Biscotti Regina

These are a delicious Sicilian cookie, widely available in industrially made versions. I assume that the regina (queen) in question is Margherita di Savoia, the second and much beloved queen of a united Italy. Queen Margherita loved sweets and would often go personally to visit pastry shops with her ladies in waiting. She was known to spontaneously ennoble the owner of a pastry shop where she really liked the cookies, elevating him to the rank of cavaliere (knight)! Biscotti Regina are an example of Italian cookies that are not sliced and rebaked.

Ingredients

  • cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Egg wash: 2 large eggs well beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups untoasted sesame seeds
  • cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil

Method

  1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325°F (160°C).
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
  3. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until the butter is finely mixed in, but the mixture is still cool and powdery. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Invert the bowl onto a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Briefly knead the dough 2 to 3 times to make it smooth. Shape the dough into a rough cylinder. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Roll 1 piece of dough into a rope about 15 inches (38 cm) long. Cut the dough into 3-inch (7-cm) long cylinders. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, lining up the cylinders on the left side of your work surface.
  6. After all the cookies have been formed, place the egg wash and sesame seeds, each in a separate shallow bowl, next to the cookies, and place the baking pans to their right.
  7. Drop one of the cookies into the egg wash and use a fork to turn it over so it is completely covered. Use the fork to lift it out of the egg wash, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, and place it on the sesame seeds. Use a second fork to roll the cookie around in the sesame seeds to cover it completely. Use the same fork to transfer the coated cookie to one of the prepared pans.
  8. Repeat with the remaining cookies, leaving each cookie about inches (4 cm) apart and all around on the pans.
  9. Bake the cookies until they are risen, firm, and the sesame seeds are golden, about 30 minutes.
  10. After the first 15 minutes, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time. If you know that your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack the pan on the lower rack on top of a second one for insulation. Cool the cookies on the pans.

Storage

Keep the cookies between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid at room temperature.

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