Dan and I have been making cookies for over 35 years now. We especially enjoy making cookies at Christmas time to share with family and friends. In the early years, we kept with a few tried and true recipes: pressed spritz, brandy balls and Dan’s famous chocolate chip cookies. After tiring of these, we began taking chances on new recipes we’ve found or invented. The photo above shows our 2013 Christmas cookies, which included red velvet with cream cheese frosting, peppermint chip, chocolate chip with walnuts, chocolate mounds (dusted with powdered sugar), and sugar cookies with various flavors of icing (cherry, creme de menthe, cinnamon, and orange).
We’ve also branched out into making chocolate truffles. These are fun because you can experiment with various flavors and additions in micro batches. The photo below shows the truffles I sent to my Mom for Valentine’s day in 2011.
When I was a child, one of the Christmas treats I enjoyed were cookies made by my Italian aunts. My favorites were the cookies we called caggiunitts. I never saw these anywhere else, and when I was older I became curious about how they were made. My aunt Edith told me that the dough was made with wine and olive oil, rolled out like pasta and cut as for ravioli, while the center included ceci (garbanzo) beans, chocolate, candied fruit, chopped nuts, sugar, and cinnamon. In addition, the filling could include a variety of other ingredients, depending on the preferences of the cook.
Through the years, I searched in vain for a recipe in various cookbooks. In one book on regional Italian cooking, I found a recipe for what were referred to as Abruzzi Christmas cookies. However, while the dough was made with olive oil and white wine, the filling consisted primarily of almonds and grape jelly. I felt I was getting close, especially since my grandfather was born in the Abruzzo region, but not close enough to try a recipe that seemed to lack the subtlety — and the chocolate — of what I remembered. Then, this year, as I did a search on “Italian cookies,” looking for another type of cookie entirely, I saw a reference to caggionetti. With further searching, I found several recipes which I was able to triangulate upon to make the cookies of my childhood. I also learned that caggionetti are indeed from the Abruzzo region of Italy, and local variations abound. The final version of my recipe uses baking powder in the dough to make it light and crisp, while the filling uses both cocoa powder and melted semi-sweet chocolate, and includes additional ingredients such as espresso powder, orange oil, and cloves.