The scandalous ‘ostie piene’ cookies of Italy’s Monte Sant’Angelo

(CNN) – Crunchy yet tender, sweet and high in calories, there is a special Italian snack that is sandwiched between two pieces of wafers for Christian communion.

The full hostor “stuffed hosts” — a delicious mixture of almonds and honey stuffed between two wafers — are one of Italy’s most delicious cakes.

And it might also be one of its most sacred if not for the fact that the two thin translucent wafers, meant to tantalize the taste buds with their sublime filling, were of course not consecrated by a priest.

Called ckie host in the local dialect, they are the traditional sugar delicacy of Monte Sant’Angelo, a village in the Gargano National Park in Puglia.

Monte Sant’Angelo has layers of dazzling white houses and a cave church believed to have been consecrated by the Archangel Michael, which has been an important place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages.

The locals are extremely religious, but also sweet and see nothing sacrilegious in it full hostwhich was said to have originated in the monastery of Santissima Trinità village at least 500 years ago.

A spiritual business card

Monte Sant'Angelo is an important pilgrimage site for the Catholic faith.

Monte Sant’Angelo is an important pilgrimage site for the Catholic faith.

Matteo Nuzziello

Spirituality and cakes here are deeply intertwined.

“I did full host for 40 years, they are part of our tradition, our calling card: wherever we go, we bring them as gifts and eat them all year round, at any time of the day and week. They’re not just for special occasions,” local pastry maker Gino Bernabotto told CNN.

He says they’re easy to make with a few basic ingredients: flour, water and extra virgin olive oil for the wafer, which is poured into a heated metal press called a ferrat, plus local wildflower or acacia honey and premium roasted almonds from Puglia. rural for filling. Sugar and cinnamon are added to flavor.

“It’s a healthy snack with no added preservatives. The secret lies in the selection of almonds which must all be the same size, quite large, flat, with an even and oval surface to stick well to the honey and hold the two together. hosts,” says Bernabotto.

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The almonds are used whole, and the delicate taste of the tender ivory wafers contrasts with the richly flavored golden filling.

Innocent mistake or nasty recipe?

Locals believe it could have been a delicious mistake by the nuns.

Locals believe it could have been a delicious mistake by the nuns.

Angelo Totaro

The legend says full host they were the result of a culinary mistake made by the Poor Clare sisters of the convent in the 17th century, while preparing a cake with a mixture of honey and almonds, and accidentally dropped a scalding spoon on the kitchen floor or counter.

In order to collect it and not be burned, instead of a spoon, the pious sister used a communion wafer that they were also preparing for the next Sunday liturgy. The honey stuck to the wafer so perfectly that the blunder turned into a deliciously sinful treat.

Another version of the story says that the nuns used two wafers to pick up some almonds that had accidentally dripped into a bowl of honey and then stuck them together, sandwich-style.

However, other locals believe that it was actually an intentional creation and that full host they are a real recipe invented by nuns as a sugary jam, probably with leftovers or flawed wafers. In the past, monasteries were places where both food and wafers were prepared, along with honey, and some of Italy’s most beloved desserts were first made by nuns.

According to local historian and author Alberto Cavallini, the nuns used what was always available in their kitchen: round wafers for communion, almonds picked from the convent’s groves, and honey from the convent’s beehives.

“Nuns regularly made communion wafers by cooking them on iron plates and then cutting the edges to give a round shape – this recurring dish probably inspired them to create a cookie made in the same way,” says Cavallini.

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Whether it was a kitchen sheet or not, historical records verify the origins.

In 2015, documents found by Cavallini confirmed full host they were traditional cakes prepared within the walls of the monastery and given to guests and pilgrims.

“There is a seventeenth-century abbot of Naples named Giovan Battista Pacichelli who visits the village and writes in his travelogue that the nuns of Monte Sant’Angelo made exquisite wafers filled with almonds and honey for the feast of Saint Michael “. says Cavallini.

In one of his books, Cavallini also mentions the diary of a 17th-century nun named Donna Constantia Jordana, who writes that her abbess would receive priests and travelers visiting the village during religious holidays with full host “prepared by us sisters”.

Shipped throughout the kingdom

Biscuits have a centuries-old history.

Biscuits have a centuries-old history.

Angelo Totaro

Two hundred years later, according to another source unearthed by the authorities of Monte Sant’Angelo, the Neapolitan chef Vincenzo Corrado who worked in aristocratic households writes about the success full host.

In one of his gastronomic essays, Corrado reports that by the 19th century the convent cakes had become so fashionable that they were sold and shipped throughout the Southern Kingdom of Naples.

Their popularity was largely due to the delicious local nuts. The old almond groves that dot the Gargano hills with white blossoms in spring and grow spontaneously 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 pastry chefs and organizes Monte Sant’Angelo’s tarantella folk music festival every year, with typical food stalls and piles of cakes, remembers when he was a 10-year-old child. help his father prepare spear.

“We had to weigh and measure each almond to make sure they were all similar and regular sizes. Farmers would come in with carts full and we’d sit there for hours analyzing them all.”

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During the Roman Catholic Church’s “great jubilee” in 2000, visitors who flocked to Monte Sant’Angelo were amazed to see such oddly shaped cakes, says Totaro, which they mistook for wafers real, gourmet sacraments.

Totaro wishes to emphasize a key distinction: “The full host the dough is made in the same way as the wafers, but the wafers become sacramental only during Holy Communion. These are just cookies.”

Served with a drink

Almonds should be selected to be the same size and shape.

Almonds should be selected to be the same size and shape.

Angelo Totaro

Full host they come in all sizes and are oval rather than round. Even though every pastry shop and village household makes its own variations, the traditional ones are as huge as a hand — exactly the same size as the main hallowed wafer held by the priest at the altar.

There are even smaller ones spearless popular, about the same size as a medal, which are cut from the larger stamp wafer.

Prices are reasonable: Bernabotto sells a box of 20 small cookies for €5 (about $5), while four large wafers cost €4.

“They are very nutritious, the almonds and honey are energy boosters, and their benefits have been re-evaluated by nutritionists. It’s a simple, minimalist cookie, but with rich ingredients,” he says.

Totaro warns against adding too much sugar or spear they will be too sweet and hard to bite, and he suggests that just a squeeze of lemon will make them even softer.

The best way to enjoy full host it’s with a homemade bay liqueur after the meal or with Monte Sant’Angelo’s famous alcoholic drink Limolivo, made with olive oil leaves.

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