Nonna’s kitchen: biscotti


Saturdays and Sundays were for visiting and visitors. And church. That’s just the way it was. Ritual, expected, understood. The cakes were baked and the tables were set. Friends and neighbours knew the rules. This is what my Nonna said. Cakes were good for visitors one expected and biscotti was good for the unexpected type.

Think about it. You bake a cake. It’s got to be eaten fresh, as close to the hour of baking as possible but biscuits... no, you could make a batch of biscuits and they would last weeks - should they need to.

Nonna’s simple biscotti has a firm place in my childhood memories. A constant place. Ever present. Always in the cupboard and always on the table at any gathering. They aren’t fancy and that’s what makes the perfect kind of unexpected visitor biscuit. They aren’t intimidating or show-offy. They are the perfect accompaniment with tea or coffee and people don’t feel decadent in eating one or three.

Watching Nonna’s small capable hands make them is a privilege. Watching her get out the special board to roll them (probably not necessary but that’s the way it’s always been done). Listening to her tell me that the dough reacts differently in different seasons. In summer you need to work quickly and in winter she would work in the warmest part of the day. It’s imperative that the dough is very soft - she uses butter in summer and margarine in winter.

Attempting to understand and learn how to roll the correct thickness of dough and then shape them into and S or a bow. Adding the egg wash so that they come out of the hot oven shiny and golden. These are important things. Very important things.

This is her recipe.

Her origional recipe in her curled and precise handwritten Italian.

Biscotti con vino dolce/ Sherry biscuits 

250g burro/butter or margarine (summer/winter)

1 tazza zucchero/cup sugar

2 uove/eggs

50 ml vino dolce (Sherry) or 2 cucchiaini vanilla/ 20ml Sherry or 2 tspn vanilla

1 tazza corn fleur/cup corn flour

600 - 800 grammi farina /4 cups of self raising flour

Heat oven to 180 degrees

Sift three and a half cups of plain flour and cornflour into a bowl.

Cream butter and sugar, add sherry or vanilla.

Add eggs one at a time.

Fold in flour until it forms a pale dough.

Kneed the dough well on a smooth surface . Add the second half a cup of flour.

The dough must be soft.

Form the biscotti and lay on baking trays. They will rise a little so don’t put them too close.

Glaze generously with a beaten egg or two.

Pop them in the oven for 14mins fan forced.