Napoli Unplugged Contributor Kathy Ayer aka Foodloverkathy
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By Katerina Ayer

Mostaccioli, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Well, they are dipped in chocolate, and this chocoholic loves anything dipped in chocolate. The cookie’s center is a combination of chocolate, cinnamon, honey and lemon, making them a sweet and spicy combination perfect for the Christmas holiday. They are so easy to make. The name and these cookies come from the old farmers of the Campania region. They would use must (il mosto) as a sweetener when sugar and/or honey weren’t available. More ingenuity coming from La Cucina Povera, and it’s the same ingenuity that characterizes the people of Naples. Now, it’s not so hard to get sugar and honey, so they are in the recipe. Make them, eat them, share them, and gift them and celebrate these chocolate and spice cookies of Naples.

Mostaccioli Christmas Cookies or Mustaccioli Napolitani

Adapted from La Cucina Napolitana
(makes about 4 dozen cookies)

3 1/2 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups (500 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (25 grams) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (200 grams) finely ground blanched and toasted almonds
Rinds of 2 lemons, grated
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 to 1 cup (about 200 ml) warmed milk
About 1 pound (500 grams) dark chocolate, 64% good quality

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the ground almonds and grated lemon rind. Stir in the vegetable oil until incorporated. Make a well, and add the 3/4 cups of milk. With a fork mix together the dry ingredients and the milk. Then with your hands lightly knead together until it comes to a homogenous ball. Slowly add more milk if needed. The dough should not be wet, and only add enough milk to bring the dough together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 350º F (160º C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out to 3/8 inch thick (1 cm). Cut into diamond shapes and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool completely.

Place a baking rack into a baking sheet.

Melt chocolate slowly in a double boiler. You should not melt the chocolate past 95º F or it will be out of temper, and the chocolate will set with streaks. Dip the cooled cookies into the chocolate and place on the baking rack to let the excess drain. Cool completely and serve.

About Kathy Ayer aka foodloverkathy (on Twitter)

Kathy shares her love for food and travel in Italy and France at Food Lover’s Odyssey. She’s been cooking and telling food stories since she was eight years old. Raised in an Italian-American kitchen and trained professionally in a French one in Paris. She’s been eating her way through the bel paese over the past 10 years, returning yearly to both France and Italy on food journeys. She works in Northern California as a personal chef and as a travel consultant, helping others create dream culinary journeys. Read about her tasty tales of food and travel in Italy and France at Food Lover’s Odyssey. Find her on Twitter @foodloverkathy

She fell in love with Naples on her first visit and keeps coming back. She can’t pinpoint one thing; it’s a combination of all things Napolitani. The people – embracing life and visitors with a passion as fervent as the traffic in the streets. The atmosphere – the beauty of the bay of Naples, an ancient city both decaying and enduring and full of history, and a chaos and frenzy the for her reflects the zest for life of the people. And, the food – one of the best in all of Italy – something for every taste; seafood, slow-cooked, succulent, sweet, simple, fussed-over, fried, and of course, pizza.

See all of Kathy Ayer’s Recipes on Napoli Unplugged

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