Venetian Spiced Biscuits


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    40 to 50


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

These typical Venetian biscuits are quite soft when first baked and harden as they cool and mature. As this happens, the molasses flavour intensifies and the colour darkens. Looking at this age-old recipe is like reading the list of available items from a 15th-century Venetian merchant! The word ‘forti’ means ‘hard’ or ‘strong’ in Italian, which you will discover is an apt name. The dough needs to be chilled in the refrigerator overnight, then baked the next day.


  • 250 g/9 oz/scant ¾ cup black treacle/molasses
  • 250 g/9 oz/ cups sugar
  • 50 g/2 oz/¼ cup butter, softened and cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 eggs, beaten, plus 1 egg white
  • 250 g/9 oz/ cups almonds
  • 90 ml/6 tbsp sweet dessert wine
  • 100 g/ oz/scant ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 ml/1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 ml/1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 5 ml/1 tsp salt
  • 15 ml/1 tbsp warm milk
  • 400-450 g/14 oz-1 lb/3½-4 cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp icing/confectionerssugar
  • 30-60 ml/2-4 tbsp sugar crystals


  1. Whisk the black treacle, sugar, butter and beaten eggs together thoroughly.

  2. Pound 200 g/7 oz/generous 1 cup of the almonds using a mortar and pestle, or process them in a food processor.
  3. Stir the pounded almonds into the treacle mixture. Add the wine and cocoa powder, then stir in the ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black pepper. Stir the salt into the milk, then add this to the mixture.

  4. Add enough flour to the mixture to make a stiff and kneadable dough, then wrap the dough in baking parchment and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and grease two baking sheets with butter.
  6. Roll out the mixture into two 6 cm/ in thick tubes. Cut each into rounds about 2.5 cm/1 in thick. Push a hole in the middle of each with your thumb or a small pastry or cookie cutter. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, spacing them well apart.
  7. Pound or process the remaining almonds with the icing sugar with a mortar and pestle or food processor.
  8. Put the egg white into a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk until foaming. Combine it with the almond mixture, then use to brush over the forti.

  9. Sprinkle with sugar crystals and bake the forti for 15 minutes, or until golden. They will still be soft after this time but will firm up as they cool. Leave them on the baking tray for 1 minute to allow them to firm slightly, then transfer to wire racks to cool. Store in airtight containers until required.