Christmas Baking in Le Marche

As in all places, there are special foods made around Christmas.

Perhaps my very favorite is a specialty of our region called Fristingo or Frustingo.

fristingo

It has it’s history in peasant cooking…you took what you had on hand, added a few expensive treats and voilà you have a Christmas treat.

Farmers had, of course homemade alcohol of various sorts, dried figs, dried grapes (raisins) and nuts. Things that today are expensive treats.

Back then, the exotic ingredients were the chocolate, sugar and coffee!

Here at Lavanda Blu we have the good fortune of having many fig trees, which every year we harvest and dry lots of figs. We also have some nut trees.

Every family and bakery has its own recipe and honestly they are all good!

So, here is the recipe I’ve come to settle on as my favorite by experimenting with different quantities and ingredients every year. As an aside, my daughter, who cannot eat wheat, can enjoy this as it is not only wheat free, but gluten free.

This makes 2 loaf pans, about 5” x 9” (12cm x 23cm)

I’ve written the recipe in metric, easily converted into imperial by my favorite conversion site: convertme.com, which has a special section for cooking! http://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/cooking#subs

1 kg. dried figs (I use black figs)

200 grams vino cotto (you can use Marsala or any sweet fortified wine)

500gr chopped mixed nuts (I use a handful of pine nuts and approx. equal bits of almonds and walnuts)

200gr raisins

1 large cup espresso coffee (about 4-5 espresso cups)

250gr corn flour (finely ground corn meal or polenta, NOT corn starch)

100gr cocoa powder

100gr dark chocolate, chopped fine

200gr white sugar

1 wine glass dark rum or whiskey

1 glass vinio cotto (or any sweet wine like Marsala)

200gr extra virgin olive oil

Grated zest of 1 lemon

½ wine glass of arancino (an orange liquor, you could use orange juice)

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of cinnamon

The day before: chop the dried figs and cook them in the 200gr of vino cotto and enough water until they soften some. Let them sit overnight in the liquid.

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon, adding the corn flour last.

Mix well.

Let sit for about an hour so the flavors meld.

Preheat the oven to 180°c

Butter 2 loaf pans, coat with corn flour then divide the batter into them.

Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, decorate with some nuts and cook, watching to make sure they don’t burn for about 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean (like a brownie)

Cool, the serve sliced thinly with a glass of vino cotto.

Fristingo keeps for some weeks if covered and cool. It also freezes well.

Buon Natale!

christmas baking in italy

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