This light and delicate yeast-risen cookie is a cross between a buttery bread stick and a caramelized puff pastry palmier. Torcettini were a favorite of Italy’s Queen Margherita. In fact, she liked the version in one pastry shop so much that she knighted the owner on the spot. A certificate attesting to this still hangs in the pastry shop in Saint Vincent.
- 1 cup warm water, about 110 degrees
- 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- ½ cup sugar for rolling the cookies
- 2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil
1. Measure the water into a bowl, then whisk in the yeast. Set aside until needed.
2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the flour and salt a couple of times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely mixed in but the mixture is still powdery, about 15 pulses. Add the yeast mixture all at once, and pulse until the ingredients form a ball.
3. Invert the bowl to remove the dough: Carefully remove the blade first, then put the dough into a buttered bowl, turning the dough over so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is doubled in bulk, about an hour.
4. After the dough has risen, press it down to deflate it. Chill for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
5. When you are ready to form the cookies, remove the dough from the refrigerator and press it into an 8-inch square. Scatter some of the sugar on the work surface if the dough is sticky.
6. Cut the square of dough into eight 1-inch strips. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, to make 48 pieces in all.
7. Roll a piece of the dough on a sugared surface under the palms of your hands to make a pencil-thick strand about 4 to 5 inches long. Form a loop by crossing over the ends about 1 inch up from the ends, as in the illustration, right.
8. As the torcettini are formed, place them on the prepared pans, leaving about 1½ inches in all directions around the cookies.
9. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
10. Let the cookies stand at room temperature until they puff slightly, about 15 or 20 minutes.
11. Bake the cookies until they are light and the sugar has caramelized to a light golden crust, about 20 to 25 minutes. Change the position of the pans from upper to lower rack and vice versa, also turning them back to front at least once during baking. If your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack 2 pans together for baking on the lower rack, to provide insulation.
12. Slide the papers from the pans to racks to cool the cookies.
Serving size is 1 cookie.