There are 2 kinds of people in this world, people who love Biscuits and people who don’t. I belong to the later category. Although like is a strong word, so let’s just say that if I was given a choice of Biscuits and something else I would definitely go for something else.
"Torcettini de Saint Vincent Biscuits"
However on the other hand the husband is a Biscuit lover. He cannot drink his morning or evening cup of chai without the biscuits. He can finish a whole packet of biscuits on his own without any assistance from anyone. There have been times when he has asked me to stop him from eating them as he cannot control his biscuit craving at all. And I have had to be mean and snatch away the box from him. The weekly grocery shopping has to include a few packets of biscuits else I have a grumpy mumbling husband on hands who is not happy drinking his chai.
So when in this months “Knead to Bake” event we were asked to bake biscuits I knew the husband would be really happy. The biscuits we had to make were “Torcettini de Saint Vincent”. These twisted Italian treats are gorgeous biscuits with a hint of Lemon.
They are not your typical biscuits; I feel that they are really a cross between bread and a biscuit. They were a favorite of Queen Margaret, the wife of King Umberto I of Savoy. Apparently she loved them so much that she knighted the baker who baked them for her.
I really enjoyed baking these especially when my kitchen started to smell like Lemons. They were not too sweet and had a crispy texture and were doughy from inside. And for someone who said that she does not like biscuits, I ended up eating half of them straight from the baking tray and by the time the husband was home there was only 1 left.
Any biscuit lover will surely love these perfect bite sized goodies especially as they are so easy to bake.
Here is the recipe: (Preparation time 2 hours, actual cooking time 40 minutes, makes 24)
1/2 cup warm water, about 110F
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 tsp instant yeast)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder (if making chocolate torcettini)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lime/ lemon zest (replace with orange zest for the chocolate version)
40gm unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar for rolling the cookies
1) Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, in a small bowl and keep aside.
2) Put the flour and the salt in the food processor bowl (or a largish regular bowl if kneading by hand) and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the butter is well mixed and the flour-butter mixture looks powdery.
3) If making chocolate Torcetti, remove 2 tbsp all-purpose flour and add the 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder mentioned in the recipe. Don’t add the lemon zest/ anise. Use orange zest and maybe add 1/ 2 tsp instant coffee powder with the flour.
4) Add the yeast-water mixture and pulse till it all comes together as a ball. Do not over process or knead. Place the ball of dough in a oiled bowl, turning it so it is well coated with the oil. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise quite a bit.
5) This dough does not really double in volume, but it should look “puffy” after about an hour or so. When you pinch off a bit from the top you can see the interior looking a bit like honeycomb. Press down the dough and deflate it, wrap it in cling warp and refrigerate it for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
6) When ready to make the cookies, take the dough out and lightly roll it out into an approximately 6” square. If the dough feels sticky, scatter a little sugar on it. Using a pizza wheel cut the dough into four strips of equal width. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, by cutting across, making a total of 24 pieces. The measurements are not very critical in this part because this just makes it easier to have 24 equal sized bits of dough, as compared to pinching of bits of the dough.
7) Roll each piece into a pencil thick “rope” about 5” long. Sprinkle a little sugar on your work surface and roll the “rope” in it so the sugar crusts the dough uniformly. Form the “rope” into a loop crossing it over before the ends.
8) Place the Torcettini on parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2" between them. Leave them for about 20 minutes or so till they rise/ puff up slightly. Don’t worry, they will not “puff up” much.
9) Bake them at 160C (325F) for about 25 minutes till they’re a nice golden brown. Cool the cookies completely, on a rack. Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature. They taste best on the same day even though they can be kept for 2 -3 days.
Recipe courtesy - (Adapted from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri)