Biscotti Recipe for a “Buon Natale”

During the festive period, it is always lovely to give or receive a homemade gift – something made with love, to be enjoyed. And what better gift than biscotti?

Ricciarelli are a type of biscotti that I make every year for Christmas gifts and, for me, it doesn’t feel like Christmas without them. They originated in Siena and are thought to have been created on return of crusader, Ricciardetto della Gherardesca, from the Middle East. Ricciarelli use ingredients that are certainly classic Middle Eastern flavours – almonds and oranges. It is said that the shape of ricciarelli resemble Middle Eastern slippers. Dusted liberally with icing sugar like a dusting of snow, ricciarelli are truly festive biscotti.

Occhi di bue (translating as “bull’s eye”) are, again, biscotti that remind me of Christmas. Similar to Austrian linzer cookies, occhi di bue are the perfect festive gift. They are made using pasta frolla, a type of pastry dough, which, to me, is a quintessential Italian flavour and transports me to a pasticceria in Italy.

I hope you enjoy these biscotti if you try them – whether that is for you, or for a gift. Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo!

Ricciarelli

All images by Natalia Bell

Because they are made with ground almonds, ricciarelli are naturally gluten free.

Ingredients:

3 egg whites;

300g caster sugar;

300g ground almonds;

Zest of an orange;

Icing (powdered) sugar

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 170°C.
  • Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites until firm.
  • Add the sugar, ground almonds and orange zest to the egg whites, and fold in until combined.
  • Put some icing sugar in a bowl and take about a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it in the icing sugar, then make an oval shape and place it on a lined baking tray.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and beginning to crack.
  • Remove from the oven and use a sieve to cover the biscuits with icing sugar.
  • Leave to cool and enjoy!

Occhi di bue

Ingredients:

375g plain (all purpose) flour;

150g icing (powdered) sugar;

200g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes;

3 egg yolks (if you also make the ricciarelli, you could use the leftover egg yolks from that recipe);

2 tablespoons vanilla extract;

Gianduia, pistachio paste, jam or any filling of your choice

Method:

  • Use a sieve to sift the flour and sugar into a large bowl.
  • Add the cubes of butter and rub into the dry ingredients using your hands. Work the mixture together until it resembles sand.
  • Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and combine into the dough until it forms a ball.
  • Cover the dough with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
  • Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface, until it is about 3-4mm thick.
  • Use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into shapes. Then, use a smaller cookie cutter on half the shapes to make a hole for the top biscotti of your occhi di bue.
  • Place onto a lined baking tray and bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, just before they turn golden.
  • Leave them to cool, then assemble by spooning or piping the filling of your choice onto the bottom biscotti and then placing the biscotti with the hole on top.
  • Dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!
Natalia Bell

Contributing Food Editor

Natalia is a lawyer who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking for and enjoying food with the people she loves, and travelling. She has a particular interest in Italian cuisine and culture, having been fortunate enough to travel there every year whilst growing up. She speaks Italian, but is continually trying to improve her skills to a fully proficient level. She would love to live in Italy one day - but, in the meantime, she posts about food and Italy on her Instagram @buonappetitotutti

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