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