Leftover Wine? Don’t waste it, make ciambelline al vino!

Leftover wine from that party last eve? Don’t toss it – make these simple Italian cookies instead.  I first came to learn of these wonderful little cookies during a cooking class at Locanda Demetra in Montalcino.  Leftover wine from their dinner the night before was simply mixed with sugar, olive oil and flour to become these very tasty treats.  The proportion was super simple – 1 cup wine to 1 cup sugar to 1 cup olive oil. Add enough flour to form a dough. Boom. Done.  Never one to love overly-sweet desserts, for me this was the perfect ending to our meal – a rustic, humble cookie that I could dip into my glass of red wine, my espresso or my glass of Vin Santo!  

These crunchy, somewhat-hard ring-shaped cookies originally were made for those who traveled far from home as they could hold up for long trips and easily be softened when dunked into wine or water.  My kind of cookie indeed. The ingredients are simple pantry staples that make these really easy to pull together if you have wine leftover from the evening before – which in our house is a very common occurrence.  

The only time-consuming part is shaping the cookies but I find it rather comforting and once you get the hang of it, the process zips along easily. Just pinch off bits of dough and roll it out on your surface to form a log.  (Note: When you roll out the dough, don’t add extra flour to your surface as the dough will grip better.) Then you simply cut off about a 4-inch piece and bring the two ends up to meet. Pinch the dough closed to form a little circle. Dip one side of the cookie in a bowl of sugar and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. That’s all there is to it.  I love to have friends help me make these when they arrive for a dinner party.  I make the dough in advance and let it rest as the guests arrive.  Then together we roll and shape them. Great fun to do together.  

I often have a jar of these cookies on the counter – waiting for the next cup of coffee or wine to come along. Don’t necessarily save them for dessert as they are great any time of day. I typically use red wine for these cookies however, white wine works just as well. The choice of oil is a personal preference. I have made them with both extra virgin olive oil and a milder flavored oil. I like the subtle bite of flavor that the extra virgin olive oil gives the dough.  If you’d prefer a milder flavor, do not hesitate to substitute a milder olive oil or other type of oil. I also have made these with and without baking powder. In Montalcino, we did not add baking powder to the dough.  I do prefer the slightly puffier result from the baking powder so I do add about a tablespoon to the batter. Feel free to omit. Lastly – anise seeds. I do occasionally add anise seeds to the batter. I lightly crush about a teaspoon of anise (or fennel) seeds and toss them into the batter.

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