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Kara Explains: The Lure of the 4:00 AM Cannoli (Part Two)

March 30, 2010

Last week, Kara told us about her early morning voyage to the Termini Brothers Pasticceria in South Philly to find the rare 4 AM cannoli. But that’s not all she found!

Trays of chocolate tarts, orange liquor cakes, and glazed fruit tarts with lemon crème filling…

…Piles of Pecan Diamonds, which are cookie bars topped with pecans and caramel, then drizzled with Belgian chocolate…

…And heaps of Osso di Morta, also called “Dead Bones” or “Bones of the Dead.”  The name of these spectacular cookies may sound a touch morbid, but these little puffs of almonds, sugar, and egg whites are truly out of this world…

…Elephant Ears, or palmier cookies, are a great example of how simple ingredients can be transformed into something that feels really special.  All it takes to make these cookies is some puff pastry dough and lots of sugar.  It doesn’t get any simpler than that, but who wouldn’t love getting a tray or a box of these as a gift?  Don’t they look like they’re smiling?  They’re not just cookies, they’re happy to see you!

Sfogliatelle, Amaretti cakes, and sweet buns – oh my!  Sfogliatelle are layers of thin sweetened dough and ricotta filling flavored by orange peel and a hint of cinnamon.  I’ve never seen amaretti made into cakes before, just the usual small almond paste cookies, but these amaretti cakes looked more like miniature pies made out of pound cake. You can just barely see the sweet buns, the biscotti, and all sorts of other goodies off in the background.

Up at the front of the store, three local news channels were taking turns interviewing customers and shooting footage of the seemingly endless sea of bodies.  That’s also where I met the man of my dreams, playing accordion as part of an accordion-and-guitar duo who were spending their Christmas Eve morning serenading the crowd.  Isn’t he handsome?  *dreamy sigh*  Yeah, there’s a bit of an age difference, but what’s not to love in a man playing the accordion?

After snacking on a few more complementary puff pastries, it was finally time to place our order.  As you can see, I made sure two of the Pecan Diamonds came home with us, as did a dozen cannoli, a half-dozen Torrone (an Italian nougat candy made with pistachios and almonds), a mini carrot cake, and a mini chocolate mousse cake.  There was some not-so-subtle hinting that a mini tiramisu cake ought to be added to the order, but I managed to stick to my guns and politely but firmly turn aside my father’s attempts at coercion.  Our order was packed with startling rapidity, our hosts were thanked, and it was time to head out into the very sunny Christmas Eve morning.  As we left, I held the door for a pair of obvious first-timers and had to smile at their wide-eyed shock and hesitation.  “Is it really worth it?” the woman asked me, hypnotized by the music, the pastries, and the wall-to-wall crowd waiting inside.  “Oh yes,” I assured her, “it really is.”

– Kara

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