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Puglia seems to be the “it-girl” of the moment. Almost everyone I talk to who is remotely interested in Italy has just been there, has a house there or is desperately trying to get there. I don’t blame them; it is spectacularly beautiful yet humble, a narrow peninsula bathed by water on three sides, with rolling hills of red earth dotted by ancient olive trees, biscuit-coloured villages that are still off the beaten track of many tourist buses and the most generous locals. It has a gentle simplicity and unpretentiousness that stays in your head for months after you visit. I am lucky enough to have been there quite a lot in the last few years and am so looking forward to returning there in May 2020 for my second tour with Southern Visions Travel.

In addition to the physical beauty of the Salento there is, of course, the food. I cannot rave enough about the simple beauty of the food. One of the traditional biscuits (cookies) that are eaten for a sweet breakfast or morning tea is intorchiate.The word literally means twisted or tangled, and it refers to the shape of the biscuits, that are often referred to as Intorchiate pugliesi. Ropes of dough made with flour, sugar, olive oil and wine, with just a bit of butter are twisted into shape, and whole almonds are placed where the strands of dough cross over (see image on the right below). Finally sugar is scattered on them before baking. Though I love the traditional version, I decided to add a bit of Sicily to the recipe. That may sounds a bit odd but while I was making them one day, I thought that their simplicity was a bit like that of Sicilian lemon taralli and decided to add a bit of lemon, to make a sort of hybrid. So in went the lemon zest (which I just love). Unlike the traditional intorchiate, I did not scatter sugar on before baking. If you have a sweet tooth, you might like to add an additional 20g sugar to the recipe (which is the amount I reduced it from this recipe) plus scatter sugar on the biscuits before placing the almonds (ie. before baking). The way the almonds are placed on the biscuits means you get a mouthful of roasted almond with each bite in addition to the lemon – just delicious.

And while we are on all things Puglia, there are still places available on the Southern Adriatic tour I am running with Southern Visions Travel from 1 – 7 May 2020. Although I have not had intorchiate on our breakfasts, there have been incredible spreads of food at the two masserie we stay in during the six nights of the tour: local focaccia with cheese and the sweetest tomatoes, cereals and creamy yoghurt, seasonal fruit and jams and of course freshly made cakes (there is nothing wrong with eating cake for breakfast – you are on holidays after all) and the best coffee. The intorchiate will make a great addition though, maybe I should suggest them to the kitchens at the masserie where we are staying! Please drop me a line if you would like any information about the tour. Click here for the link to the tour page. I cannot wait to be back!

intorchiate with lemon and almonds

makes about 14

80ml dry white wine
60ml olive oil
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
good pinch salt
60g sugar
30g butter, softened
1 lemon, zest only
42 whole small almonds (3 per biscuit, depends on how many biscuits you make)

Place the wine and oil in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place the flour, baking powder in another bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir with a spoon until combined. Stir in the sugar, butter and lemon zest. Tip out onto your work surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough is homogenous and smooth.

Preheat the oven to 170C (static) and line a tray of baking paper. Break off small apricot size balls of dough (mine were 33g in weight) and roll them out one at a time on your work surface evenly until each one forms a rope of 22cm in length. Fold the rope in half and twist it, laying it on your baking tray. You should have three distinct crevices on the top of the biscuit where the dough twists over. Insert and almond in each of the crevices.

Bake for 22 minutes; the biscuits will be pale golden on top and a bit darker underneath. Place the biscuits on a tray to cool.

They have a lovely crispness when eaten on the day they are baked. They soften a bit the next day but are equally nice, especially if dipped in coffee. Store in an airtight container for a couple of days.

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