Brushwood Cookies – Traditional Ancient Roman Pastry With a French-Italian twist!
CChiacchiere, Bugnes, or Khvorst, Brushwood cookies come under many names. But there is one thing that they have in common in every language, and that is - they are delicious!
Although I’m not a huge fan of deep-fried pastries, if I were supposed to name one that I genuinely like, it would unquestionably be the Brushwood. Popular in many European countries, Brushwood cookies originated in ancient Roman cuisine where they were served after dinner, with sweet fruits due to the lack of natural sweetener like sugar that nowadays coats their surface.
Traditionally eaten in the carnival, to this day, Brushwood cookies appear in bakeries during that time.
There are a couple of international variations to this dessert. In France, Brushwood can be very crispy with the pastry being brittle – or it can be soft, where the pastry is much thicker and looks like a pillow, which makes it slightly more doughy and delicate. In Italy, Brushwood cookies are sometimes served with orange zest or anisette as an alcoholic base that gives a bit more vibrance to their overall mild taste.
When I make this dessert at home, I usually combine French and Italian versions adding a tiny bit of orange zest into the pastry and making it slightly thicker for the extra softness.
1.5 glasses of wheat cake flour
3 medium-sized eggs
3/4 glass of milk
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of whiskey or other strong alcohol
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
350 ml of plant oil for frying
Additionally: high-quality frying pan or pot, zester, sieve with a handle, paper towels for draining the excess oil.
Carefully zest orange skin with a zester to get one tablespoon of orange zest. Place flour, eggs, and milk in a bowl. Mix everything thoroughly. Add two tablespoons of strong alcohol (f.e whiskey), two spoons of icing sugar, orange zest, and baking powder. Mix everything until smooth. Using a pin, roll the dough into a flat sheet. Cut the sheet into small rectangles. Make a slit in the middle of each rectangle and put the end of each piece through the slit.
In a deep frying pan, heat the oil. When the oil is searing, gently place the pastry in the frying oil. When the dough becomes firm and turns into golden color, carefully flip it to the other side. After a minute, take out the pastry and place it on the paper towel. Generously sprinkle it with icing sugar and voilà! The dessert is ready.
Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world,
had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon
and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.