This is the time of year when desserts have that particular and irresistible aura about them… especially in Italy, where you can rarely go wrong with pastry!
Things are no different in Maremma, where the seasonal dishes make Christmas extra special and delicious. To sweeten up your last days of 2014 and to welcome 2015, whether you are in southern Tuscany or elsewhere, here are two of our favorite local specialties!
Pagnottella di Natale
A Christmas Loaf that is typical from the sea village of Porto Santo Stefano.
Pagnottella di Natale, image from atavolaconmammazan.blogspot.it
- 1 kg flour
- 1 kg dry figs
- 1 kg peeled almond
- 400 gr raisins
- ½ kg walnuts
- ½ kg hazelnuts
- 100 gr pine nuts
- Orange peel cut into small pieces
- 100 gr jam
- Cinnamon aroma
- 50 gr yeast (Italian lievito di birra)
How to cook it:
Cut the dry figs and the orange peel into small pieces. Dilute the yeast in lukewarm water and knead half of the flour to create a small bread. Carve a small X-shaped cut, cover it with a cloth and let it rise. When the small bread has doubled its volume, put it in a big bowl, work well the dough and add all the ingredients bit by bit, including the remaining flour. When everything is blended shape the dough like a big bread loaf and let it bake like bread it in the hot oven at 180°C.
Castagnaccio di Saturnia
This chestnut flour cake is a typical autumnal dessert in Maremma. However, the area of Saturnia – famous for the thermal hot springs – has a special Christmas version too.
Castagnaccio from Saturnia. Christmas dessert, image from viviconstile.it
- 400 gr chestnut flour
- 25 gr sugar
- 100 gr pine nuts
- 100 gr grinded nuts
- 80 gr raisins
- 3 spoons of extra virgin olive oil
- As needed: rosemary, salt, water
How to cook it:
Dissolve the flour in cold water until you get a soft batter. Add sugar, the three olive oil spoons, a pinch of salt and the rosemary. Mix well using a whisk, until you get a homogeneous dough. Add the raisins, the pine nuts and the walnuts. Let rest for at least one hour. Brush the bottom of the pan with olive oil, then pour the mix (the dough should be no thicker than 2 cm). Then place the castagnaccio in the oven.
In the next few days, small villages around Maremma Tuscany will offer a variety of wine & food festivals, as well as fire rituals to remember the martyrdom of Saint Catherine. These traditional events celebrate local eno-gastronomy, the colors and flavors of autumn, and the territory’s history through mixed Christian and profane symbolisms. Let’s have a look at two of the most characteristic events in the upcoming days!
End of Autumn Celebrations for Foodies
The small village of San Giovanni delle Contee, near Sorano, will be bustling with activities on the days 21, 22, 23 and 25 of November. Wineries will open up to the public to allow for tastings of new wine, new olive oil and local specialties. There will be music, a tombola raffle and fireworks. The occasion? Celebrating autumn and Saint Catherine. Here is a more detailed program:
Winery entrance – image from Circolo L’Impronta
Wineries open at 19:30 – tastings of typical local products and wines
At 22:00, warm up with a 70s rock dance concert!
Classical music concert by ‘Ensemble Classica Trio’ at 17:00 in the local Church
Wineries open at 18:30 – tastings of typical local products and wines
Itinerant music by the streets from 22:00 with the drums of Pitigliano and then blues music
At 17:45, stories will be told about the local participation in the world wars.
At 19:30, an apericena (a mix of aperitif with dinner) will take place in the parish hall, followed by tombola raffle
Mass at 18:00
Local products’ tasting in the parish hall, followed by fireworks.
Focarazza Fire Festival
On the 24th and 25th of November, the small village of Santa Caterina (Roccalbegna – Mount Amiata area) celebrates the ancient Focarazza ritual, in memory of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and a historic victory achieved by the locals in a battle against Siena on the Saint’s feast day. You can read more on our article “Focarazza fire ritual: sacred meets profane in Tuscany”