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A Medieval Monastery & a Fragrant Ciambella

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basilica-casamari

copyright 2010, Maria Liberati

My visit  to the medieval Abbey of Casamari in the province of Frosinone was a visit back to the medieval  pharmacies where many of the medicinal herbal formulas were discovered by the Benedictine monks here and brought to the world. The liqueurs and honeys  are all produced at the Abbey in a traditional way, all fruits,herbs, plants used are all grown organically by the monks there..a virtual trip back in time.. After Sunday mass (said by the monks in Latin), and a visit to the Abbey’s pharmacy and store the open air market beckoned.

The fragrance of freshly made (locally) made ciambella were almost calling my name. These particularly local ciambella made with anise seeds and boiled then baked (like  a bagel) are a typical product from  this region, but  are an artisan food that are not so easy to find..probably since they are not so quick to make and are made in an artisan way…

They bring back memories of my grandmother (who made her own delicious version of these for breakfast) telling stories of how she would go to her local town bakery ( in the town of Venafro, Italy) in the morning and get them freshly baked for breakfast… my great aunt (her older  sister)  owned the bakery and made these for her…. These locally baked treats have been almost impossible to locate ..so this was a real trip back in time..and an unexpected culinary treat..mmm..a piece of local  cheese with a  hot,freshly baked ciambella..could not have dreamed of a better lunch…can not even describe the experience..it was one to be savored….

Here is another version of a classic ciambella, known as a ciambellone, similar to  a pound cake, delicious also and a little bit easier to make..while I pull out my recipe for the ciambellone I feasted on today..and put on the great new apron I just found that includes a towel attached zipdry zip-dry-apron

Ciambellone Classico

(from the Gourmand World Cookbook Award Winner The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays &Special Occasions

2 cups all purpose flour or cake flour sifted

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup melted butter

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

peel of 1 lemon

extra flour and butter for greasing pan

Work together the sugar and eggs. Blend in flour and melted butter. Work the dough till it is a smooth blended dough and add in the baking powder and salt and lemon peel. Butter and flour a cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Should be golden on top. Remove from oven and cool. You can decorate the top with a dusting of powdered sugar or shaved dark chocolate.

Mangia bene, Vivi Bene,

Maria

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