Tag Archives: Biscuits

A Sunday Savoiardi extravaganza

My godmother (or comare in Italian), who I adore, is a fabulous cook.  Like Mamma Rosa and others who grew up in Italy in the decades following the second world war, they took simple ingredients, often home grown, and figured out firstly how to make them go as far as possible, and secondly how to make them as flavoursome as possible.  Once in Australia they adapted and learnt new things and new ingredients – comare’s spinach and ricotta cannelloni crepes are to die for –  but may of the traditions and recipes remain true.

Also like Mamma Rosa, comare is a damn good biscuit maker, both of them can whip up amaretti and crostoli like nobody’s business.

A while back my comare bought me a particular plate of biscuits that I loved and I wanted to learn how to make them.  She called them savoiardi but was quick to point out that they aren’t “savoiardi della nonna”, the traditional variety.  So this morning comare and I met half way in Mamma Rosa’s kitchen for a Sunday baking session. Laughs were had, stories were told, hugs were given.

In typical Italian handed down fashion, there isn’t a strict flour measure.  It’s the good old phrase you’ll find even now in many an Italian cookbook: the flour should be “quanto basta” or “quanto se ne prende” (literally “however much is enough” or “however much it takes”, both extremely useful measures). You need a piping bag for these, the mixture is sticky and difficult to handle – if it is easy to manage with your hands then you know you’ve gone too far on the flour.

My comare’s savoiardi

These use only yolks, so you’ll have a dozen whites to use – so often after making a batch of these she makes almond bread.

Ingredients
12 egg yolks from large eggs, at room temperature
1 slightly heaped cup of caster sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup Grand Marnier liquor
2 teaspoons baking powder
Approx. 450-500g self raising flour, sifted

Making them

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan forced and line a tray with baking paper
  2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the yolks, then add the caster sugar and whisk until thick.  Then add the canola oil and the liquor and continue to whisk until combined
  3. Finally add the sifted flour and the baking powder and combine.  The mixture should be reasonably thick but quite stickysavoiardi (2)
  4. Put the mixture into a piping bag with a large attachment for biscuits (ie not one for pastry decorating).  Comare had a bad ass version, have to get me one of these. You can go for either ridged or smooth, but the ridges largely disappear as they rise. savoiardi (1)
  5. Pipe the biscuits to the desired length and then put in the over for 10-15 minutes until golden.

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So so good.

After we whipped these ones up, comare says “let’s make the other ones too”.  Who am I to argue?

Savoiardi della Nonna

These follow largely the same method, just a slightly different mix of ingredients.

Ingredients
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 slightly heaped cup of caster sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons baking powder
Approx. 500g self raising flour, sifted

Making them

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan forced and line a tray with baking paper
  2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs, then add the caster sugar and whisk until thick.  Then add the canola oil, vanilla extract and lemon and  continue to whisk until combined
  3. Finally add the sifted flour and the baking powder and combine.  The mixture should be reasonably thick but quite sticky
  4. Put the mixture into a piping bag with a large attachment for biscuits and pipe the biscuits to the desired length and then put in the over for 10-15 minutes until golden.

savoiardi (7)savoiardi (8)

Thank you comare xxxx

In my Christmas kitchen, December 2016

‘Twas three weeks before Christmas, and in the Napoli house,
the KitchenAid was stirring, much faster than a mouse.
Pretty boxes were laid with paper doillies with care,
Wouldn’t St Nicholas have a feast if he arrived there.

I think St Nicholas would be pretty delighted if he stumbled into my kitchen in the midst of my frenzy of Christmas sweet making in my kitchen. At this time of year, I love to make biscuits and sweets to give to friends, the boys’ school teachers, work colleagues, and clients. It is even more fun hand delivering them.

This weekend’s haul included crostoli, recipe here

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Some moreish little whiskey biscuits, recipe here

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Almond bread, which turned out particularly fantastic, I had to put it quickly in boxes before I ate it all, recipe here

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And some pistachio biscotti, recipe here.

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After that I needed to sit down for a bit.

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Fortunately, with all the eggs I needed, our chooks have been going great guns, each of them laying every single day for the last ten days or so.  One of the girls (my bet is on Lily), has been laying some whopper eggs.  We were pretty impressed with this 88 grammer a week ago

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But then, last Friday morning out of the nesting box came this one, 105 grams! I liken this to giving birth to a 14 pound baby, and I’m surprised whoever laid it didn’t sit down for a week to recover. But no, she laid the next day too.

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Here is the Monster Egg as we called it pictured next to a 70 gram egg, which is considered “extra large” in the supermarket.  It is exactly fifty percent more in weight. And here it is in my hand, to give you a feel. I’m hoping this means the girls are happy!

I hope you are having a lovely December in your corner of the world.  Have a peak at other kitchens in the In My Kitchen series, hosted by Lovely Liz at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things.

Buon Natale from the Napoli Household.

