Puglia has many typical desserts and like all regions in Italy, it also has it’s Christmas specialities. One of the most important and widespread in the whole region are the “cartellate”. Their shape reminds us of a rose but tradition attributes a different symbolism to this pastry: some say that the shape of the cartellate are reminiscent of Baby Jesus’ halo, others say that they remind us of the crown of thorns Jesus Christ wore when he was crucified. All these are valid possibilities even if the fact that it is a traditional Christmas dessert makes us believe the first hypothesis to be more plausible. When you are in Puglia during the Christmas holidays ask around for these pastries, they are really worth while. And if you want to try to make them at home, here is the recipe for you.

The dough for the cartellate is semi-sweet, the real sweetness comes from the condiment: they are covered with honey, icing sugar or even better, cooked must (vincotto). Cooked must is a condiment that comes from the cooking of the must of the Negroamaro and Malvasia grapes of Salento. It is appreciated by the most important international chefs that exalt its versatility in the kitchen. It can, in fact, be used on first courses, meat, fruit, ice cream and desserts in general. Cooked must has a dense, velvety, sweet taste: the taste of ripe fruit stands out, grapes, cherries, plums, but there are spicy notes to it as well, vanilla and cocao because it is refined in small oak barrels for more than 4 years. Every family has its own recipe for the cartellate. Here is the one I was taught by my friends of Sapori Dei Sassi, a shop that sells typical products in the beautiful city of Matera.

1kg of flour type 00 | 100gr of extra virgin olive oil | 100gr of sugar | 4 eggs | a pinch of salt | dry white wine q.s. | seed oil for frying

Organic honey (or) icing sugar (or) cooked must from Puglia

Preparation of the cartellate
Place the mound of flour on a pastry board and make a well. Add the eggs and begin to mix them. Then add the extra virgin olive oil, the sugar and the salt and begin to knead the dough. With the help of the white wine knead the dough until it becomes quite a consistent loaf. Then take a piece of the dough at a time and put it through the pasta making machine creating smooth pastry sheets about 2mm thick. With a serrated dough cutter cut slices about 2cm wide. Take the first slice, fold in two and press the edges together at a distance of about 1.5-2 cm from each other. At this point roll the slices into a spiral creating the rose, making sure the points where they touch are well pressed together. Repeat this operation until all the loaf has been used up completely. Leave the cartellate to rest for a couple of hours. Pour the seed oil in a very high saucepan and let it heat up. When it is very hot begin frying the cartellate. When they are golden, take them off the fire and place them on a tray covered in kitchen paper. Let them cool. At this point add your favourite condiment: organic honey, icing sugar or cooked must from Puglia.

A piece of Christmas atmosphere from Puglia to your home.