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
Test Kitchen Notes
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! - Panfusine —Panfusine
For the pastry
extra virgin olive oil
For the filling
grape jam (preferably homemade)
peeled almonds and/or walnuts, chopped
grated rind of orange or lemon
dry, crushed plain biscuits (like digestive)
In This Recipe
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.
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.
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.
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!
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.