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Cherry pistofatru Adding cherries to one of Puglia’s oldest sweets gives a surprising result by Dario Ersetti
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Cherry pistofatru. Photo by Dario Ersetti

The cherries grown in Puglia, especially the Ferrovia variety, are delicious and we decided to combine them with what is probably the oldest sweet of our region: pistofatru. The result was outstanding!

The world’s oldest documented sweets are types of biscuit of varying degrees of softness, made of flour and water, sweetened with honey or grape-must and sometimes having walnuts, almonds or sesame seeds added.

The traditional sweets in Puglia do not differ much from this. One of the most typical and perhaps the very first sweet created in Puglia and Southern Italy is pistofatru, a sort of paste of durum wheat flour cooked in vincotto. The name may have derived from “farro pesto” (spelt paste), while vincotto is a concentrate of the grape-must that was used as a sweetener at a time in history when today’s beet sugar was unknown, cane sugar was very dear and honey was reserved for the barons.

The grape-must was boiled at length to concentrate the sugars and then flour was then added, along with cloves and cinnamon, and the mixture was brought to the boil, producing a very solid polenta which was spread onto a marble slab and then cut into diamond shapes.

To avoid being limited to the grape-harvest season, we propose using a good full-bodied red wine such as Negroamaro.

White refined sugar (not very good for the body) can be replaced by cane sugar or even better, by palm sugar. The latter can now be found quite easily in Italy in ethnic food shops. It is obtained from the crystallization of the nectar of certain kinds of palm flowers all over South-East Asia. It is very dark in color and tastes of caramel with hints of incense and licorice.

Among its important features there is the very low glycemic index (35 as opposed to 100 for glucose and 68 for refined white sugar), a very high antioxidant value (2200 ORAC as opposed to 405 for tomatoes and 665 for carrots) and the great quantity of oligo elements.

 

 

The recipe

 

   Ingredients:

 

- 1 bottle of red wine

- 300 g of cherries

- 100 g of walnuts

- 50 g of sugar

- 2 cloves

- a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

- 100 g of durum wheat flour.

 

Boil the wine with the de-stoned cherries, roughly chopped walnuts, cloves, cinnamon and sugar for 30-40 minutes, then sprinkle in the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon, and cook for fifteen minutes more, until the mixture thickens and comes away from the sides of the pot. Spread on a slab of marble or oven paper in a 1 cm layer. When cool, cut into diamond shapes and dust with icing sugar.

This recipe could also be varied, making a dessert of cherries cooked in wine using all the ingredients except the flour or going back to the original recipe and excluding the cherries and walnuts but increasing the proportion of flour used.

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