When we were in Italy last Fall, we visited Manduria, where Anna lives. She is Antimo Cimino’s mother and the sweetest lady on the planet. She works hard every day cooking and baking for her husband and family. This visit she taught me how to make her famous biscotti cookies. These cookies are like the ones my Italian family in Bari eat. Here’s some interesting information about Biscotti I found from several sources:
“Biscotti is the plural form of biscotto. The word originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning “twice-cooked”. It characterized oven-baked goods that were baked twice, so they became very dry and could be stored for long periods of time. Such non-perishable food was particularly useful during journeys and wars, and twice-baked breads were a staple food of the Roman legions.
In modern Italian, the word biscotti refers to any cookie or cracker, the number of bakings and the degree of hardness are not relevant to the term. In North America, the term “biscotti” refers only to the specific Italian cookie.
Since they are very dry, biscotti traditionally are served with a drink, into which they may be dunked. In Italy, they are typically served at breakfast with espresso or as an after-dinner dessert with wine.
Outside of Italy, they more frequently accompany coffee, including cappuccinos and lattes, or black tea.”
The first time I visited my family in Bari (sometime in the mid-1990’s), my aunt served espresso and a biscotti for breakfast – very typical – and the biscuit/cookie looked and tasted just like the ones in this recipe. So making this specific cookie brings back wonderful memories.
Fun with Anna in Manduria, Italy.
Making the cookie dough with Anna in her country kitchen.
Flattening out the rope of dough to cut into cookies.
Anna putting the cookies in the outdoor oven to bake.
Anna’s recipe in Antimo’s cookbook above. I pictured the Italian ingredient packets that I purchased in Italy. You can order them online or substitute American ingredients (see recipe at the end of this post).
Make a well of flour and pour in the olive oil. Mix vigorously with your hands.
A lovely ball of dough!
Roll dough into long ropes and cut to cookie size.
Press cookies into sugar on one side.
Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets.
- 4 cups flour (best with “00” flour but can substitute all purpose or cake flour)
- 1½ cups sugar
- ¾ cups olive oil (or melted butter) I use olive oil
- 1/3 cup warm milk
- 4 eggs
- 3 teaspoons baking powder (Italian: 1/2 to 2/3 small bag pane angeli)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda (Italian: 1 small bag baking ammonia)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (Don’t add if using Italian ingredients)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or orange zest
- On a marble top or a large wooden cutting board, create a volcano shape with the flour. Place the olive oil or melted butter in the center, and start incorporating it into the flour. Use the palms of your hands to make sure that most of the flour has received some of the oil.
- Beat the eggs with the sugar and incorporate the mixture into the flour. Add the lemon zest and sprinkle the baking powder all over the forming dough, incorporating it with your fingertips.
- Add milk, baking soda and vanilla into dough. (NOTE: Add milk a little at a time so dough doesn’t get too wet. Add more flour if needed.)
- (Italian: Warm the milk and mix the baking ammonia inside. Make sure that the cup of milk is over the dough, as it will foam as you mix it in. Add it to the dough and mix well. Use some additional flour as needed to make sure that the dough does not stick to your fingers. )
- Let the dough rest for about 10-15 minutes. Heat up the oven to 385°.
- With your hands, roll a handful of the dough into a nice long rope (less than 1 inch around). Cut it into even pieces about the length of an index finger. Flatten each piece with the palm of your hand.
- Pass one side into a bowl of sugar and place onto a baking sheet.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, until they turn golden brown.