The holidays aren't complete in Puglia without cartellate, sticky sweet pastries gloriously served after every meal. Their name derives from carta, paper, which the dough must rigorously resemble before being cut and coiled into its distinctive round, crown-like shape. Once the dough has been fried, the cartellate are dipped in honey or fig vincotto as a finishing touch. Like many recipes in Puglia, each family has their own variation, jealously guarding those culinary secrets! Tempted? Le Sorelle is happy to share with you. The ingredients are simple. Grab some flour, white wine, and extra-virgin olive oil, and some time. The full process could take up to a day to complete.
2 c. Flour type “00”
½ c. of Extra virgin olive oil
⅔ c. white wine
¼ c. water
1 c. of vincotto or ½ c. of honey
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
Mechanical pasta machine
Fluted pastry wheel
Pour the extra virgin olive oil in a small heavy pot and heat until very hot but not smoking. In the meantime, on a clean work surface pile the flour in a mountain like shape with a dip in the middle, much like a volcano. Pour the hot oil into the flour. With a spoon or spatula mix some of the oil into the flour to keep it from spilling off the work surface. Be careful not to touch the hot oil! In the same pan, pour your white wine and heat until hot but not simmering. In the meantime, if the oil has cooled begin mixing it more thoroughly into the flour mixture. When your wine is hot, add to the flour and oil mixture. If it is too hot, use your spoon or spatula to mix. Once the mixture has cooled begin to knead with your hands. Add the room temperature water to soften the mixture if needed. Once kneaded it should hold together nicely and not be sticky or crumbly. Adjust your flour or water content accordingly. The dough should be homogenous all the way through.
Take a small bit of the dough, just enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and begin to work it through the pasta machine. Make sure the machine is set to the finest setting. Cartellate need to be as thin as possible.
Once your dough has been fully rolled to the maximum thinness, use your fluted pastry cutter to cut the edges off your dough so you’re left with a neat rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise into long strips about an inch wide using your pastry cutter.
Take each strip and fold it gently lengthwise so that the two fluted edges are facing up, like a “U”. Pinch the pastry together about every inch or so to create little “pockets”. Now, beginning with one end, coil the pastry around itself like an “@” pinching an inside wall to an outer wall to hold it together. Place on a dry, clean cloth to dry out. This might be for the entire day. The drier the cartellata the crispier it becomes.
Repeat with the rest of your dough until complete.
Once your cartellate are dry. Heat an inch or two of olive oil in a deep pan until very hot. Add the cartellate making sure to give them some “breathing” room in the pan, turning over periodically. You may have to do several batches. Once turned golden and crispy, remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain and cool.
When all of your cartellate are “cooked”. Heat the vincotto or honey in a pan until it begins to thin. Add the cartellate covering them thoroughly. Some honey or vincotto should settle into the “pockets”.
Arrange on a platter and enjoy!