Sunday, 18 May 2014

Aperitivo time: Cheese savory cookies

Cheese savory cookies

A typical Italian tradition is that of aperitivo, which literally is an alcoholic beverage served before a meal to stimulate the appetite; the word comes from the Latin verb aperire which means to open and in fact it is intended to open the stomach to the upcoming meal but also, in formal and structured occasions, to open the meal literally as it is the very first course served. But more commonly it is a sort of pre-dinner ritual of having a drink before going home from work or to a restaurant or somewhere else for dinner. Since the drinks typically served as aperitivo are alcoholic (even if also non-alcoholic drinks or cocktail are now included in all aperitifs menus), and are drunk when stomach is empty, some nibbles and snacks which can be eaten with fingers usually accompany them, like chips, olives, cheese bites, crackers.
In more recent times Italian bars started to serve such a wide variety of finger foods and nibbles that the aperitivo has become a substitute for the dinner and, at the same time, an opportunity to socialize and spend time with friends. But that's a long story and I will probably will write about it with more details in the future.
Today I want to share one recipe that I consider perfect when offering an aperitivo at home. When we have guests for dinner, before sitting at table, I like to have some conversation and to open their stomachs with a glass of wine (preferably sparkling, white or rosé). And with the wine I like to serve something small and easy to eat,stimulating appetite (and possibly not spoiling it). These cookies are perfect for this scope.

Cheese savory cookies
serves 6
120 gr all purpose flour
80 gr butter, softened
50 gr Gruyere
50 gr smoked scamorza*
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
white and black sesame seeds
2 pinches sea salt
3 pinches  freshly ground black pepper
3 pinches paprika

Mix the flour with 2 pinches of salt, 3 of freshly ground black pepper e 3 of paprika. Add the softened butter, diced, some drops of cold water and mix, with your finger or a fork, until you obtain a sticky mixture. Divide the dough in two equal part and add to the first the Gruyere and to the second the scamorza, finely grated, mix, form a dough, flatten with your hands, wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for at least one hour (the dough can be made in advance a kept it in the fridge up to 2 days).
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Slightly flour the working surface then, using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough to 3 mm; using cookies cutter, cut one pastry into small squares, the other into round ones, put the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Beat the egg yolk with the milk. Brush the cookies with the mixture, sprinkle with white and black sesame seeds and bake for about 8 minutes, until golden.
*Smoked scamorza can be substituted for other semi-soft smoked cheese, like halloumi or mild provolone. In case no one of these are available, grated parmigiano or grana padano work well too, even if the taste will be a bit different. 

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