Mostaccioli, a delectable Italian sweet, is a classic dessert known for its rich, spicy flavor and distinct oblong shape. These cookies are typically made from a blend of honey, flour, ground almonds, and a variety of spices, including cinnamon and cloves. Once baked, they are often dipped in a rich chocolate glaze or dusted with powdered sugar, adding a layer of sweetness that complements the spiciness of the cookie. Mostaccioli are a delightful treat enjoyed in various regions of Italy, especially during festive occasions and holidays.
Origins and History:
Mostaccioli have a history that stretches back through the annals of Italian culinary traditions. Their origins can be traced to ancient Rome, where a similar sweet called “mustaceum” was created. This early form of Mostaccioli was made by mixing grape must (crushed grapes with juice, skin, seeds, and stems) with honey, wheat, and spices. The resulting dough was then shaped into small, sweet cakes, which were enjoyed as a delicacy.
As the centuries passed, the recipe for Mostaccioli evolved, and the use of grape must was replaced with honey, sugar, or molasses. The spices in the cookies became more varied, typically including cinnamon, cloves, and sometimes cocoa powder, which added a depth of flavor.
Mostaccioli are especially associated with religious celebrations in southern Italy, where they have been prepared for centuries. They are closely tied to the tradition of “Festa dei Morti” (Festival of the Dead) and “All Souls’ Day,” a day dedicated to remembering and praying for the deceased. Families would bake and offer Mostaccioli as a symbol of remembrance and respect for their departed loved ones.
Today, Mostaccioli remains a cherished Italian dessert, often enjoyed during special occasions and holidays. They are made with love and precision, with each family often having its unique variation of the recipe, passed down through generations. Whether dipped in chocolate or dusted with powdered sugar, Mostaccioli are a delightful sweet treat that carries with it the essence of Italy’s ancient culinary traditions and the spirit of celebration that has characterized the country for centuries.
History: Mostaccioli is a traditional Italian cookie that originated in the Campania region of Southern Italy. These spiced and honey-flavored cookies were traditionally prepared for special occasions and holidays, particularly during Christmas time.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
In a separate saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, water, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves
Pour the hot honey mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well until a dough forms. If using walnuts, stir them into the dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times until smooth.
Divide the dough into portions and roll each portion into a log about 1/2-inch (1.3cm) in diameter.
Cut the logs into 3-inch (7.6cm) lengths and place them on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them apart.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes or until firm to the touch.
Remove the mostaccioli from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack
Serve Mostaccioli as delightful spiced cookies with a cup of tea or coffee. Makes about 24 cookies.