I've never really made Italian deserts before. When in Italy, I've noticed that the bars and bakeries make and sell beautiful, complex creations. Why would you make them at home? Not for me the concoctions of cream and fruit, glazes and choux pastry. But a little biscotti to go with your coffee, well that might be something to try.
Marcella talked me into it. I've made three batches of her Burano Sugar Biscuits, I Bussolati de Buran. I'm absolutely certain that there will be room for more of these biscuits in my life.
The interesting thing is that I've realised half of the excitement of the biscuits lies in the texture. The first batch was divine. Surprising and delightful. Chewy on the inside and crisp around the edges. The second batch, intended for Christmas gifts, just didn't cut it. I forgot to fully incorporate the two tablespoons of milk (is that all?, you think) -- and I learned that it does indeed make a difference! These ones didn't have the delightful chew. They taste great, but not divine.
I have hopes of the third batch, batter carefully made and sitting in the fridge to get cold. This is one of those simple recipes that has two parts: make the batter (chill the batter), shape and bake the biscuits. Perfect for a busy day when you can go out and do something else in the in-between.
Here's the recipe. The instructions I have short-handed, and for the real thing, grab the book from your library. I'm sure you could manage with this short form, though! It's dead simple.
Burano Sugar Biscuits
225g (8 oz) butter, softened to room temperature
285g (10 oz) caster sugar (but I ran out and used a mixture - fine)
A pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
5 egg yolks (yes, that means egg white omelette for dinner!)
450g (1 lb) plain flour, plus more for rolling
2 tablespoons milk (don't forget!)
A large rectangular cookie sheet or baking tray
1. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix. (I use my hand-held cake mixer because I haven't got a food processor. I mix things in gradually and pray I don't bust the motor! The dough gets a bit stiff at the end.)
2. Stick it in a container you can seal tightly and pop in the fridge for 2 hours or so.
3. Turn on the oven to 200 degrees (400F). Smear the baking tin/tray with butter, sprinkle with flour and tap it sharply on the counter to remove the excess.
4. Tip some more flour onto the counter. Pull off a handful of batter, about the size of a large egg. Roll it under your palms to form a cigar. When it's 8 inches long and about 1 inch, or slightly less thick, gently (oh so gently!) curve it around and press the two ends together. (If you're too quick, the dough cracks, and that tastes fine but looks ugly.)
5. Bake them on the tray - leave plenty of space between them as they do puff up. Bake for 10-15 minutes until slightly golden.
Keeps well: in a large air-tight tin for (she says) up to 2 months. Hah, just you try it! They'll be gone in 3 days. Makes about 2 dozen.
Dare I say it? Better than shortbread.... aaaaaahhh, that's sacrilege. But it might be true!