Since I recently wrote about Pantelleria, I wanted to share a recipe from the island that is near and dear to my heart…well, more like my stomach. These cookies actually originate in Palermo, but they can be found throughout Sicily including Pantelleria (which is technically part of Sicily even though it is a separate island). These toasty, crunchy sesame seed encrusted cookies are reminiscent of their roots in the Orient and Arabia.
The name, Biscotti Regina or the Queens cookies, are named after Queen Margherita of Savoia, the well-loved second Queen of a united Italy. The story goes that she had such a sweet tooth that she would visit local bakeries and pastry shops on a regular basis with her ladies in waiting. A woman after my own heart! In fact, if she really liked the sweets she found, she would bestow the rank of cavaliere (Knight) to the bakery shop owner.
I have become obsessed with these little cookies…they are crunchy, not too sweet and have a wonderful toasted sesame flavor. Typically, they are served with a sweet dessert wine and you dip these little gems into the wine before popping them in your mouth. However, my husband and I indulge in them in another, even more decadent way by dipping them in nutella. Yes, nutella. When we are on vacation in Pantelleria, every morning we sit on our porch taking in the spectacular views of the valley and sea, pour our espresso, open a bag of biscotti Regina and a jar of nutella and begin dipping away. Our breakfast of champions! One word, well two: pure heaven!
This is also a great cookie to add to your list of holiday cookies. Not only are they are super easy to make, but they are just a little bit different and can make a great addition to your repertoire. They are definitely a standout.
To make the dough I find the easiest way is with a mixer (either a standing or hand mixer) or even a food processor. You will end up with a crumbly dough mixture like this.
Divide the dough into either quarters or fifths; depending how much counter space you have to work with as you will need to roll out each portion into a rope that is approximately a 1/2 (2.5 cm) inch in diameter. Once you have your rope rolled out, cut it into 2 to 2 ½ (5 to 7 cm) inch long pieces.
So there you have it, Biscotti Regina. My recipe is pretty much the classic version. The only change that I have made is that I use butter instead of lard. The lard makes for a crunchier cookie, so by all means use it if you want to. I prefer, though, the taste of butter.
My only reccomendation is get a jar of nutella and dip away!
- 4 cups (500 grams) all purpose (00) flour
- 3½ teaspoons (12½ grams) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (a pinch) salt
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- ¾ cup (170 grams) butter (softened and cut into pieces)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup (120 mL) whole milk (1/4 cup (60 mL) for the dough and ¼ cup (60 mL) to dip the logs to coat them in sesame seeds)
- Preheat the oven to 375 F (180 C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Next add the softened butter pieces and combine well. Add the eggs one at a time and incorporate well. Finally, add the vanilla. Your dough will look crumbly like when you make pie dough. At this point turn the mixture out onto your counter and knead until it just comes together.
- Divide the dough into 4 or 5 sections. Roll each section into a rope that is approximately ½ (2½ cm) inch wide.
- Cut the rope into 2 to 2½ inch (5 to 7 cm) long logs.
- Next place the remainder of the milk into a shallow bowl or dish and the sesame seeds in another dish.
- Take each log and dip first in the milk, then roll in the sesame seeds until it is completely encrusted in the seeds.
- Place the coated sesame seed logs on the parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on your oven). At about the ⅞ minute mark, start keeping an eye on the cookies.