I’ll keep this short, as we have Swedish guests coming this afternoon, which means a.) I have to do all the day’s work in the morning, and b.) I’m preparing something suitably ‘Italian’ for this evening’s meal.
They are, after all, on holiday in il Bel Paese, so sausage, egg and chips would disappoint. And if I make an effort now, I can expect something suitably Swedish to eat when I visit them. Potatoes, probably. My half-Italian-half-Swedish wife LOVES potatoes.
Anyway, after some debate we settled on tigelle, which are small discs of dough prepared in a mold. Mine looks exactly like this, if you’re curious, which allows me to cook seven at a time on my gas hob.
I’ll be making 28 or 35 depending on how the dough turns out, so three or four each, for seven people, with any leftovers going in the freezer. If things go well, there won’t be leftovers.
Later, I have to shop at our local supermarket, for things to fill the tigelle with. Guests are expected to slice them open, laterally, and select their own choice of fillings. I’ll be buying prosciutto crudo, salami, squacquerone, tomatoes, pickled onions – that sort of thing. Whatever’s on offer at the local Coop, basically.
And the dough itself? A rarely-consulted tome that has lived on a shelf in my kitchen for at least twenty years, La cucina dell’Emilia Romagna, gives at least four recipes, each completely different from the other!
Which suggests to me that everyone’s mum or granny did it differently, as do I. My version bears little resemblance to any of those in the book, but our neighbours have told me over the years that it’s spot on. In fact, I got the cooking cream idea from one of them – back around the turn of the millennium, that would have been.
Tigelle – my recipe – serves a family, freeze any leftovers
- 1000g white flour
- 350g warm water
- 200ml carton of cooking cream
- 20-30g fresh, frozen or dried yeast (who cares?)
- 30g kitchen salt, the cheap stuff
- 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil (or butter, or lard, or…)
Disolve the yeast in warm water, add a small handful of flour and stir with a wooden spoon, to remove the lumps.
As my breadmaker tray leaks, because the washers on the mixer thingys went years back, I need to be quick. I chuck the water/yeast/flour mixture in first, then the flour on top, and immediately press the button for the mix function to get it going. Roomie used to get very excited about pressing the button and watching the machine start mixing.
Hopefully the flour mixing in with the water stops up any leaks, like glue, that’s the idea, anyway. And once it’s running, I add the carton of cream, the salt, and the oil on top. Then leave the machine to do its thing, while I write this article.
After the article is proofed and published, I’ll remove the dough from the breadmaker and leave it to rest until mid-afternoon (in a large bowl with a lid, or covered with a damp tea towel).
An hour or so before aperitivo time, which is at six p.m. in our house, or earlier if guests need occupying, I’ll turn the dough out of its bowl, beat it down, and cover it with a tea towel.
Then later – table laid, aperitivi consumed – as the mold heats up, I’ll separate the dough into balls that are significantly smaller than the apertures in the tigelle mold (they expand like crazy when cooking.)
When the mold has been pre-heated on both sides, I’ll place the first seven balls in it, and cook them on a high-ish heat, turning the whole thing over at least once, until the dough has expanded to fill the molds, and the outside of each disc looks cooked on both sides.
They’re pretty when they’re brown, but undercooking them slightly means they’ll be softer to eat. It’s not a precise art, though.
I’ll leave the first seven tigelle to cool a little before serving them, or for the later batches, just chuck them to the hungry hordes as soon as they’re ready. Don’t burn your fingers, ragazzi!
But if you don’t have a tigelle mold, or a breadmaker?
Mix the dough by hand, in the usual way. It’s probably better for the planet that way, but leave the typing until after you’re done.
When your dough has had time to rise, and is rested, and beaten down, roll it out with a rolling pin, so it’s about 1cm thick (half an inch). Then use a glass or cup to cut out discs the size of a biscuit. You want something study but with thin edges. Or a biscuit cutter, maybe.
Cook your discs in a pan, without fat or oil. Without the mold, they’ll probably inflate, like little balloons, which isn’t right, but they’ll be nice anyway, I’m sure. You can always tell people it’s an Arabic or Indian recipe…
And if you don’t have a rolling pin, either?
Use a full wine bottle, as I used to do when I was a student. That works just as well, and when you have your tigelle ready to cook, you can open up the bottle to lubricate the chef.
N.b. No need to be finicky about the details. Any of the details. I’m sure my neighbours’ nonne weren’t. It’s just dough. If it’s got flour and liquid in it, and if you apply heat to it, it’ll cook, and be nice anyway. Everyone likes freshly-made bread, right?
And fill them with whatever you like – people around here use lard, for instance. American club members could try peanut butter, or spam (only joking…)
The breadmaker beeped! Gotta go.
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And there’ll be another tomorrow (Saturday), and another on Tuesday morning.
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