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Amelia's Chocolate Toto

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Created by RoyM,
Average User Rating (out of 4)vote imagevote imagevote image / 4 1 Users Voted
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Description

My late Grandma, Amelia DeFusco, made these cookies every Christmas and Easter. Totos (pronounced toh-TOH), which are ball shaped, come in two flavors, chocolate and lemon. They were made by most of the Italian grandmas in the Merrimack Valley region in Massachusetts—especially in the city of Lawrence. The origin of these cookies is not clear, but some think the name is a corruption of “tetu,” a chocolate spice cookie that hails from Sicily. The chocolate version is also similar to mostaccioli, except for the shape, and the lemon version is similar to anginetti.

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Ingredients
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Makes
24 to 30
  • Dry Ingredients:
  • 3 C flour
  • 5 oz cocoa powder—regular, not Dutch process
  • 1 C chopped walnuts
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t cloves
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • Wet Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ to 3/4 C milk
  • 4 oz oil or shortening
  • Icing:
  • 5 t cocoa
  • 8 oz confectioner’s sugar
  • 2T milk
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t cloves
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Directions/Steps
  1. The cookies use oil or shortening for the fat, which is common for authentic recipes from southern Italy. Traditionally, all the ingredients are mixed by hand, though if one wants a lighter cookie, one can use an electric mixer to beat the eggs, and cream the sugar and fat together. In either case, combine all the wet ingredients as well as the sugar and mix or beat. Combine all the dry ingredients less the sugar, and add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix until a dough is formed, adding flour or milk as necessary to obtain a consistency that is firm and somewhat sticky; the chopped nuts weaken the dough, and the stickiness helps it stay together. Do not overmix–otherwise the cookies will develop a bread-like instead of a cookie-like texture. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it rest for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  2. Form the dough into ¾” to 1” balls and place on an oiled or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350oF for about 12 to 15 minutes. While the cookies are baking, it’s time to make the icing. The icing is important for the flavor profile of the cookies—without it, the cookies will seem a bit bland and not sweet enough.
  3. To make the icing, put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and slowly add milk. Add just enough milk to make a mixture that is about the consistency of pancake batter. Add the milk carefully–even a little too much will cause the icing to become too thin, and more confectioners’ sugar will be needed.
  4. When the cookies are done remove them from the oven and place them on a drying rack with wax paper or even newspaper underneath to catch any icing that drips off in the next step. When mostly cool, apply the icing with a pastry brush or by dipping the cookies into the icing. If doing the latter, the icing should be a bit thinner so any excess can easily drip off. Let the cookies dry thoroughly, and place them in a tin. If the icing gets sticky, the cookies were not sufficiently dried and must be placed back on the drying rack. Do not refrigerate the cookies, but rather store them in a tin. The cookies will develop their best flavor after aging for a few days.
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Additional Tips

As is the case with so many Italian cookies, these confections are not overly sweet or gooey, and seem to taste best with coffee or tea. I think of them as an adult's cookie.

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Reviews
Review by Bella08 , Friday, 10 April 2015 vote imagevote imagevote image
My Italian Mother and her Italian friend baked these cookies together every Christmas, about 50 dozen for give-aways. The called them Chocolate Balls. I have carried on the tradition. The only difference is that my mother added raisins to them. Since the cookies are on the dry side the raisins add a bit of moisture to the cookie. I would love the lemon version recipe if you could post please?
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