Red, Red Wine Cookies
I have a self-imposed rule of no drinking when it’s only me at home, unless guests are hosted. He thinks it’s silly, but I feel strange sitting alone at the table with my wine. Besides, it’s far more enjoyable to raise glasses together.
Be that as it may, my restriction does not prohibit me from finding other uses for wine (or beer, but mostly wine) in the kitchen — vinaigrettes, reductions, braises, stews, pasta, preserves, a pan of anything that needs deglazing…
At the end of any given week, the natural course of action for me is to bake. When that week’s end falls during a solo stretch, and happens to have been particularly taxing, the occasion calls for a big glass of red wine… in my sweet.
Meet ciambelle al vino.
This translates to “Thank you, Italians! ” No, that’s a lie. (I’m petitioning a change.) The literal translation is “wine doughnuts,” though they’re really not-too-sweet cookies served as a dessert for soaking in espresso or often a small glass of red wine or Vin Santo. My preference is to nibble a few after supper dunked in milk, but don’t let me stop you from exploring the traditional Italian options.
The recipe is easy and very fast, with a few simple ingredients, no eggs or dairy, and can be made 100% gluten-free as needed. The red wine imparts a unique flavor and a dainty purplish hue*, while the extra virgin olive oil provides their characteristic dense, cakey interior. Like a softer and chewier version of biscotti.
If there’s a better way to end weeks such as these, I can’t think of one. A girl has to have some concessions to the rules.
Tell me… Are you a teetotaler when flying solo, or is it no problem to raise a glass on your own?
- 500 g (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour (or a 50:50 mixture of AP + whole wheat pastry flour)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 150 g (about 3/4 cup) granulated white or Turbinado sugar
- 1 small wine glass (about 125 mL or 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp) dry red wine, such as Zinfandel, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1 small wine glass (about 125 mL or 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp) mild extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
- In a medium to large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix together. Form a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. With a wooden spoon, stir briefly in the center, then gradually incorporate in the dry ingredients from the sides. Mix until just combined. Dough will be soft and workable. If it is too dry or crumbly, add more wine in 1 Tbsp increments as needed.
- Divide the dough into small pieces, about the size of a golf ball. On a flat, un-floured surface like a cutting board or the counter top, use the palms of your hands to roll and coax each piece into a 4 to 5"-long rope about 1/2" in diameter. (Don't be alarmed if the dough "cracks” as you roll. Squeeze the rope together in your palm a couple times and continue with the gentle rolling.) Pinch the ends of each rope together to form a ring.
- Transfer rings to the prepared baking trays, spacing about 1/2 to 1 inch apart (they won't spread). Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden, rotating the two trays from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.
- Remove trays from the oven, and let the biscuits sit there a few minutes. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack, and cool completely before packaging. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or freezer up to 2 months.
Keep your fancy wine for a special evening! An inexpensive bottle like a dry red table wine is fine (though not cooking wine) -- possibly something you opened earlier in the week and didn't finish, or stocked up on with a sale at the market. (And in case you're wondering, white wine biscuits are also excellent!)
The original recipe calls for 200 g / about 1 cup of granulated white sugar. I typically reduce the total amount by 25 (as is written here) to 50% as my sweet tooth is pretty weak. Down at a 50% reduction, you'll need to add a bit more wine to make the dough workable. [In full disclosure, the cookies in the photo represent a 50% reduction + full replacement of the sugar with homemade pear sauce + a 50:50 combination of AP and whole wheat pastry flour.]
+ Dress 'em up: Before baking, dip the tops** in Turbinado or sanding sugar, pressing gently to ensure sugar sticks.
+ Oil options: Experiment with nut and seed oils, such as walnut, almond, macadamia or pumpkin seed/pepita.
+ Add some spice: Mix 1 to 2 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, anise powder, or orange zest in with the dry ingredients.
Recipe adapted from Broxholm Road.
*To play up that red wine is an ingredient, a few drops of dye made from beets would impart a festive tinge.
**They are quite pretty this way! (Visit the recipe adaption link above for a daintier granulated sugar version.)
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