The outrageous ‘ostie piene’ cookies from Monte Sant’Angelo in Italy

(CNN) — Crispy yet tender, sweet and high in calories, there is a particular Italian snack that is sandwiched between two pieces of Christian communion wafers.

The ostia pienaor “filled hosts” – an appetizing mixture of almonds and honey stuffed between two wafers – are one of Italy’s most delicious cookies.

And they could also be one of his most sacrilegious if not that the two thin translucent cakes intended to titillate the taste buds with their sublime garnish were of course not consecrated by a priest.

Called ostie ckiene in local dialect, it is the traditional sweet treat of Monte Sant’Angelo, a village in the Gargano National Park, Puglia.

Monte Sant’Angelo has layers of dazzling white houses and a cave church said to have been consecrated by the Archangel Michael, which has been a major pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages.

The inhabitants are extremely religious but also greedy and see nothing sacrilege in the ostia pienawho are said to have been born inside the convent of the village of Santissima Trinità at least 500 years ago.

A spiritual business card

Monte Sant’Angelo is an important place of pilgrimage for the Catholic faith.

Matteo Nuzziello

Spirituality and cakes here are deeply connected.

” I did ostia piena for 40 years they have been part of our tradition, our business card: wherever we go, we bring them as gifts and we consume them all year round, at any time of the day and week. It’s not just for special occasions,” local pastry chef Gino Bernabotto told CNN.

He says they’re easy to make, with a few basic ingredients: flour, water and extra virgin olive oil for the wafer, which is molded in a heated metal press called ferrate, as well as local wildflower or acacia honey and premium roasted almonds from Puglia. campaign for filling. Sugar and cinnamon add to the taste.

“It’s a healthy snack without any added preservatives. The secret lies in the selection of almonds which must all be the same size, rather large, flat, with a regular surface and oval to stick well to the honey and to hold both together.” hosts,” says Bernabotto.

The almonds are used whole, and the delicate taste of the tender, ivory-colored wafers contrasts with the pungent golden filling.

Innocent mistake or edgy recipe?

Locals think they could have been a delightful mistake on the part of the nuns.

Locals think they could have been a delightful mistake on the part of the nuns.

Angelo Totaro

The legend goes ostia piena were the result of a culinary error made by the Poor Clare sisters of the convent in the 17th century when they baked a cake with a mixture of honey and almonds and inadvertently dropped a hot spoonful of it on the floor or counter of the kitchen.

To pick it up and avoid burning herself, instead of a spoon, the pious sister used a host that they were also preparing for the next Sunday mass. The honey stuck to the wafer so perfectly that the boner turned into a deliciously sinful treat.

Another version of the tale says that the nuns used two wafers to scoop up some almonds that had mistakenly fallen into a jar of honey, then stuck them together, like a sandwich.

However, other locals believe that it was actually an intentional creation and that ostia piena are a real recipe invented by the nuns in the form of sweet treats, probably with leftovers or imperfect wafers. In the past, convents were places where both food and wafers were prepared, as well as honey, and some of Italy’s most beloved desserts were first prepared by nuns.

According to local historian and author Alberto Cavallini, the nuns used what was always available inside their kitchen: round hosts, almonds picked from the convent groves, and honey from the convent beehives.

“The nuns regularly made the hosts by baking them on iron plates and then cutting the edges to give them a round shape – this recurring preparation probably inspired them to also create a biscuit made in the same way,” says Cavallini.

Whether it’s a kitchen slip or not, historical records confirm the origins.

In 2015, documents found by Cavallini confirmed ostia piena were traditional biscuits prepared within the walls of the cloister and offered to guests and pilgrims.

“There is a 17th century abbot of Naples, called Giovan Battista Pacichelli, who visits the village and writes in his travel memoirs that the nuns of Monte Sant’Angelo made delicious wafers stuffed with almonds and honey for the feast of Saint Michel.” said Cavallini.

In one of his books, Cavallini also mentions the diary of a 17th century nun called Donna Constantia Jordana who writes that her abbess welcomed priests and travelers visiting the village during religious celebrations with the ostia piena “prepared by us sisters.”

Shipped across the kingdom

Cookies have a centuries-old history.

Cookies have a centuries-old history.

Angelo Totaro

Two hundred years later, according to another source discovered by the authorities of Monte Sant’Angelo, the Neapolitan cook Vincenzo Corrado, who worked in aristocratic houses, writes about the success of ostia piena.

In one of his essays on gastronomy, Corrado reports that by the 19th century convent biscuits had become so fashionable that they were sold and shipped throughout the southern kingdom of Naples.

Their popularity was largely due to the delicious local nuts. The ancient groves of almond trees that dot the hills of Gargano with white flowers that bloom in spring and grow spontaneously on abandoned land are seen by locals as a symbol of prosperity and well-being.

The musician Peppe Totaro, who comes from a family of pastry cooks and who every year organizes the tarantella popular music festival of Monte Sant’Angelo, with typical food stalls and heaps of biscuits, still remembers when, at the age of 10, he had helped his father to prepare the host.

“We had to weigh and measure each almond to make sure they were all similar and of regular size. The farmers would come with their carts full and we would sit there for hours analyzing them all.

In the Roman Catholic Church’s “great jubilee” year 2000, visitors who flocked to Monte Sant’Angelo were amazed to see cookies with such odd shapes, Totaro says, that they thought were from true gourmet sacramental wafers.

Totaro wishes to emphasize an essential distinction: “The ostia piena the dough is made in the same way as the hosts, but the hosts only become sacramental during Holy Communion. These are just cookies.”

Served with an alcoholic side

Almonds should be selected to be the same size and shape.

Almonds should be selected to be the same size and shape.

Angelo Totaro

Piena of Ostia come in all sizes and are more oval than round. Even though each village patisserie and each household make their own variations, the traditional ones are huge as a hand – exactly the same size as the main host held by the priest at the altar.

There are also smaller hostless popular, about the same size as a medal, which are cut from the larger wafer with a stamp.

Prices are reasonable: Bernabotto sells a box of 20 small biscuits for €5 (about $5) while four large wafers cost €4.

“They are very nutritious, almonds and honey are energy boosters and their benefits have been re-evaluated by nutritionists. It’s a simple, minimalist cookie but with rich ingredients,” he says.

Totaro warns not to add too much sugar or the host will be too sweet and hard to chew, and suggests that a simple squeeze of lemon will make them even more tender.

The best way to savor ostia piena is with a homemade bay liqueur after the meal or with the famous alcoholic drink of Monte Sant’Angelo Limolivo, made from olive oil leaves.

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