Friday, November 25, 2011


In a prior post I shared a recipe for Meini o Pani de Mei (here) from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker [1985]. Field writes that these cornmeal buns are a specialty of Italy’s Lombardy region. To celebrate the recent publication of a revised version of The Italian Baker, let’s explore another corn-based offering from Field’s excellent work: a delicious, buttery cornmeal biscotti from the Piedmont called Crumiri.

Field describes Crumiri as “delicate, crumbly horseshoe-shaped cookies”. The origin of Crumiri (sometimes called Crumiri di Casale or Krumiri ) dates back to the late 1800’s when a baker named Domenico Rossi invented the cookie after a night of social drinking in the town of Casale Monferrato in the Piedmont’s Alessandria province. What inspired Signore Rossi on that eventful evening in 1870? The cookie’s own name suggests inspiration came in the form of a then popular liqueur called Krumiro.

Crumiri generally come shaped as the horseshoe described by Field or as a gentle arc that purposely resembles the remarkable mustache of Vittorio Emanuele II. Cookie lore has it that in 1878 Rossi reshaped his Krumiri into a mustachioed form to recall the whiskers of the recently deceased king. Did this new shape do justice to the exemplar? You be the judge.

Being partial to butter and corn in almost any combination, I would like Crumiri even without its colorful history. I have a number of recipes for this biscotti; Field’s version tastes more refined than most with just the right amount of cornmeal. The recipe’s parenthetical comments belong to Field.

  • 1½ sticks plus 2 tablespoons (200 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1¾ cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (120 grams) fine yellow cornmeal

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Shift the flour, salt and cornmeal together and sift again over the batter; mix well.

Shaping. You can shape these cookies either with a pastry bag or by hand (I think the latter is easier). If using a pastry bag, spoon the dough into the bag fitted with a 3/8-inch star-shaped tip (the traditional cookies are ribbed.) Pipe 4-inch-long logs, ½ inch thick, about 2 inches apart on buttered and floured or parchment-lined baking sheets. Or, roll pieces of the dough, each about the size of a walnut, into long thin logs of the same dimensions. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bend each piped or rolled log into a horseshoe.

Baking.  Heat the oven to 325º F. Bake until lightly golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Field’s recipe makes two dozen cookies. I think the ridges distinguish these biscotti, so I use a pastry bag and star-shaped tip when making them. If you decide to pipe the dough, be sure to cream the butter, sugar and eggs thoroughly; otherwise the cookies will spread and flatten out during baking and you will lose the Crumiri’s traditional ridges. One approach: using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar in a mixer set on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes.  After reducing the speed to low to add the eggs, increase the mixer’s speed to medium-high and cream for 8 minutes. Quickly mix in the dry ingredients and you are ready to bake.