Quaresimali – Chunky Almond Biscotti for Lent

 

Quaresimali Cookie

 

Nobody does Easter like the Italians. From chocolate fantasy eggs and wonderful cookies to the famous Pastiera, celebration foods abound. Lent, or Quaresima as it is known in Italy, is the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter, a time of self-enforced culinary deprivation during which cucina magra, or the consumption of lean food, is the order of the day. This extends all the way to dessert. However, Italians have found plenty of ways to enjoy their treats during the Lenten season, and Quaresimali, a traditional cookie, is but one. Each region, each town, every bakery and every nonna has a unique rendition of this cookie. From tooth-breakingly hard and desperately in need of a dunk, to the delicate cocoa meringue alphabet cookies of Florence, these cookies are found throughout the country.

 

Southern Italian Desserts

 

These orange-scented Quaresimali from Puglia were featured in Rosetta Costantino’s masterwork Southern Italian Desserts. Chock full of toasted almonds, the cookies are delicately crispy on the outside with a chewy interior. The scorze d’arance candite, or candied orange peel, lends the sunny taste and sweet flavor of orange while contributing a delectable texture that yields easily to the bite. A second baking imparts crispness to the tapered tips and exterior, an intriguing contrast to the softer, almost succulent belly of the cookie.

The better the ingredients, the better the cookie, so don’t skimp on the candied orange peel. Seek out a fine imported product or make your own. The book’s publisher, Ten Speed Press, has graciously allowed me to reprint Rosetta’s recipe for scorze d’arancia candite along with the cookie recipe. Do not be intimidated. You really should try making your own candied orange peel. Visit Cooking with Rosetta and watch her demonstration video. She will take you through every step to produce the most delicious candied orange peel. Make your own once, and you will never buy the supermarket brand again.

It’s a good thing Lent is not over yet. You will probably want to make these at least twice. The recipe makes twenty-four cookies. Good thing, too. Bart and I finished them off in about twelve hours – on average, one an hour for each of us.

 

Quaresimali Cookies

Quaresimali Biscotti
Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!

 

 

 

Quaresimali – step by step

Ingredients Quaresimali

Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl

 

Ingredients Quaresimali

Combine the dry ingredients

 

Ingredients Quaresimali

Lightly beat the egg whites and vanilla together. Stir the beaten egg whites and vanilla into the dry ingredients

 

Wet Ingredients Quaresimali

Mix until evenly moistened

 

Forming Quaresimali

On a Silpat mat divide the dough into two and form into logs

 

Egg Brush Quaresimali

Brush each log with a beaten egg yolk wash

 

Cooling Quaresimali

Allow the baked logs to cool slightly

 

Cutting Quaresimali

Cut each baked and cooled log into twelve pieces

 

2nd Bake Quaresimali

Bake a second time

 

2nd Cooling Quaresimali

Cool and serve

 

 

 

Finished Quaresimali

Quaresimali chunky almond biscotti

MAKES 24 COOKIES

The quaresimali found in much of Southern Italy are similar to the cantucci of Northern Italy—what we think of in the United States as biscotti. I found this chewy-centered version at Caffè Tripoli in Martina Franca (Puglia). Loaded with chopped toasted almonds, they are my new favor­ite cookie.
Traditionally made for Quaresima, or Lent, when no fat was to be used in cooking, these cookies lack the egg yolks found in other biscotti. However, the rich sheen on the ones I found in Puglia looked suspiciously as if they had been glazed with an egg yolk wash, which makes sense because the cookies contain egg whites.
The second baking (the “bis” in biscotti) is not imperative. Baked only once, they have an appealing chewy texture. Even better, though, is the contrast of chew and crunch that comes from crisping the outside with a second baking.

