Thursday, February 16, 2012
Angelo Brocato's, $.40/ea
Continuing my tour of Sicily by way of New Orleans, I present the scadalina, or "dead man's bones" cookie.
Angelo Brocato opened his first gelateria in New Orleans' French Quarter in 1905, using techniques and recipes learned during his apprenticeship in Sicily. In the 1970s, the shop moved out to its current location on Carrollton Avenue--appropriately enough, an easy walk from streetcars running on the "Cemeteries" line.
Inside the cheerful parlor, chilled cases display a huge selection of Italian and Sicilian delicacies: pastries and candy, gelato and ices, composed desserts such as cassata and torroncino. I could easily have whiled away hours sampling my way from left to right if not for the glass jar filled with somber scadalini, lurking on the counter like a mouth-watering momento mori. I ordered a cup of pistachio gelato and passionfruit ice, and a "bone cookie".
Texturally, scadalini are more terracotta than pastry: that white cylinder is crisp and nearly hollow, the clove-infused cookie dense and chewy, underpinned by a glassy skin of caramelized sugar. I believe that these cookies are an example of pasta forte, a type of pastry dough developed in Sicily and better suited to the island's climate than are doughs reliant on eggs, butter, or yeast.
Pasta forte is made from just sugar, flour, and just a touch of water; typically, ground cloves are the only other flavoring that might be added. The stiff mass is kneaded well, then formed (with their religious significance, bone shapes are common)and left to air dry for a few days. Just before baking, the cookies are sprayed with water; the heat of the oven dries out the dough and causes the bottoms to glaze over.
Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream Parlor
214 N Carrollton Ave
New Orleans, LA