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Biscotti Regina

Blog post by Phyl.

I know what you’re thinking: biscotti — one of those sliced and double-baked biscuits great for dunking in coffee or tea but tooth-shatteringly hard on their own. And most of the time, you’d be right. But the word biscotti in Italian simply means “cookie”. And the biscotti we’re talking about today are just that: cookies.

I don’t know much about Italian history, but I know I would have loved Queen Margherita di Savoia, the Queen consort of Italy during the reign of her husband, Umberto I. The Queen (the regina in biscotti regina) had such a sweet tooth that she used to visit local bakeries and sweets shops with her ladies in waiting. And if she really liked the treats she found, she was known to ennoble the pastry shop owner, bestowing on him the rank of cavaliere (knight). Now that’s my kind of royal.

These cookies are not as sweet as others I have made thus far in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. The recipe, which makes 40 good-sized cookies, only calls for 1/2 cup sugar. In addition to the sugar, the dough contains flour, baking powder, salt, butter, vanilla, and eggs. The dough mixed up quickly in the food processor and came out moist and powdery.

After a few turns on the pastry board, the dough came together into a nice ball.

I shaped the dough into a cylinder, half of which I set aside. I divided the other half into four pieces.

To form the cookies, I rolled each piece of dough into a rope, …

… cut the rope into 3-inch pieces, …

… and dipped the pieces in an egg wash, then white sesame seeds.

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to making cookies, and I usually shy away from recipes that require rolling, shaping, or dipping. In this case, after shaping the cookies, they had to be double dipped — first drenched in egg wash, then rolled in sesame seeds. But it all came together very quickly, and I didn’t find the process at all tedious. In fact, I kind of enjoyed making them.

I baked the cookies at 325°F for 30 minutes, until they were firm and the sesame seeds looked nicely toasted.

I was curious to try these cookies. I knew they wouldn’t be overly sweet; and with the sesame seed coating, I wondered if they’d taste like cookies at all. They weren’t as sweet as most cookies I’m used to; and the seeds did lend a savory element. But these little babies were more than the sum of their parts. Sweet, savory, slightly crunchy, good for dipping or eating out of hand. I enjoyed these cookies more than I thought I would. And I’ll definitely be making them again.

And if you’re wondering what I did with the other half of the dough, check back later to read about my Sicilian Fig Bar (mis)adventure.

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