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Apulian Cooking
Cupeta
An irresistibile delicacy
Nougat and almond brittle, typical of many parts of Italy, have remote origins.
The same goes for cupeta, a traditional sweet from Lecce, ever-present at street markets and local celebrations
by Dario Ersetti
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Cupeta. Photo by Dario Ersetti

There are some typical local dishes of unclear origin but claimed by many, that are often so common that they have been taken up by industrial producers.  

An example is nougat (torrone) and its close relative almond brittle (croccante). Both of them known since Roman times, they have been adopted as typical local products by various localities: Benevento, Cologna Veneta, Cremona and Grottaminarda, just to mention a few, are famous for their nougat.  The type from Grottaminarda is called cupeta, a word of Samnite-Latin derivation (from cupediae, meaning delicacy) or from the Arabic qubbaita-Kubaba, which refers to a kind of nougat like Sicilian cubbaita. That applies to nougat, but the name cupeta is also given to the almond brittle that Lecce claims as its typical product. And in fact it is fully entitled to do so considering the tradition that has been passed down. Today in every local village market in Puglia there is the “cupetaro” who makes this absolutely irresistible sweet right before your eyes. 

 

The recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

- 1 Kg of almonds

- 1 Kg of sugar

- 1 lemon

 

Cupeta can be made from almonds with or without their skin. To peel them, throw them into boiling water for 2-3 minutes and the skin will come off easily. Then toast the almonds in a moderate oven until golden. Leaving the skin on gives the cupeta a stronger flavor and seems to be preferred by the connoisseurs.

Now dissolve the sugar in a pan over the heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and taking care not to let it burn.  When the sugar is completely dissolved, beat it rapidly on the heat until it caramelizes.

Spread the caramel mixture on an oiled marble slab and level it with a meat mallet, or preferably with a whole lemon to add aroma to the brittle. Lastly, cut the cupeta up into the shapes desired.

Some of the sugar can be replaced by honey. Aside from the quantities indicated, the skill lies in using only a little sugar, just enough to hold the almonds together, in a very delicate, brittle combination.

When you buy cupeta at a street market this is what you must look for and the higher price for the best product is justified by the fact that almonds cost far more than sugar.

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