Growing up in a close-knit, Italian American family, Maria Bruscino Sanchez was surrounded by tradition: food, customs, and celebrations from the "old country" were lovingly observed, and if the original meaning was sometimes hidden beneath the patina of a new culture, the respect and desire to stay connected to the past remained. As an adult, Sanchez turned family tradition into her livelihood, opening Sweet Maria's bakery in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she re-created the cakes and cookies of her youth--but with a distinctly American twist. With Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray
, Sanchez offers her culinary treasures to an even wider audience; recipes range from drop and molded cookies to filled ones, biscotti and biscuits, taralle and pizelles, and many more. Cookie lovers will find plenty to devour in this compilation of Italian American favorites.
A few years ago, only a handful of Americans appreciated Italian cookies beyond the familiar amaretti. An explosion of interest in Italian cooking has changed all that, and biscotti and pizelles now appear in restaurants and bakeries from coast to coast. Sanchez, bakery owner from Waterbury, Connecticut, has built a business based on production of Italian cookies, and she now shares her recipes. Some Italian cookies, such as nut-studded biscotti, require special techniques, being twice baked (the literal meaning of biscotto). Others, including bar and drop cookies, more directly recall typical American cookies. Frizzelle, spiked with both fennel seeds and a prodigious quantity of black pepper, add a new dimension to the cookie baker's art. Sanchez's precise directions ensure consistent results in the home kitchen, but not all her required ingredients may be readily available in areas lacking Italian markets. Mark Knoblauch