Holiday Treats from Ustica


By Chris Caravella
We made 5 dinner plate sized mounds of gigi from this recipe.   Gigi are essentially deep-fried pastry dough and nuts glued together into a sweet sticky pile.   Begin by lightly roasting 1/4 pound each of whole blanched (no skin) almonds and chopped pecans.   Nuts will burn quickly so keep the oven low about 250 degrees and check often after 5 minutes or so.   You want to be able to smell that they are cooking and then remove them from the oven quickly.
1/4 lb chopped pecans
1/4 lb whole blanched almonds

Now let's put the scanatura into action.   Mound the flour and dig a pit into the center of the mound.   Crack the eggs and pour them into the center of the mound.   Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of olive oil and begin working the flour into the mixture.

2 lbs flour (Gold Medal unbleached preferred)
8   eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
   olive oil

Kneading is crucial.   Keep adding small amounts of olive oil until the dough is consistenly mixed.   After that, keep kneading for at least 5 minutes.   The dough is done when it is consistently mixed and springs back when pulled.

Take roughly 3 inch chunks of dough and begin rolling them by hand into long strings about 3/8 inch thick.   Slice the strings diagonally creating 1/2 inch dough bits.   The size of the bits is a matter of preference, so you can make them smaller or larger.

Now it's time to fry the dough bits.   Heat some oil in a pot.   You can tell that it's hot enough if drops of water crackle when hitting the hot oil.   Dump in some pastry dough bits and let them cook until they puff up and split.   They should be a nice golden brown, too.   The photo shows the gigi before, during and after.   Let the fried bits drain in a collander placed over a pan or some paper towels.
Now that the gigi are fried, it's time to prepare the syrup.   First zest the rind of one lemon, cut the lemon in half and juice the lemon.   Keep the juiced lemon remains.   We'll need them for later.   Pour all of the dark Caro syrup and sugar into a pot and begin cooking over a medium heat.   Cook the mixture until the granulated sugar dissolves.   If you suspend the syrup laden spoon over the pot and it runs clear, you're done.   You can also use the "softball method" common in making fudge to determine if the liquid is done.   Drip a dollup of hot syrup mixture into cold water and if the goo balls together and does not dissolve into the water, it's done.   Finally, add the lemon zest and juice, and mix well.
1 16 oz dark Caro Syrup
or Steen's Cane Syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1   lemon rind zested
   juice of one lemon

Pour the fried Gigi, whole almonds and chopped pecans into the syrup mixture.   Mix well making sure to coat all of the dry ingredients.   A well mixed Gigi will have little syrup left at the bottom of the pot.

Pour the wet Gigi onto plates and poof up into a mound using the juiced lemon remains.   Sift powdered sugar and nutmeg (or cinnamon) onto the Gigi mound.   The Gigi will not dry hard but will be sticky and easy to pull apart and devour.