Cakes and Desserts
CALZONE DI RICCIA
This is the characteristic cake which is prepared in the cake shops and by the families of Riccia, a village between the Sannio mountains not far from Campobasso. Originally, it was part of the collection of “devotional foods” which were to appear on the table and sent to friends in celebration of Saint Joseph’s (San Giuseppe) day. The dough is made with flour, pork fat and salted water and is rolled out into a sheet and cut into discs of about twelve centimetres in diameter. These discs are then folded over, enclosing a filling of boiled chick peas which have been puréed and then sweetened with honey and flavoured with cinnamon essence and citrus. These calzoni are then fried in boiling hot oil and eaten warm.
This is a devotional food similar to the calzone di Riccia, but is slightly lighter. In the dough, the pork fat is substituted with olive oil, the water by dry white wine and there is also vanilla flavouring. The filling still consists of puréed, boiled chick peas, but this time it has the addition of cocoa, sugar, small pieces of candied citrus, honey and poncio, the most typical of the Molise liqueurs.
CEPPELLATE FROM TRIVENTO
«Ceppellate» are cooked in the ancient Terventum, the town of the Pentri Samnites, in the ovens of the more modern town and also in those of the mediaeval village gathered around the ancient cathedral which was built upon the remains of a temple dedicated to Diana. These are cakes which were once linked to the traditional festivities, and which are today the symbol of the local art of confectionery. Their relationship with the different types of calzoni is evident from their shape, but in this case, instead of being fried in boiling hot oil, these cakes are baked in the oven. The pastry is very rich, made from eggs (as many as eighteen yolks for one kilo – 2.2 lbs – of flour) and almost equal weights of sugar and pork fat; the filling consists exclusively of sour cherry jam.
This ancient preparation, the original name of which is culaicet cu muscoitet, can be found in the ovens of Portocannone, a town with an Albanian population in the Lower Molise. They are simple taralli made from water and flour boiled in mosto cotto (‘cooked grape must’) which has been brought to the right degree of density to cover the surface of the taralli. The result is a small, rustic cake with a pleasant sweet/sour flavour.
PIGNA FROM GUARDIALFIERA
This may be considered as the equivalent of the panettone cake, but instead of being prepared for Christmas, it was prepared for the Easter period and is still today linked to this tradition although it can, in fact, be found in the cake shops all year round. The cake mixture is very rich: it provides for twelve eggs for every kilo (2.2 lbs) of flour, but also mashed potatoes, grated lemon peel, sugar and aniseed liqueur. The mixture is put to rise twice and, before being put into the oven, the pigna is marked on the top by a cross which helps it to rise better while it bakes and is also to ward off bad luck, considering that the ancestral fears in this land are still very much alive. When it is ready, it is decorated with coloured sugar decorations and with the "nastro delle suore", that is, egg white whisked up with icing sugar.
All the cakes are offered with a liqueur which is often home made with an orange or lemon base. The most characteristic amongst the liqueurs of Molise is the crema di poncio, a liqueur originally produced at a family level, then passed to an artisan production of quality, and today to be found in bars and cake shops. The origin of the name, which is reminiscent of the Anglosaxon “punch”, is uncertain. What is certain is that crema di poncio has been made in Molise for centuries and that the Bourbons, after having discovered it on hunting trips in the Matera area, introduced it to the Neapolitan court. The procedure for its preparation is apparently simple, but requires a good deal of care. After having left mandarin and orange peel steeped in alcohol for a few days, this infusion is added to a sugar syrup and to caramelised sugar. The liqueur thus obtained, in the winter is drunk diluted in water or in boiling hot milk, and in the summer it is used to “drown”(‘affogare’) a scoop of vanilla ice cream.