Leftover wine is not really a problem I have to deal with regularly but even so these small doughnut-shaped Italian cookies eaten all across Rome and Lazio are a good way of using up any leftovers (not least because they are best eaten alongside a glass of wine, giving you the perfect excuse to open the next bottle). Not only are these crisp little cookies absolutely delicious and easy to prepare using pantry staples, the real beauty of these cookies is that they can be made no matter what type of wine and how much of it you have to hand as, at its most basic, the recipe asks for no more than equal amounts of wine, sugar and oil and enough flour to form a smooth dough.
In Italy most aunts and grandmas have their own version of these cookies – using white wine, red wine or even a dessert wine (I read that some even make these without any wine, using milk instead – while certainly more virtuous, I quite like the bit of tang the wine lends these cookies). Below is my version of these cookies which was also just published in the Guardian this weekend. While some recipes recommend using a leavener, I prefer making them without. Some also use olive oil but I like using a neutral-flavoured oil like sunflower so as not to cover the flavour of the cookies. One thing the recipe definitely has to include for me are fennel seeds, as that is how I got to know and love these cookies. I also double-dust the cookies with fennel sugar, both before and right after baking, to make the cookies extra crunchy. If fennel is not your thing you could leave this out altogether or use anise seed instead.
Ciambelline al Vino
Makes ca. 30 cookies depending on size
125ml white wine
125ml sunflower oil
1 pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
375g plain flour
To dust the cookies: 6 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds mixed together in a bowl
1. Start by whisking together the wine, oil and sugar. Add the 2 teaspoons fennel seeds and pinch of salt and start incorporating the flour bit by bit until you have a smooth, soft and elastic dough (you may find you need slightly less than the 375g flour or slightly more). Cover and set aside for 1 hour.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
3. Take generous tablespoon-sized lumps of dough and make little doughnut-shaped cookies (to do this I start by rolling the dough into 8-10 cm long sausages, then loop these to form small circles, pinching the ends of the loop together). Dip each cookie into the sugar and place on the baking tray, leaving ca. 2cm space between cookies.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Switch off the oven, dip the cookies once more in the sugar, place back on the baking tray and place the tray back in the oven with the door left ajar to cool down (this helps the cookies to become crisp). Store in an airtight container.