It’s no secret that Fridays and Saturdays are the best days of the week, and that hasn’t changed since I’ve started my time at the Azienda Agricola Rubino.
For me, Fridays mean a full day of baking. From the time I wake up until dinner time, and sometimes after, I get to be buried in flour, sugar, and eggs. My Happy Place. Baking here on the farm isn’t the same as at home. Baking at home is full of decadence; exotic ingredients, so much butter, sugar, and eggs. Not that I’m complaining. It’s delicious. But baking here requires so much more forethought and care in choosing ingredients. As I’m sure you can imagine, life as a farmer does not equate to being wealthy. While you would think that being surrounded with the most wonderful, fresh ingredients would mean you always eat well, that’s not necessarily the case. Everything that you eat, you cannot sell to someone else, no cash flow. Don’t get me wrong, we eat really well. Thank baby Jesus for stretchy pants. But we eat very simply. And we bake very simply.
For example, butter is outside the price range of this family, but they make their own olive oil, and have cases of it. So we changed a biscotti recipe from using butter to using the oil, and it made it a much more affordable cookie to both eat and sell. Also, I dont know if it’s because of exchange of oil for butter, or because my very capable hands lovingly crafted these glorious biscotti, but I think they are better this way. Simona and Michele agree.
500 mg farina (flour- all purpose)
200 mg zucchero (sugar)
2 uova (eggs)
132 ml olio d’olivo (olive oil)
100 mg cioccolata (chocolate- grated)
Pinch sale (salt) e bicarbonata (baking soda)
Oven, preferably a wood burning oven for authenticity, at 200 degrees Celsius. Combine dry ingredients on your marble countertop (or, if you must, in a bowl or mixer). Then add the wet ingredients a little at a time, creating a bowl out of the dry ingredients and mixing with your hands ( or, throw all the dry ingredients in your mixer and turn it on). If the dough is not quite the right consistency, add a little bit of milk until it feels right, not too sticky, able to be rolled out. Then mix in the grated chocolate.
Pick off fist size peices of dough, roll into a ball, and then roll flat. Use a glass or a cookie cutter to cut out shapes, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and place in the oven anywhere from 10-25 minutes, depending on which type of wood you used and how hot it’s burning at the time (or you wait for me to get back to the States and try in a regular oven and I’ll let you know the actual time.) If you’re comfortable, just put them in the oven until they are crisp but not yet brown and especially not burnt!
Remove from sheet immediately, and place in a basket with a towel, and move to a cookie jar once cooled. Enjoy with milk, wine, friends, or sell at the market tomorrow in Rome!
I have been very blessed with some wonderful Saturdays here on the farm. Every Saturday, the collaborative agricultural group, Terra e Mani, hold their market at La Agricola Rubino. It’s an eclectic group; handwoven baskets, jams, pestos and sauces, bread, sweets, wine and grappa. In past weekends, we have held lunches inside for about 15 people. But this week, somehow I got so lucky that I was left alone at the table. I got to watch people talk in this beautiful foreign language that I love listening to. Even though I can’t understand, it’s like a lullaby. And then the sun came out for the first time in too long, and warmed my bones and woke up my brain to the inspiration that was in front of me. And that’s where I am now, as I write this. With the bright sun warming my ‘so pale I’m almost transparent’ arms.