2 cups (300 g) almonds, toasted lightly
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/2 cup (66 g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed minced candied orange peel (see below or page 193 of the book)
Finely grated zest of one orange
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg, separated
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) with a rack in the center. Line a bak­ing sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Pulse the almonds in a food processor until they are chopped to a medium size. Tap the work bowl on the counter to bring the largest pieces to the top, pull those out, and chop them by hand to a medium-fine texture. (Continuing to process the nuts will make the smaller pieces too fine.) Transfer all of the chopped almonds to a bowl and add the sugar, flour, candied orange peel, zest, and cinnamon. Stir with a fork to combine.
Use a fork to whisk the 2 egg whites with the vanilla in a small bowl until foamy. Make a well in the middle of the almond mixture and add the whites. Mix well, starting with a fork and continuing with your hands to form a sticky dough that holds together when you press it. Divide the dough in two and place one piece along one long side of the prepared pan. Shape the dough into an 11-inch by 21/2-inch loaf that is about 3/4 inch high. Make a second loaf with the remaining dough parallel to the first one.
Whisk the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the tops of the dough.
Bake until golden brown all over, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through baking. Let the loaves cool on the sheet until you can easily handle them, about 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.
Trim the ends from the loaves (enjoy as a snack) and cut each loaf into twelve slices about 3/4 inch wide. Return the slices to the baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes to dry them.
Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

 

Scorze d’Arance Candite candied orange peel

Makes about 35 pieces | Gluten Free

Each year in early spring, using the last oranges from our abundant backyard crop, I make candied orange peels to last throughout the year. What does not get used in cannoli, gelato, and other desserts will surely be enjoyed as candy, on its own or dipped in melted dark chocolate, or given to friends as holiday gifts. You can purchase candied orange peels, but they are costly and are never as good as homemade. Blanching the peels five times removes their bitterness and enhances their texture and flavor.

Choose organic fruit that has not been sprayed or coated with wax, because you’ll be eating the peels. Segment the leftover orange flesh and add it to fruit salads, squeeze it for juice, or use it to make Marmellata di Arance (page 194 of the book).

5 large navel oranges with thick peels
4 cups (800 g) granulated sugar, plus more for coating
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups (480 ml) water

Use a paring knife to cut the peel from the orange, pith and all, in wide strips running from top to bottom. They will have an elongated diamond shape, about 1 inch at the widest point.

Put the peels into a large soup pot and cover them generously with cool water. Bring to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, and drain. Repeat the boiling and draining twice more. Return the peels to the pot, cover with cold water until cool enough to handle, then drain.

Lay one strip skin side down on a flat surface and use a paring knife running parallel to the rind to cut away most of the white pith inside, leaving about 1/8 inch of pith along with the peel. Repeat with the remaining strips. (Discard the trimmings.) Return the peels to the pot, cover with cold water, and blanch two more times as before, for a total of five blanchings. Drain the peels and set aside.

Stir the sugar, lemon juice, and water in the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes to slightly thicken the syrup. Add the peels and cook until they are shiny and translucent, about 1 hour. Remove the pot from the heat and let the peels plump in the syrup overnight.

Transfer the peels to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet to dry. As you remove each peel from the syrup, run it between your thumb and forefinger to squeeze any excess syrup back into the pot. When the peels are no longer tacky—24 to 48 or more hours later—transfer the peels, a few at a time, to a shallow bowl of sugar, tossing to coat them well. Return the peels to the rack to dry overnight.

Transfer the peels to an airtight container with parchment paper separating the layers and store in the freezer, where they will keep for at least a year.

 

Reprinted with permission from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino with Jennie Schacht (Ten Speed Press, © 2013)

For more on Southern Italian Desserts read my review here, or to purchase the book on Amazon click here.

Learn more about Rosetta Costantino by visiting her website Cooking with Rosetta.

Note: You can click on any picture to see a slide show!

I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.

