(CNN) – Crunchy yet tender, sweet and high in calories, sandwiched between two slices of Christian communion wafers is a special Italian snack.
The whole hostsor “filled hosts” — a delicious mixture of almonds and honey filled between two wafers — is one of Italy’s most delicious cookies.
And they could also be one of his most sacrilegious, if not, of course, the two thin translucent wafers that seek to attract taste buds that have not been consecrated by a priest.
Called otie ckiene in the local dialect, they are a traditional sugar sweet from Monte Sant’Angelo, a village in the Gargano National Park in Puglia.
Monte Sant’Angelo has layers of fascinating whitewashed houses and a cave church believed to have been consecrated by the Archangel Michael, which has been an important pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages.
The natives are very religious, but also sweet, and see nothing sacrilegious. whole hostswhich are said to have been created at least 500 years ago within the convent of Santissima Trinità.
A spiritual calling card
Monte Sant’Angelo is an important pilgrimage site of the Catholic faith.
Spirituality and cakes are closely related here.
“I’ve been doing it whole hosts For 40 years, they have been part of our tradition, on our business card: wherever we go, we bring them as gifts and we eat them all year round, at any time of the day or week. They’re not just for special occasions,” local pastry chef Gino Bernabotto told CNN.
He says they’re easy to make, with just a few basic ingredients: flour, water and extra virgin olive oil, which is shaped inside a heated metal press called a ferrate, plus local wildflower or acacia honey and excellent toasted Puglia almonds. to fill the field Sugar and cinnamon add flavor.
“It’s a healthy snack, without added preservatives. The secret lies in the selection of almonds, they should all be the same size, fairly large, flat, even and oval in order to stick well to the honey and hold the two together. host,” says Bernabotto.
Almonds are used whole, and the subtle flavor of the ivory-colored wafers contrasts with the richly flavored golden filling.
Innocent mistake or honest recipe?
The locals think it could have been a delicious mistake by the nuns.
Legend has it whole hosts They were the result of a cooking mistake made by convent sisters in the 19th century while preparing a cake with a honey-almond mixture, and they accidentally dropped a scalding spoon on the floor or on the kitchen table.
In order to throw and not burn, instead of a spoon, the pious sister used a communion wafer, which they were also preparing for next Sunday’s mass. The honey stuck to the wafer so perfectly that the void became sinfully delicious.
Another version of the story says that the nuns used two wafers to catch some almonds that had accidentally fallen into a jar of honey, and then stuck them together, like a sandwich.
However, other citizens believe that it was actually a deliberate creation and that whole hosts they are an actual recipe invented by nuns as sugary treats, probably with leftover wafers or bugs. In the past, convents were places where food and wafers were prepared, along with honey, and some of Italy’s best-loved desserts were first made by nuns.
According to local historian and author Alberto Cavallini, the nuns used what was always available in the kitchen: round communion wafers, almonds from the convent’s forests and honey from the convent’s beehives.
“The nuns regularly made communion cups by cooking them in iron plates and then cutting the edges to give them a round shape; this repeated preparation probably inspired them to create a cookie made in the same way,” says Cavallini.
Whether it’s a kitchen card or not, historical records attest to its provenance.
In 2015, the documents discovered by Cavallini were confirmed whole hosts they were traditional cookies prepared on the walls of the cloister and given to guests and pilgrims.
“There is a 17th-century abbot of Naples, named Giovan Battista Pacichelli, who visits the town and writes in his travel memoirs that the nuns of Monte Sant’Angelo made excellent wafers filled with almonds and honey for the feast of St. Michael.” says Cavallini.
In one of his books, Cavallini also cites the diary of a 17th-century nun named Donna Constantia Jordana, who reported that her abbess would welcome priests and travelers visiting the town during religious celebrations. whole hosts “Prepared by us sisters.”
Sent across the kingdom
Cookies have a centuries-old history.
Two hundred years later, according to another source discovered by the authorities of Monte Sant’Angelo, the Neapolitan chef Vincenzo Corrado, who worked in aristocratic houses, wrote about the success. whole hosts.
In one of his gastronomic essays, Corrado says that the XIX. By the 16th century, convent cookies had become so fashionable that they were being sold and shipped throughout the southern kingdom of Naples.
Their popularity was largely due to the delicious local nuts. The hills of Gargano are sprinkled with white flowers in spring and the ancient almond trees that grow naturally on abandoned land are considered by the locals to be a symbol of prosperity and well-being.
Musician Peppe Totaro, who comes from a family of confectioners and organizes the popular music tarantella of Monte Sant’Angelo every year, complete with typical food stalls and piles of cookies, still remembers when he was 10 years old. help father prepare Hosts.
“We had to weigh and measure each almond to make sure they were all the same and regular in size. Farmers would come with carts full and we’d be there for hours, examining them all.”
During the Roman Catholic Church’s “great jubilee” year of 2000, visitors to Monte Sant’Angelo were surprised to see such oddly shaped cookies, says Totoro, thinking they were true gourmet sacramental wafers.
Totoro wants to emphasize a key distinction: “The whole hosts the dough is made like a wafer, but the wafer becomes a sacrament only in holy communion. These are just cookies.”
Served with a delicious side
Almonds should be selected to be of uniform size and shape.
Full host they come in all sizes, and are oval rather than round. Even though every pastry shop and house in the town makes its own variations, the traditional ones are large in the hand, the same size as the main wafer that the priest has on the altar.
There are also smaller ones Hostsless popular, the same size as a medal, cut from a larger wafer with a stamp.
Prices are reasonable: Bernabotto sells a box of 20 small cookies for 5 euros (about $5), while four large wafers cost 4 euros.
“They are very nutritious, almonds and honey are energy boosters and their benefits have been re-evaluated by nutritionists. It is a simple and minimalist cookie, but with rich ingredients,” he says.
Totoro warns not to add too much sugar or Hosts it will be too sweet and too hard to bite, and a drop of lemon suggests that it will make them even softer.
The best way to enjoy it whole hosts after the meal with a homemade bay liqueur or Monte Sant’Angelo’s famous alcoholic drink Limolivo, made from olive oil leaves.