Celli Ripieni (Grape jam dumplings)

By • April 5, 2011 • 12 Comments


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Author Notes: These little biscuits are made like dumplings, filled with goodness. I love dumplings and I love cookies, so this is just a match made in heaven for me. Another reason I love these is that they are called “stuffed birds” because in one of the many traditional forms of these cookies from Abruzzo, they are made in the shape of little birds for the Festival of St Antonino in Aquila.

Yet another reason I love these is that they are traditionally made with a homemade grape jam that is not so much a recipe but something that, until recently anyway, the women of Abruzzese households seemed to learn how to do without notes or measurements. Just a way of life. This jam, known in dialect as scurchjiata, is made from the local Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes and is not as sweet as a store-bought jam.

The cookies are made with a filling of the scurchjiata, chopped walnuts and almonds, then flavoured with orange or lemon peel and sometimes even dark chocolate. Some recipes include a puree of chestnuts, or in the absence of it, chickpeas, breadcrumbs, dried figs, coffee, cinnamon… each household have their own favourite combination of flavours. This filling is then hidden inside a beautiful pastry of flour, white wine, extra virgin olive oil, sugar and eggs, and the whole things are baked and then covered in icing sugar.

Just as traditions go, there are many variations on this recipe, but here’s a basic one that I like to use. - Emiko
Emiko

Food52 Review: This elegantly simple confection is astonishingly easy to whip up, part of the experience is crafting the dumplings. When mixed together, the mildly sweet dough emits the incomparable earthy aroma of extra-virgin olive oil and wine -- it is hard to resist sneaking little bits! The combination of nuts, orange zest and grape jam yields a rich filling that holds together perfectly with the addition of the crushed biscuits. When baked, the end result is a crusty shell enveloping a decadent paste of citrus-infused jam with generous amounts of almonds and walnuts. Ideally, a pop tart should taste like this. I could have polished off the whole batch in one shot! - PanfusinePanfusine

Makes 24

For the pastry

  • 1 pound flour
  • 5 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounces white wine
  • 2-3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • pinches salt

For the filling

  • 13 ounces grape jam (preferably homemade)
  • 3.5 ounces peeled almonds and/or walnuts, chopped
  • 1 grated rind of orange or lemon
  • 5-6 dry, crushed plain biscuits (like digestive)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. For the pastry, mix all the ingredients together until you get a smooth, elastic dough. It’s a beautifully velvety pastry. Don’t over work it; when it comes together nicely just wrap it in some plastic wrap and let it rest while you prepare the filling.
  2. Prepare all the ingredients for the filling, including chopping finely the nuts (a mixture of both almonds and walnuts is nice), crushing the biscuits and grating the citrus rinds (with the simple version of this recipe, I use just lemon rind, but if you're going to add chocolate, for example, orange rind really goes well). Warm the jam in a small saucepan on low heat and add it to all the other ingredients you’re using for the filling with, except for the crushed biscuits. The biscuits (some use breadcrumbs) are for adding to the mixture in the case that the jam mixture is too liquid – you want to be able to take spoonfuls of it that don’t slide off the spoon.
  3. Roll out the pastry to a few millimetres thick and cut it into squares of about 10cm squared. Place a teaspoonful of the jam mixture into the centre of each pastry square and, first folding over the pastry to create a triangle, bring the two outer corners together to create a horseshoe-type shape, pressing down on the edges to seal them. This is essentially the same technique as for tortellini or Chinese wontons! The pastry tends to shrink when it bakes so make sure you have plenty of pastry (i.e. don’t fill them too much!) and that you seal them well.
  4. Arrange them on a cookie sheet, greased and covered with baking paper, and bake until the Celli Ripieni are lightly golden. When they are cool, dust them with icing sugar. Enjoy with a nice little cup of espresso!

Comments (12) Questions (2)

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over 1 year ago Tom Melchiorre

These are such a fantastic cookie,and I am so happy my Nonna and zia made these for my dad and all of us kids!!! Now I am 64 years old and make them for my sons and all our friends. Everyone thinks they are so good, I know they are,but do not compare to those made by my ols pisai relatives in The Abruzzo!! Buona Natale and Buon Capo d'Anno! Tom Melchiorre

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over 1 year ago Tom Melchiorre

old pisani

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almost 2 years ago jessfood

is this dough meant to be mixed by hand or in a stand mixer?

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almost 2 years ago Emiko

The traditional way is by hand, of course, but feel free to use a mixer. Just be sure not to overmix it - it just needs to come together so you can then knead it until it is smooth and elastic.

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over 2 years ago jocasti

Please.... can the ingredient amounts be converted into cups-a l'America. Thanks!

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about 2 years ago Kt4

i agree!

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almost 2 years ago Emiko

I use weight because it's much more reliable than cups (especially in baking, I find!) and it's also the only measurement that all Italian recipes use! But there are many good weight-cup conversion tools online (be sure to look up what type of ingredient you are measuring - a cup of brown sugar and white sugar have different weight, nuts, flour, liquids etc all have different weights!) -- alternatively, what about using a set of scales? I'd be lost without mine! http://allrecipes.com/howto...

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over 2 years ago Droplet

These are adorable.

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about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

These sound delicious! And look just lovely.

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about 3 years ago healthierkitchen

these are beautiful! Wish I had some homemade grape jam!

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about 3 years ago Jennifer Ann

I agree with healthier kitchen! I cannot imagine a better sweet dumpling .

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about 3 years ago Emiko

Thanks! Homemade any jam is fine as a substitute, really - I've done these with plum jam or even cherry jam (whatever was on hand!) and they still come out really nice. I have the traditional recipe for homemade grape jam, the way they do it in Abruzzo, if you want to give it a try, I've described it here: http://www.emikodavies...