Veneto ~ Venice
Biscotti Natalizi Veneziani
Makes 3 dozen cookies*
* Note: the number of cookies will depend on the size of the cutters.
- Pinch of sea salt
- ½ vanilla bean or natural almond, lemon or orange flavoring, to taste
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- Grated lemon zest, to taste
- 4 egg yolks, beaten
Add the salt and vanilla to the flour and then place on a clean work surface. Form the flour into a mound and create a well at the center. Add the butter, sugar and lemon zest to the well in the flour and begin working the butter and sugar together. Add the egg yolks, then slowly incorporate the flour. Knead the mixture just until the dough is smooth, without manipulating it too much, and form it into the shape of a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour before using.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Remove dough from the refrigerator. On a floured work surface, roll out with a rolling pin until it is about ¼ inch thick. Use Christmas cookie cutters to make your favorite shapes. Bake about 12 minutes or until cookies turn light golden brown. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Decorate as desired or serve plain.
Panettone ~ Italian Christmas Bread
For the starter
- ¾ cup of flour
- A pinch of natural yeast
- 1/3 cup cool water
For the dough
- All of the starter (mixture from above)
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- ¼ cup lukewarm water
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup or 4 tablespoons, softened butter
- 1 vanilla bean, split open
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ½ cup raisins, pre-soaked in rum, or Vin Santo – even better!
- ¼ cup lemon or orange naturally candied fruit
- ¼ cup of crushed almonds, unshelled
- ¼ cup of crushed pistachios, unshelled
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest, from an un-waxed lemon
- A handful of whole almonds for garnishing
- Course sugar pearls for decorating – we don’t use them
Mix together all the ingredients for the starter in a wide mixing bowl. When well mixed, cover and leave to rest overnight.
For the Dough
Combine all of the ingredients except for the fruit, crushed nuts and zest, and knead them together, preferably in a mixer with the dough hook attachment, or by hand, until the dough is soft and workable. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 1 ½ hours. It will be light and airy.
Gently deflate the dough, and knead in the fruits and zest. Roll the dough into a ball and place it in a panettone paper lining. Cover and let the dough rise until it touches the rim, approximately 1 hour. Sprinkle a handful of whole almonds and some course sugar pearls over the top, before putting it in the oven.
Bake in an oven preheated to 400°F for 10 minutes then reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. When baked, remove the panettone from the oven and leave to cool.
Slice and serve with a hot cappuccino or cold Prosecco. Happy Christmas!
Ricciarelli ~ Italian Almond Cookies
Makes 12 cookies
- 1 ¼ cups skinless slivered almonds
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- ½ cup powdered sugar, divided into 2 equal parts, plus more for dusting
- 1 large egg white
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden, about 5-8 minutes, taking care not to let them burn.
Pulse almonds, lemon zest, and ¼ cup powdered sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Whisk egg white and salt in a large bowl until it forms medium peaks. Whisking constantly, gradually add ¼ cup powdered sugar; whisk again until egg white is very stiff but not dry. Fold in almond mixture and vanilla. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet; using wet hands, flatten tops and press sides to make rounded diamond shapes. Chill for 30 minutes.
Bake ricciarelli until edges are lightly golden and firm and centers are still a little soft, 10-12 minutes; leave to cool on baking sheet. Dust with powdered sugar and store in an airproof container.
Struffoli ~ Fried Dough Drizzled with Honey
Makes 12 cookies
For the batter
- 240 g (2 cups) flour, sifted, or any non gluten flour such as Farina BiAglut
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the glaze
- 340 g (1 cup) honey
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Multi-colored sprinkles or candied orange and lemon fruit
- Canola oil, for deep frying
Pour the canola oil into a deep pan or fryer and slowly start to heat the oil to 185°C (365°F).
Meanwhile, place the flour and the sea salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing slightly after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well to make a soft dough.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead. Divide the dough in half and roll out into two rectangles ¾ cm (¼ inch) thick. Cut the dough into strips ¾ cm (¼ inch) wide, roll into logs the thickness of a pencil and cut the logs into pieces of about ¾ cm (¼ inch) long.
Test fry by dropping one piece of dough into the boiling oil. If it sizzles right away the oil is ready. Fry in small batches, putting only a few pieces of dough in the pan at a time for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown. Turn them occasionally during frying with a slotted spoon. They’ll float to the top when done. Drain well on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, in a pan, heat the honey with the sugar over a low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the struffoli. Stir constantly until all pieces are coated with the honey-sugar mixture. Remove struffoli with a slotted spoon and put onto a serving plate arranging the small pieces in a pyramid or a wreath shape decorated with an orange in the center. Garnish with colorful sprinkles and leave to set.
Biscotti di Pistacchio ~ Pistachio Biscotti
Makes 18 cookies
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup organic brown sugar
- 1⁄4 butter, softened
- 1⁄4 cup canola oil
- 1 vanilla bean, slit open
- 1⁄2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 cup pistachios out of their shell
Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat the eggs well with sugar, butter, oil, the contents of a vanilla bean, almond extract and lemon zest in a large bowl. Next add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Add the pistachios. Form the dough into a 15×4 ½-inch log and bake for 25 minutes until they are golden. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool 15 minutes. While keeping your oven on, cut the log on an angle into 1 to 1 ½ inch slices. Place the biscotti back onto the cookie sheet and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until golden on their sides.