Tag Archives: Maria Cracchiolo

Maria Cracchiola’s Whimsical Cakes

Maria Cracchiola birthday cakemermaid ©Kim Smith 2014The kids (and adults) were wonderfully fascinated by Maria Cracchiolo’s mermaid birthday cake–the details were simply charming–with shade-dyed waves, sea creature candles, fondant mermaid, and chocolate covered rock. Believe me, it tasted as good as it looked!!

You may recall that we featured Maria making the special Saint Joseph altar bread  at Caffe Sicilia back in March. Maria makes beautiful, whimsical cakes such as this, by special order, and may be reached by calling Caffe Sicilia at 978-283-7345. To see more of Maria’s creations, visit her Facebook page here.

New Film: Making the Special Saint Joseph Altar Bread

New Film: Making the Special Saint Joseph Altar Bread

Artists-in-the-Kitchen Maria Cracchiolo, and her parents Domenic and Nina Damico, demonstrate how to create beautiful bread in shapes symbolic of Saint Joseph and inspired by nature. Watch as Maria, Nina, and Domenic artfully shape angels, a carpenter’s saw, San Giuseppe scroll, Saint Joseph sun, snails, flowers, butterflies, grapes, and more.

Many thanks to Sefatia Romeo Thekan for the suggestion to contact Maria and family to interview for Gloucester’ Feast of  Saint Joseph film project.

For improved viewing experience, click off the Vimeo HD icon in the bottom right hand corner and the video will load much more quickly.

As you will hear Maria’s story unfold (while deftly shaping the dough), her family’s tradition of making the Saint Joseph altar bread began several years ago, for a very heartfelt reason. In 2010, her young daughter was facing a very serious operation. Maria had never made the special Saint Joseph bread, but decided that year to make it her devotion to Saint Joseph. Maria taught herself how to shape the bread, finding inspiration in old photos of altars, and also from images, which she found online, of bread made in Sicily. Maria lived in Italy for five years, attending art school and studying fashion design. When I write “Artists-in-the Kitchen” you’ll see why after viewing the video.

Both of Maria’s parents, Nina and Domenic, were born in Sicily and grew up celebrating the Feast of San Giuseppe in the Sicilian tradition of feeding the poor and orphaned, and welcoming all who came to their table. Thank you Maria, Domenic, and Nina for graciously welcoming me into your Caffe Sicilia’s kitchen!

Saint Joseph Bread is available by special order at Caffe Sicilia. Call to place your order at (978) 283-2345

San Giuseppe Bread Caffe Sicilia ©Kim Smith 2014

See previous posts related to Caffe Sicilia:

Filming Continues on Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Film Project, Today at Caffe Sicilia

Caffe Sicilia’s St. Joseph Zeppole or, in Other Words, A Cloud of Sweetness Sent from the Heavens 

Sfinci di San Giuseppe

Sfinci di San Giuseppe Rounds off a Trio of Traditional Saint Joseph Treats from Maria Cracchiolo and Family at Caffe Sicilia

Sfinci Caffe Sicilia ©Kim Smith 2014Sfinci di San Giuseppe

For non-Sicilians, like myself, you may be wondering what exactly are Sfinci di San Giuseppe? The way Maria, Nina, and Domenic make them, Sfinci are amazing creamy puffs, fried to golden-brown perfection, and filled with Caffe Sicilia’s heavenly light and fluffy sweetened ricotta, or the same ricotta, with mini-chocolate chips added.

Inside the beautiful box of Zepplole that Maria sent me home with after filming, were two Sfinci’s made moments earlier, fillled with ricotta, and garnished with candied orange peel and cherry. I hope my husband and son never read this post because after eating the first Sfinci di San Giuseppe, it was so fabulously delicious that I never gave anyone else a chance to try one and ate the second (although managing to save them each a Zeppole)! Habit-forming!

Sfinci have been a part of Sicilian cuisine for centuries. Traditionally they were served for dessert on Saint Joseph’s Day. Today they are a specialty of Palermo and are served all year round. Both Maria’s parents, Nina and Domenic Damico, were born outside of Palermo and spent their early childhoods there. I imagine that is one reason why the family knows how to create this sumptuously yummy treat!!! Sfinci is a wonderfully fun word to say and is pronounced something like this: sah-fin-chee, only you say the sah-fin syllables very quickly together.

Caffe Sicilia’s Sfinci di San Giuseppe are available, as are their Zeppole, through Easter. Because their Sfinci fly out the door as quickly as their Zeppole, place your orders for both ahead of time and call (978) 283-2345.

Filming Continues on Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Film Project, Today at Caffe Sicilia!

Caffe Sicilia’s St. Joseph Zeppole or, in Other Words, A Cloud of Sweetness Sent from the Heavens!

Caffe Sicilia’s St. Joseph Zeppole or, in Other Words, A Cloud of Sweetness Sent from the Heavens!

