Fregolotta – Giant Italian Crumb Cookie

Fregolotta - Giant Italian Crumb Cookie by Dinnerinvenice.com

The episode of the madeleine in Marcel Proust’s epic novel In Search of Lost Time is probably the most famous example in Western literature of how a particular flavor can elicit a stream of rich and intimate memories. Even those of you not particularly familiar with French literature will remember the basic outline: the grownup narrator dips a cookie in tea, which causes him to reminisce so intensely about childhood afternoons at his aunt’s home, that he follows with 3,000 pages of such fond memories.

Proust madeleine Collage

Of course you don’t need to be French to have a favorite childhood sweet. Yours could as well be brownies; while for many Northern Italians in my generation, the cliché cookie is actually a giant crumble, as big as a cake. Whether home-baked or packaged in its distinctive clear wrapping, this is what I fought over with my dad, to the point that we would each lock up our half, to protect it from the other’s attacks. This is what I munched on with my friend Rachele on countless afternoons, between homework and daydreaming of our high school crushes.

In the Veneto, we have Fregolotta (from the local dialect word for crumb: “fregola”) or Rosegota (from the word for “crunching on”), depending on the area. In Mantova, it’s Sbrisolona (from “brisola”).

Fregolotta Giant Italian Crumb Cookie Collage by DinnerinVenice

The ingredients are slightly different, depending on the area and the baker, but what they do have in common is the crunchy, crumbly texture – which gives you a great excuse to dip into cappuccino, wine, or even grappa- and the fact that they are impossible to cut with a knife. Having to use your hands adds an element of playfulness that can turn any get-together from formal to fun, or even romantic.

Of course that’s assuming you are willing to share. If you have a sweet tooth, this could present a challenge.

Fregolotta - Giant Italian Crumb Cookie by DinnerInVenice

 

Fregolotta – Giant Italian Crumb Cookie (classic, from Castelfranco Veneto)

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups flour (a little over 1 lb)
  • large pinch salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar (plus more to decorate)
  • grated zest of 1 lemon and/or 1 shot grappa, if liked
  • 1/4 cup fresh cream (you'll use less, but just in case)
  • 2 egg yolks (optional)
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • handful of almonds to decorate

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Sift the flour with the salt and combine with the sugar. Butter a 10" round baking pan or pie dish, and line it with parchment. Whisk the cream with the yolks until they are well combined. Some people use only the cream, without the eggs.

Wet your (very clean!) fingers in the mix of eggs and cream, dip them into the flour and then rub your hands against each other over the flour. You will create 'fregole' (large crumbs of dough), which you will drop into the dish as they come, or press into larger "crumbs". Honestly, you can also process the ingredients very quickly (start with only 2-3 tbsp cream, and add more only as needed) in a food processor, pulsing until the mixture forms crumbs and is evenly moistened. However, the traditional method is much more fun!

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan until they all touch, and bake the Fregolotta at 350 F for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool completely on a rack before unmolding. Serve at room temperature with a cup of hot coffee, or a glass of prosecco.

*** this is the traditional Fregolotta from Castelfranco Veneto, near Treviso. Another famous crumb cookie of this type is the Sbrisolona, from Mantova, which contains eggs, ground almonds, and a mix of flour and sometimes corn meal. I also added that recipe in case you like "richer" flavors.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/05/28/fregolotta-giant-italian-crumb-cookie/

Giant Italian Crumb Cookie with Almonds

Ingredients

  • 2 scant cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal ("polenta")
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teasp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (unsalted), cold, cubed. (plus more for greasing the pan)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • grated zest of 1 organic lemon
  • 1 small shot grappa or liqueur if liked

Directions

This second version of the Crumb Cookie was given to me by my mom's friend Fausta, and the added almonds and cornmeal show the influence of the Sbrisolona cake from Mantua.

Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Line a 10-inch round pie pan with parchment and grease with butter..

Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely ground, about 20-30 seconds. Add the, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and pulse for 30 more seconds until combined.Add the chopped butter butter and pulse until all the ingredient start combining into "crumbs".

Add the yolks, lemon zest (and a shot of grappa if liked) and pulse until combined into a mixture of more or less even crumbs.

Press the crumbs into the prepared pan, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until golden and firm.

Allow to cool before unmolding.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/05/28/fregolotta-giant-italian-crumb-cookie/
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Comments

  1. When it comes to cookies, the “gianter” the better. These look like my kind of cookie. Btw, did you know that Proust’s male main character was based on Charles Ephrussi, scion of the great Jewish banking family from Odessa?

  2. I absolutely LOVE sbrisolona so I know I will love fregolotta! Maybe a comparison taste testing is in the future….

  3. Oh, how I wish I could have a bit if this right now with my coffee! What a lovely recipe- I have a penchant for crumble cookies like this :)

  4. Coffee is not complete without a nice Italian cookie to dip into it. I will try the classic recipe without butter. Very interesting…

  5. This is my kind of cookie – this with a cup of coffee would be perfection!

  6. I love dipping my cookies in milk or coffee or cappuccino but never thought about dipping cookies in wine. You Italians sure know how to do it!

    • Hey Jamie! The famous “biscotti” (which we call “cantuccini” in Italian) are actually meant to be dipped in Vin Santo (“holy” wine), a traditional Tuscan dessert wine (as strong as a sherry!) made from white Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes….

  7. I can just picture a lazy Italian afternoon, dunking my giant cookie in a cappuccino. Sounds like heaven.

  8. Giant cookies are fantastic! You can say you only ate one :) These sound so delicious!

  9. Oh, I wish I had some to dunk into my freshly brewed espresso… You live too far away!!!

  10. I love your description of eating this cookie, it is wonderful! I love cookies in all forms and this sounds like the perfect afternoon indulgence.

  11. Sina @ the kosher spoon says:

    Amazing giant cookie! It’s amazing how certain things can elicit so much nostalgia.

  12. We are cookie lovers in my family, we would love this, maybe I will make it for my husband’s birthday.

  13. I would definitely love this cookie. I was trained in french pastry and I kind of feel like I’m missing out on all these amazing Italian delights!

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