We sat down with local celebrity chef, Maria Loggia, to ask her about her Christmas traditions. We wanted to find out what she does to prepare for the big Christmas cook-fest and what her favorite Christmas moments and dishes are. Scroll down for Maria’s delicate Butter Cookies recipe!
Alena: What is your happiest Christmas memory?
Maria: When Ilana, Michael and Luca were little, we enjoyed watching them run down the stairs on Christmas morning to see if Santa had eaten the Delicate Butter Cookies and drank the milk we had left out for him.
A: What is your favorite Christmas dish?
M: Homemade gnocchi with Lamb ragu and pecorino cheese or Crispelle filled with spinach and ricotta and topped with sweet homemade tomato sauce.
A: Do you ever get frazzled preparing the holiday meal for a large group? What advice do you have for those of us who do?
M: I try to prepare dishes that can be assembled 1 or 2 days before; salads are crisped and washed, sauces prepared and I always prepare a meat dish that braises in the oven for several hours so it will yield fork-tender and succulent results.
A: How long do you spend planning your holiday menu?
M: An hour or so while sipping a cup of hot ginger and honey sweetened lemon water. Also as the family has grown, they usually have requests of their favorite dishes too. I always try to please them…
A: Is there a kitchen tool you couldn’t imagine Christmas without?
M: A Le Creuset braising pan to prepare dishes such as Veal Osso Buco or my favorite Lamb shanks with Leccino black olives.
A: What are the differences between a Canadian Christmas and an Italian Christmas?
M: The big difference is we do not have turkey with all the trimmings.
We usually have homemade lasagna with ricotta and tiny meatballs, gnocchi or spinach ravioli, followed by at least 3 meat dished such as: roasted or braised lamb, veal scaloppine and homemade fennel sausages. Roasted potatoes, sauté garlic-rapini, sweet peas and mushroom ragu are a few of the side dishes you can expect to be served in an Italian Christmas celebration. Salad and cheese usually follow. Coffee and a sweet table filled with torrone, panettone, fruit crostata, biscotti and chocolate end the meal. It’s always too much food and too much wine………life is tough!!
Click here to have a look at Maria Loggia’s Italian cookbooks (we carry signed copies!) and her amazing certified Olive Oils and flavored Olive Oils.
Maria Loggia’s Delicate Butter Cookies
“These make the most delicate delicate and festive little snowflakes. They are lovely served with Earl Grey tea.”
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ⅔ cups (410 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) potato starch
1 packet (0.5 g) Italian vanillina (or 1 tsp/5 ml pure vanilla extract)
¾ cup (180 ml) icing sugar
1 cup (250 ml) unsalted butter, diced and softened
2-3 tbsp (30-45 ml) milk
TO COAT COOKIES
1 cup icing sugar
In a medium saucepan, cover eggs with cold water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Drain and cool eggs under cold running water. Peel, cut in half and scoop out the yolks. (Reserve whites for another use.) Pass yolks twice through a potato ricer.
In a food processor, place flour, potato starch, vanillina and icing sugar and pulse until combined. Add butter, milk and cooked yolks and pulse again to incorporate all the ingredients. Turn the mixture onto a floured work surface and gather into a ball. Knead gently until dough is smooth. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide dough into 3 balls. Roll out one ball until it is 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick. Cut out cookies using a 3-inch (8 cm) snowflake cookie cutter. using a metal spatula, transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Gather the scraps of dough and repeat. Repeat process for remaining balls of dough.
Bake on center rack of oven for 10 to 13 minutes, or until edges are golden. Remove from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool. To serve, sprinkle with icing sugar. Store cookies in airtight containers with parchment paper between layers.
MAKES 4 ½ DOZEN
Hard-boiled egg yolk in cookie dough? This is an old-fashioned Italian baker’s secret for the tenderest, most melt-in-your-mouth cookies. Eggs are hard-boiled, then the yolks are removed and put through a potato ricer.