Biscotti al latte (Italian milk biscuits)

These very simple biscuits made with pantry staples are more like a mildy sweet bread.   Italians aren’t big breakfast eaters, usually opting for a brioche and a caffe latte; biscuits like these are especially for that purpose.

biscottiallatte

Ingredients
1kg plain flour
16g baking powder
400g caster sugar
250ml full cream milk
250g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk, extra

Making them
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and caster sugar in a bowl. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed, add the butter, milk and four eggs and combine until smooth (this could also be done just with a wooden spoon if you don’t have a mixer). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced.
2. Remove from the fridge, tip onto a lightly floured surface and give it a brief need. You can then start shaping biscuits in your desired shape/size. I rolled the dough into thin logs (as if you were rolling gnocchi) then cut with a knife. Lay out on a baking tray lined with baking paper, ensuring there is a couple of centimetres between each biscuit
3. Combine the egg yolk and extra milk in a small bowl, then using a pastry brush lightly brush each biscuit. Put the trays in the oven and bake for 10 or so minutes until lightly golden (if the bottoms are golden they are ready). Remove from oven and allow to cool. Will store well in an airtight container.

Mamma Rosa’s Almond Bread

Mamma Rosa’s almond bread should come with a little warning: that if you eat one, you’re guaranteed to eat another four, five, or ten.   Feather light and crispy, I’ve been wanting to have a go at the recipe for sometime now – it appears in the much treasured little book she did for me. Her recipe says “a cup of this”, “three quarters of a cup of that” but her cups generally aren’t standard measure ones, they are whatever coffee or espresso cup she happens to have on hand, so I’ve attempted to convert them to grams here. They keep well in an airtight container.

almondbread (3)

Ingredients
4 egg whites
110g caster sugar
Grated rind of one small lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120g plain flour
150-180g whole almonds

Making them
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Line a loaf pan with baking paper
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, continuously beating, until the mixture is thick and glossy
3. Add the lemon rind, vanilla, flour and almonds and combine gently with a spoon. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, it will be slightly golden. Remove from the oven and lift the loaf onto a cooling rack. Once cool, wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight


4. The next morning, finely slice using a serrated knife or an electric slicer if you have one. Heat the oven to 140 degrees, lay the slices out on trays lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden, turning over half way through

almondbread

Nonna Alfia’s biscuits

 

nonnaalfiaWhen my parents came to Australia a few decades back, they didn’t know a word of English, not even hello. In their tiny villages in Italy back then, studying more than one language wasn’t exactly on offer. I remember Mamma Rosa telling me when she arrived here that she saw the world “sale” in several shop windows. “Sale” in Italian, pronounced sal-eh, means salt; confusion reigned, why were all these stores selling salt, even dress shops?

Between them they did not have much family here, my father in particular, so as newlyweds they forged friendships with other young newly migrated Italian couples, together figuring out the more bewildering aspects of their adopted home. Those friendships would last decades and now they enjoy the freedom of their empty nests, overseas travel, and swapping stories of their grandchildren, relishing the Nonna and Nonno titles. The women halves of these couples – Comare, as we call them, a word Southern Italians use traditionally referring to your Godmother but often bestowed on close family friends – along with Mamma Rosa, are like the Italian version of the women in the movie Steel Magnolias – strong, loyal, hardworking, true. I love them all dearly.

Once, many years ago at the house of one Comare, I tried these biscuits that I loved, they were made by her mother, Alfia. From then on, each time her mother made them, a thoughtful bunch wrapped in foil would be bought over to Mamma Rosa’s just for me. I asked Alfia’s granddaughter for the recipe, so here they are, Nonna Alfia’s biscuits. The detail was light (she is now 86) and my first batch wasn’t quite right.  I tried a half batch the next time and did a little tinkering, but here is the end result. I used a heaped tablespoon to measure them out, which does make them quite big, if you want them more dainty use half a tablespoon.

Ingredients
2 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Sambuca (or other liquor)
100ml orange juice
600g self raising flour
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making them
Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees fan forced.
Whisk eggs and sugar until combined. Add milk, juice, vanilla and liquour and whisk till combined. Fold in flour until combined. Using a spoon or icecream scoop of desired size, scoop out the dough and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper into a circle and flatten slightly. Repeat until all the mixture is used. Dust liberally with icing sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.

Mamma Rosa’s amaretti

Mamma Rosa is one of the queens of Italian biscuit making – her range is quite diverse and they are all pretty sensational and outdo a lot of pasticcerie.  This one is a classic she’s been making for years and while she’d written down the recipe for me in a book, nothing better than having a first hand lesson.