Maria Cracchiolo Zeppole ©Kim Smith 2014 copyFrom the first moment I sampled Maria and Nina’s Zeppole, I thought I had died and gone to food-lovers heaven! And I am not the only one in my family who felt the same. After spending the morning filming at Caffe Sicilia where Maria, Nina, and Domenic graciously demonstrated making the special Saint Joseph bread and Zeppole, they very sweetly sent me home with a treasure box full of freshly made Zeppole. My husband and son generally prefer savory to sweet, but now I see I will have to make frequent stops at Caffe Sicilia to pick up Zeppole during Saint Joseph’s feast time!

Maria Cracchiolo Zeppole pastry ©Kim Smith 2014 copyMaria’s Zeppole pastry is airy and tender and makes a perfect nest for one of three different fillings offered at Caffe Sicilia; a light and fluffy perfectly sweetened ricotta filling, the same ricotta filling, but with tiny chocolate chips added, and the third filling is yellow cream. Honestly, I have never been a tremendous yellow cream filling fan, but that is because I never had Maria’s yellow cream. Hers is neither gluey nor gloppy, but rather a pale buttery yellow sweet and smooth-textured filling of creamy yumminess. Not only were the fillings mouth watering delicious, she also sandwiches a very generous helping of beautiful Amarena cherries between the layers of pastry and filling. Amarena cherries are a favorite of my husband’s and I think that too may be another reason why he fell in love with Maria’s Zeppole.

RUN, don’t walk, to Caffe Sicilia to sample their Zeppole! Although a traditional Saint Joe desert, Maria makes the Zeppole through Easter time as many have given up sweets for Lent. Because the Zeppole fly out the door as quickly as they are made, having the opportunity to try the dessert is rather hit or miss. I strongly advise that you place your order for Zeppole ahead of time. The Zeppole are conveniently available in a large and a smaller size. Call (978) 283-2345 to place your orders.

End Note ~ Amarena cherries are made from a small, bitter dark colored cherry, the amara cherry, which is grown in the Modena and Bologna regions of Italy. Gennaro Fabbri from Bologna developed the Amarena combination of cherries with syrup and it is still a family-owned business that produces a variety of cherry based products, including syrups, beverages, and pastries. Amarena cherries are often used to decorate chocolate desserts.

I typically find Amarena cherries in the pretty blue and white Fabbri jars at William Sonoma, but after looking up the spelling for this post, they are also readily available online.

Amarenca opaline 600

Filming Continues on Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Film Project, Today at Caffe Sicilia!

San Giuseppe Bread Caffe Sicilia ©Kim Smith 2014Preparing and baking the special San Guiseppe bread is a family endeavor at Caffe Sicilia. Within an hour’s time, Maria, Nina, and Domenic created dozens of loaves of bread in religiously significant shapes of St. Joseph’s staff, angels, and even a carpenter’s saw, as well as beautiful and whimsical flowers, sun, snails, and bunches of grapes. While they artfully and deftly shaped and baked, they shared their St. Joseph’s stories for our camera. Thank you Maria, Domenic, and Nina!

San Giuseppe Bread Caffe Sicilia Maria Cracchiolo Domenic ©Kim Smith 2014

San Giuseppe Bread Caffe Sicilia Maria Cracchiolo Domenic ©Kim Smith 2014 -3The Family began making the bread about four years ago, and word quickly spread. Maria credits Nina Groppo for spreading the good news.

San Giuseppe Bread Caffe Sicilia Maria Cracchiolo©Kim Smith 2014.-2.

Caffe Sicilia’s San Giuseppe bread is available for sale on March 18th, as well as by special order. Not only is it beautiful, but it is also out-of-this-world delicious!

San Giuseppe Bread Caffe Sicilia Maria Cracchiolo©Kim Smith 2014.-1PGToday was a joyful day and I am immensely appreciative. Many, many thanks to Maria, Nina, and Domenic from the bottom of my heart for their kindness and help with Gloucester’s St. Joseph film project.

Saint Joseph Bread Caffe Sicilia © Kim Smith 2014 copyNote the Carpenter’s Saw in the background

Below are just some of the posts honoring last year’s participants. If you have not been contacted, please, we do not want to leave anyone out. Contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com if you would like your family’s story included in Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph film project. Thank you.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Film Project Website Launch

John and Kathleen Scola

Maria and Niño Cannova

Nina and Frank Groppo Family

Frances and Ann Margaret Ferrante

Mary Russo Family

Marie and Carl Silva Family

Grace Brancaleone Family

 

Maria Cracchiolo of Caffé Sicilia Makes the Real Tiramisu

Maria Cracchiolo of Caffé Sicilia Makes the Real Tiramisu

To be authentic, Maria says you need to use real Italian espresso coffee and Savoiardi, or Italian “lady fingers.” You can find both in Italian specialty stores.

Otherwise this no-cook dessert is surprisingly easy as you can see in this video made with Maria.

Check out the video at the Gloucester Daily Times Taste of the Times-

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