing twice and meeting at the bottom to form three spaces. Press the ends together at the bottom to seal them. Space the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Continue forming the twists until you have filled one sheet with eighteen cookies. (You will make the second half while the first ones bake.)
Put about 1/4 cup sugar in a shallow bowl. Take one cookie at a time and press the top side into the sugar. (I pressed both top and bottom in the sugar. If you can find a larger granulated sugar, it looks prettier.) Return the cookie to the baking sheet sugar side up. After coating all of the cookies, press three blanched almonds into each cookie – one in each space – facing the pointed ends of the nuts running down from the top to the bottom of the cookie.
Bake the cookies on the bottom rack for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and transfer it to the top rack until the cookies are light golden all over, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
While the first sheet bakes, form the remaining cookies on the second sheet. Bake the second sheet in the same manner after pulling the first from the oven.
Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Magnificent houses and mouthwatering dishes. Those look so pretty and delicious.
Linda, Your Intorchiate are beautiful! I have made Rosetta's cookies, and I think they are an absolute delight. And I love seeing your travel shots. Seeing photos of where this unique cookie originates really makes the recipes so very special! Brava!
The cookies look delicious-I hope I can get mine to look as good as yours. As for your dinner-my mouth is watering!
Thank you for reminding me of I Trulli, we need to go back! Your photos are making me hungry!
The scenery is stunning …your rental house awesome. No doubt these cookies I would also eat in one fell swoop.
sono stata un paio di volte in Puglia ma le tue bellissime foto mi hanno fatto venire una "Voglia matta "di ritornare ! buona settimana Linda !
I believe my ancestors came from Puglia and now I'm on a quest to learn more. I was born near Trieste and my papa never mentioned southern Italy. Your photos are beautiful. This is going to be interesting to follow up.
You do seduce with your pictures. I Trulli looks magnificent. Someday….. and the cookies – have never seen these. Another sweet added to my list. I do love the twisting of so many Italian cookies – there is an embrace there. Paul travels to Puglia for work – he keeps saying "one of these days."
If I was going to make another cookie I think I would try these, they just look and sound so good! But it looks like they will have to wait for Easter or next Christmas. I love those homes in Puglia, I always see Maryann Esposito filming in front of them on her PBS show, lucky you for getting to actually stay in one and what a kind landlady you had. I always enjoy your travel pictures and the food you eat along the way and the food from l Trulli looks to die for!
What a beautiful place. And great cookies. Now I am hungry after looking at all your delicious food.
I have been eyeing that recipe in Rosetta's book ~ along with many others. My paternal Nonna used to make white wine cookies but they were hard as a rock. That is not to say they weren't good ~ they were. You just had to dip them. These ones look a little more tender. Our family stayed in a trullo agriturismo a couple of years ago near Ceglie. It was deep in the country in an area of olive groves. Hundreds of olive trees wherever you looked, with the occasion trullo roof poking up. We had a wonderful time. And, I'm so glad you wrote about I Trulli. Scott and I have been there a couple of times and have always enjoyed it immensely. Buon Natale cara!
Linda you finally visited our favorite restaurant in NYC! My husband and I were frequent visitors to I Trulli! My husband always ordered the grilled octopus and we usually get a pasta dish as they make their pastas fresh every day. I love their signature orecchiette. Whenever we return to NY we make sure to dine there.
Rosetta's desserts are all wonderful. I am always intrigued by how different towns in southern Italy have their own unique cookie. These look delicious–like a sweet tarelli.
I've got to stop dreaming about a trip to Italy and do it. I received an early Christmas present from my sister this year — a framed copy of my grandfather's birth certificate. I now know my great grandfather's name was Giuseppe and he he was only twenty years old when my great grandmother, Colomba, gave birth to my grandfather, Domonico, in 1885.
la Puglia è una regione magnifica sia per le bellezze ma anche per la cucina, un abbraccio SILVIA
These remind me a lot of my grandmother's taralli dolci, which she made both in rings and twists like these—but the almonds are a brilliant addition! So pretty…
I love your post, Linda, and would also like to try my hand making those cookies. Thank you for sharing your photos and stories about Italy. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year.
What a fabulous way to vacation in Italy. I'll have to put Puglia and the 'trulli' homes on the top of my bucket list! Wow, that meal in NYC was a feast, I'll certainly put that on my NY bucket list (which includes visiting at Christmastime!) Don't you just love the simplicity and deliciousness of Italian cookies? I'm crazy for them and now have more more yummy recipe!
Buon Natale bella amica, I am grateful for your blogging friendship throughout the years and look for many more years of enjoying your recipes, travels, and thoughts!
Yamy… the cookies look so tasty and the houses absolutely gorgeous ! Thanks for sharing such a nice post !
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