I don’t have any idea what makes these cookies Italian, but I got them from an Italian recipe web site, Mangia Bene Pasta, so I guess they are. The “ribbon twists” part of their name is self explanatory.
These ribbon twists are made by twisting strips of pastry filled with fruit preserves and sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. The process was similar to the way I twist the homemade breadsticks I’ve been making, but messier because of the preserves.
I made the pastry on a Thursday afternoon, left it in the refrigerator overnight, and baked the cookies on Friday afternoon. I had never before made a filled cookie of any kind, so I was excited to try this recipe. Everything went really well, except that when the cookies were done and I’d pulled them out of the oven, I had to leave the house for a couple of hours. When I came back, the cookies were stuck to the wax paper I’d baked them on. I tried really, really hard to get all the wax paper off the cookies. I tried to slip a spatula beneath them, I tried to peel the paper off gently, and I also tried trying to rip it off quickly, like a scab off a wound. (Yes, I have a fondness for unappetizing similes.) But I only managed to save about a dozen, plus a handful of cookie scraps that I’ll make my family eat for Thanksgiving.
From this process, I learned:
Do not leave the cookies sitting in jam that will harden. If you bake cookies filled with jam, and the jam leaks out of the cookie while it’s baking, you absolutely must remove the cookie from the baking pan (and any paper you baked it on) before the jam hardens.
Apricot jam is not weird after all. I have never, ever tried apricot jam. I’ve always steered away from light-colored jams. I don’t know why, I just found darker jams more appealing. And less “out there.” Well, I used a jar of apricot jam my mother-in-law let me have—only because it was recommended by the recipe—and they tasted really good in this cookie. So I’m a convert.
Pie pastry is not as hard to make as I thought it was. When I taste tested one of the cookies, I realized that the cookie was basically pie pastry with jam on it. I had made pie pastry without even realizing it. What was I so afraid of? Well, apparently all anyone would have had to do to get me to try pie pastry would have been to call it “cookie pastry.”
This was a fun cookie, and I will make the recipe again, because I really want to get the process right at the very end.
I took the dozen pretty ones to our church potluck Thanksgiving dinner, and they did get eaten. I hope people liked them.
Ribbon Twists from http://www.mangiabenepasta.com
(Should make about 36 cookies)
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (or other nut)
1/4 cup apricot (or other flavor) preserves
Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the egg yolk and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and beat just until combined. Form dough into a disk, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. Set aside.
Divide the chilled dough in half. Lightly flour a work surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 20 x 6-inches.
Spread a thin layer of preserves on the dough. Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture on top.
Take one of the long edges of the dough and fold to down to meet the other long side.
Gently press down on the dough to seal the top to the bottom.
Using a pastry cutter [I used a pizza wheel], cut the dough into strips 1/2-inch wide by 3 inches long. Take the strip of filled dough and gently twist. Place the twisted strips on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Repeat the procedure with the second half of dough.
Bake for 12–15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Allow the cookies to cool approximately 10 minutes [but no so long that they stick to the paper on the pan] and then transfer the cookies to wire racks [or a cloth or fresh wax paper] to cool completely.