When I think of this time of year, I think of crostoli: The crunch of the pastry, the sweet slightly bitter tang of the wine syrup my family dip them in and the smell of the cinnamon dusted over the top. Bliss! Crostoli are my favourite traditional dessert and last year I made my mum’s recipe dairy, soy and gluten free, this is that version. Although, this year, I have some new cooking skills so I’m going to try to make them healthier, in addition to being suitable for various food intolerances, so stay tuned for Crostoli Part 2!:-)
Traditionally crostoli are not a particularly naturopathic recipe, although, in my practice I like to distinguish between a special occasion and every day, these, are most definitely special occasion:-) This recipe makes about 80 crostoli (if rolled thin enough) and takes about 3 hours to make. This version is Gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free and you have the option with various sweetener alternatives to make them sugar free.
Pastry ingredients :
- 250g gluten free plain flour (I use Orgran All Purpose)
- 2 dessert spoons sugar or alternative
- 2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for frying)
- 1 organic free-range egg (currently working on alternatives)
To “dress” them afterward:
- Vanilla sugar (or sugar alternative ground with vanilla bean)
- Ground cinnamon
- Molasses (optional)
1. Measure flour out onto a flat surface (you’ll need a bit of room and its going to get very floury!). Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the 2 dessert spoons of sugar (or alternative), olive oil and egg (or alternative) and mix together to make a dough.
2. Add warm water 10-20ml at a time until the dough is stretchy but not sticky (if you are using alternative flours from the Orgran gluten free all purpose flour and egg alternatives, then you may need to get a little creative here as the dough may not stretch as well).
3. Roll the pastry dough out with a rolling pin to ~1cm thickness and cut in strips ~4cm wide. Using a pasta machine to roll the pastry through the thickest setting, then repeat through thinner settings until the final thickness is about 1-2 mm without tearing it. (If you don’t have a pasta machine then use your rolling pin with a lot of flour and patience. My family make the crostoli very thin, but I’ve seen them also prepared much thicker and biscuit like).
4. Using a pastry cutter or a knife cut the thinly rolled pastry into ribbons ~2-3 cm wide and 6-8cm long for bow or holly shaped crostoli and 10-12 cm long for wreath shapes. If making holly shaped ones, just pinch the centres. For wreaths, pinch every 2 cm along and then cross over 1 pinch in each end to make a wreath.
5. In a frying pan add ~500ml olive oil and bring it up to heat (otherwise the crostoli go all soggy and taste too oily). The oil is hot enough when the pastry sizzles and floats, if the pastry sinks and looks sodden, it isn’t hot enough.
6. Once oil is hot enough, place enough crostoli to cover pan surface and as soon as they turn a golden colour turn them over (I use tongs, just be very careful of oil splashing whatever you choose) and remove when both sides are cooked (try not to over cook or allow the flour to burn because the taste of the burnt flour sediment permeates the cooking oil and it detracts from the flavour).
7. When the crostoli are removed from the heat, place them onto an airing rack for a few minutes and then transfer to a separate rack where they are directly on the paper towel to remove some of the oil. (Change the paper towel to absorb the excess as needed).
8. The crostoli may be served at this point by sprinkling vanilla sugar, or if you are trying to keep them refined sugar free, then your sweetener alternative ground with fresh vanilla bean or just with some ground cinnamon.
9. If you’d like to dip the crostoli in molasses, heat 250 ml of molasses in a pan on low (don’t let it burn or it will taste very bitter) and dip the crostoli for 5 seconds each side when the syrup is runniest (if the crostoli are too oily the molasses wont “stick” so make sure you soak up what you can with paper towels first). If you find the molasses too thick even after heating (or you need to make it stretch because you don’t have much), you can thin it out by using soda or mineral water. I used about ¼ cup soda water to the 1 cup of molasses).
10. Transfer the dipped crostoli to a plate (or a glass pyrex container as I find the taste evolves and they tasted even more like mums and our traditional wine syrup the next day!) and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. If you have enough to layer, sprinkle the ground cinnamon between the layers.
They have the potential to keep quite a while if given the opportunity, although ours never lasted more than a week :-).