Friday, December 5, 2008

12 Days of Cookies ~ Day 5, Biscotti di Regina

Biscotti di Regina, or Queen's Biscuits, are an archetypal Italian cookie in that they're barely sweet, they're fairly cakey, and they're impossible to fully enjoy without a cup of coffee (or tea or milk, if you please) at hand.

It is a long-standing source of much amusement in my family that my favorite packaged cookie is the Stella d'Oro Lady Stella collection. I can't explain the appeal, frankly. I'm not a cookie dunker, so it's not that. But I can't get enough of them. (Obviously, like the rest of the world, the pink and white frosted ones are my favorites.) My husband won't touch them, scornfully writing them off as "NOT cookies." Okay, they're not that sweet. They're not gooey or nutty or creme-filled. But sometimes, a little bit of sweet is all you want, or need. Give me a Lady Stella over a chocolate chip cookie any day. Really.

These Biscotti di Regina are just that way. And maybe that's why I love them so much. With just the essence of vanilla, the richness of the butter, and a subtle nuttiness from the sesame seeds, they're perfect for accompanying your beverage of choice. They're classy and ladylike but not fragile.

In fact, they remind me of my little Italian-Argentinian grandmother, who lived in Queens when I was growing up. She would wear a skirt and wedge heels whether she was washing her floor or walking down Queens Boulevard to the green grocer's stand. Her elegant long nails were always painted deep red; she watched telenovelo soaps while she pounded out veal cutlets for dinner. And from her I learned a creative array of evocative Italian hand and finger gestures to communicate Idiot! and other important nonverbal epithets, how to light one's cigarette from a gas stove burner without incinerating one's eyebrows, and how to give a suspicious-looking passerby the evil eye. Or, at least, how to give the suggestion of it.

My grandmother passed away 3 months before my wedding, nearly 19 years ago. I still miss her like crazy. She would have loved these.

Biscotti di Regina (Queen's Biscuits)

~Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 1955, available online here
  • 1 cup butter

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 5 cups flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons baking powder

  • 1 cup sesame seeds

  1. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Gradually add milk and vanilla.

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Gradually beat in the butter mixture. If the dough is very dry, add a little milk, a tablespoon at a time. Shape dough into a ball, cover, and chill for 1 hour.

  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Break off pieces of dough about the size of hazelnuts and roll into balls. Flatten slightly and roll the tops in sesame seeds. Please on parchment-line cookie sheet, leaving 1/2 inch space between them.

  4. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes, until they just turn golden. Makes about 5 dozen.

Now go see what my fellow bakers are up to today, on this 5th day of Cookies! Andrea of Andrea's Recipes, Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen, Kelly of Sass & Veracity, Courtney of Coco Cooks, Jerry of Cooking by the Seat of My Pants, and Judy of No Fear Entertaining.


glamah16 said...

I love how certain cookies are evoking memeories for us. I'm also chuckling because I was eyeing these, but I'm almost out of Sesame sseds. You make them sound so good.

Anonymous said...

These are absolutely beautiful! I swear if I have another day of a failed cookie, I'm going to start throwing them out the window at passing cars just to take my frustrations out. Thanks for reminding me that cookies can be beautiful when not loaded with sugar and butter. Just lovely. And how did you get your kitty to lick his/her chops at just that moment? hahahaha!

Sandy Smith said...

~Glamah16: I agree! The original recipe calls for 1/2 pound of sesame seeds, but I made 1/2 batch and used barely 1/3 cup. You can probably get away with even less.

~Kellypea: Thank you! Haha! The neighbors would probably love that though!
My kitty, Sofia, is always lurking in the background licking her chops. I didn't even realize it when I took this pic! :)

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Oh Sandy I loved these ones as well. They are beautiful and simple at the same time!!! They brought back many memories of cooking lessons with hubbies Sicilian Grandmama!

Kiran said...

These look lovely, worth giving a go, is the egg really necessary ?

Andrea said...

Classy indeed. I love your story about your grandmother and think it's great that these evoked those kinds of memories for you.

Passionate About Baking said...

A touchingly beautiful post...for cookies that are singing to me. I love what went into them...& the pictures are amazing too...esp the last one!

Sandy Smith said...

~Judy: Exactly ~ my grandmother had southern Italian roots. These are very special cookies!

~Kiran: Thank you! To be truthful, I'm afraid the egg is probably key here, as the texture is somewhat cakey. However, you could make a half batch without the egg, using a substitute, and see what happens! (I'd love to hear about the results, if you do.)

~Passionate About Baking: Thank you so much. That last picture was a lucky fluke! Actually, Sofia is usually hanging around the kitchen when I bake ~ which has the funny consequence that her fur tends to smell like cookies!

sunshinemom said...

Going through your cookies. Could not comment one each one though all of them look good but could not contain myself when I saw the way your cat is eying these cookies!! Did he get to pinch any?

Sandy Smith said...

~Sunshinemom: Haha! Sofia always keeps a close eye on my photo sessions, but so far, the only time she made a break for something when my back was turned was the time I was photographing a glass of milk and a granola bar. Let's just say it wasn't the granola bar she was after! :)

camille said...

Whoa. While looking at the photo of all the cookies laid out on the baking sheet, scroll up and down a bit. That messes with your eyes!

P.S. they look delicious, I'm saving this recipe!

Micha said...

I love that final picture with your kitty licking her lips - just perfect!

Sandy Smith said...

~Camille: I just get excited at the prospect of seeing the cookies magically multiply! :)
These are a piece of cake to make, and really, really good. I'm saving this recipe too! (Not all of these 12 Days cookies were hits.)

~Micha: That was a lucky shot! :)

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