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Ingredients
8 egg whites at room temperature
500g caster sugar
2 tbps. baking powder
2 tbsp. almond extract
1kg almond meal
250g flaked almonds
Icing sugar for dusting

Making them
1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius fan forced
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, gradually adding caster sugar until well combined and thick and fluffy
3. Add the baking powder, almond extract and almond meal and fold together with a wooden spoon until combined
4. Place the flaked almonds into a bowl or tray. Using a dinner sized spoon, scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture into the flaked almonds, roll, very gently shape and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. You need a very light hand for this, you don’t want the flaked almonds pressed into the mixture, they are more like an outside coating. Dust liberally with icing sugar

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5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until very lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Whiskey biscuits

I tore this recipe out of an issue of now defunct SBS Feast magazine to make one day, and today was that day. Such a shame they discontinued it, it was one of my favourite food magazines. If you don’t want to use whiskey, vanilla would also work or I think coffee would be nice. Very easy.

whiskey biscuits

Ingredients
120g unsalted butter, softened
55g caster sugar
2 teaspoons whiskey
1/2 teaspoon salt
120g crumbled walnuts
150g plain flour
Icing sugar, for dusting


Making it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius
2. Cream the butter, sugar, whiskey and salt on low speed using a paddle attachment for 5 or so minutes, until pale and fluffy
3. Carefully fold in the walnuts and flour
4. Using a dessert spoon, gently shape into small balls. I ended up with 30 or so. Very gently flatten and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden
5. Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar

Almond and Lemon Biscotti

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I was inspired to make these after seeing Silvia Colloca make them on her new SBS show.   However the sugar seemed like an awful lot, so I reduced the quantity, and you could probably go even a little less if you didn’t want them too sweet. Some brandy thrown in would work well too!

Ingredients
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
300 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
450 g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tbsp melted butter
pinch of salt flakes
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
200 g blanched almonds

Making them

  • Preheat your oven to 170°C fan-forced and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  • Place the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the butter, lemon zest and salt and combine.
  • Fold in the flour, then gently fold in the nuts
  • Divide the dough into two and using floured hands form two logs the length of your baking tray. Place the logs on the prepared tray, spaced well apart to allow for spreading, and bake for 30 minutes or until well risen and pale golden.
  • Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature for 3–5 minutes, and using a serrated knife, cut them on an angle into 1–1.5 cm thick slices.
  • Arrange the slices on the lined tray and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Turn them over and toast for a further 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool at room temperature, then eat! Store in an airtight container.

 

Mamma Rosa’s Lemon Biscuits

When I read the recipes my mother wrote out for me in a little book, they often make me laugh. Her recipes for biscuits, dough, and bread, contain phrases that translate to “add how much flour the mixture will hold” or “add however much flour it needs” and (a favourite), “cook until ready”. But that’s because she’s never really cooked from a recipe – its always from feel, sight, and taste, so it was a really challenge for her to attempt to convert everything into quantities for me.

And I must admit if you make certain things enough it does work that way. For my morning coffee biscuits, which I make on a regular basis, I never measure the flour – I can tell if it needs more by the texture and the look of the mixture. So for this recipe, which contained two of the aforementioned phrases, the flour amount here is an approximation – add flour such that the biscuit dough will still be a little sticky, but not so sticky that you can’t work with it. I used less sugar than her originally suggested 1 1/2 cups as I didn’t want them too sweet. They are just perfect with a cup of tea. I used a tablespoon measure to measure out the dough for each biscuit, and ended up with 80 or so – Mamma Rosa doesn’t believe in small batch recipes – you need enough to hand out to your neighbours and for any visitors that come by to take home. And she proved to be right – with a few people dropping in and sending some away the first 40 were gone very quickly!

lemon biscuits (2)

Ingredients
Grated rind of 3 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
5 eggs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 900g self raising flour
Icing sugar, for coating

Making them
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced
2. Using an electric beater, combine the eggs and caster sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add the olive oil, grated lemon, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined
4. Fold in the baking powder and flour until combined
5. Form the dough into little balls, sprinkle with icing sugar, and place on trays with baking paper leaving 3cm or so between each biscuit
6. Cook until ready (mum’s words) – mine were done in 15 minutes or so. They go from white to brown very quickly so don’t stray too far from the oven!
7. Put on a wire rack to cool and then sit down and enjoy one or two with a cup of tea

ricetta limone

Lemon Semolina Biscuits

lemon biscuits

The mother of a very good friend of my mother’s used to make a version of these, and very well too. She knew I liked them, so whenever she made a batch she would kindly make sure some came my way. I came across this recipe by Steve Manfredi, so thought I would give them a go. Maybe it was the size of my lemon or my eggs, but I did find the dough way too sticky once combined, so I did end up adding another 1/2 cup of flour in addition to the 200g suggested in the recipe. Also the dough is already quite sweet, so the rolling in the sugar step I’d say is optional. I used a tablespoon measure to form the biscuits, and ended up with about 36. These are delicious!

Ingredients
200g plain flour
100g fine semolina
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Pinch salt
110g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
Grated zest and juice of a lemon
½ tsp vanilla extract
60g caster sugar, extra, for rolling (optional)

Making them
1. Mix together in a bowl, the flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
2. Cream together the butter, olive oil and 200g of sugar in an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Add the egg, yolk, vanilla, lemon zest and juice until well combined (may be necessary to scrape down the sides).
3. On low speed add the dry ingredients and mix till soft dough is formed. Wrap the dough in some cling film, flatten into a disc and refrigerate for 90 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the 60g of extra sugar in a bowl. Using lightly floured fingers, take a small piece of dough and roll each biscuit to the size of a golf ball. Roll each ball in the sugar and place on baking sheets covered with baking paper. Each ball should be about 4cm from the other.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes till lightly golden. Cool and store in airtight containers.