68 Comments

  1. Comment by Hannah:

    What a treat! These look more like trail mix clusters than cookies, which sounds like the perfect ratio to me. Love all those crunchy nuts, so these beauties definitely cut straight to the good stuff and don’t mess around. :)

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Hannah,

      I have to tell you that these cookies really were a revelation. I hope you try them. Rosetta did a spectacular job with this recipe, and it was an absolute pleasure to feature them.

  2. Comment by Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen:

    Adri, I agree with you…the Italians really know how to do Easter! (Can’t wait to read your next post on Easter Monday.) I adore biscott (as we call it for short at our house) and I cannot wait to try your recipe. A sad household is a house with an empty biscotti jar. Love this! And, thank you for the cookbook rec!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Stacy,

      Yes, indeed. Lots of goodies at Easter! Thees biscotti are great. I hope you give them a try, and you will love Rosetta’s book! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Comment by nancy at good food matters:

    Hi Adri, Boy you know how to make something Super Tempting! terrific tutorial, and I have all the ingredients (including a jar of my candied citrus peel, leftover from another project!) Buona Pasqua!

  4. Comment by Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:

    That looks beautiful! One year I’d love to do Easter the Italian or Greek way. They do it so well! :)

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Lorraine,

      Thank you! Greek and Italian Easter are wonderful holidays – so many wonderful foods. There are delightful sweets, wonderful breads and celebration dishes. Maybe next year! Happy Easter to you and yours!

  5. Comment by Chiara:

    non c’è niente di più buono per festeggiare la pasqua che i dolci della tradizione! Tantissimi auguri Adri, un abbraccio !

  6. Comment by Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen:

    Your biscotti is very impressive and I really appreciate the tutorial photos. I haven’t made biscotti in a long time and the photos inspired me to give it a try again. Love the fact that they’re chunky and chewy. My husband will go crazy for these.
    Sam

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Sam,

      I’m glad you found the photographs enlightening. I always enjoy seeing how others accomplish tasks – there is always something new to learn, some new way to be inspired. I hope you try these. They are a new favorite around our house. Happy Easter to you and yours!

  7. Comment by Daniela:

    I always wanted to make my own biscottis but never did. Now with this amazing recipe, I will.
    Can picture my husband already enjoying home made biscottis with a cup of nice Italian coffee :)

    • Comment by Adri:

      Benvenuta Daniela,

      I am so glad to hear that this has inspired you, and I bet Rosetta, who wrote the recipe would also love the news. Have fun, and I hope you and your husband enjoy the biscotti!

  8. Comment by Chris @ The Café Sucré Farine:

    These look spectacular. I don’t think it would have to be Lent for me to make them. YUM!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Chris,

      They are really great, and I thought the same thing about Lent! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you give these a test run. I bet you will enjoy them. Buona Pasqua!

  9. Comment by Susan:

    Of all the biscotti recipes I have tried, almond and orange zest continue to be my most favorite! I love the sound of the candied orange peel in these too. A must try. That dessert cookbook must be wonderful!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Susan,

      If almond and orange zest are your favorites, then you will flip for these. The really good news is they are great all year long – not just at Lent! Rosetta’s book is an absolutely delightful cook’s tour through the delights of Southern Italian treats. I suggest you pick up a copy. You will love it. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  10. Comment by Ciao Chow Linda:

    How timely Adri. Saturday was my annual “make candied orange peel” day and they’re just begging for a recipe like this. I have never made quaresimali but a friend makes them and they are indeed jawbreakers. Yours (and Rosetta’s) look just perfect and I can’t wait to try them. By the way, leave that door open ajar for me too!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Linda,

      Perfect timing indeed. These are great – no jawbreaking with this version, no Lenten dental suffering necessary. This version has just teeny bit of crispness and a toothsome chew at the center – my kind of biscotti. Buona Pasqua a tutti!

  11. Comment by Tandy | Lavender and Lime:

    I did not get to try these when we were in Puglia so I will have to make some at home for the Easter weekend :)

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Tandy,

      Well, next time you visit Puglia, you must go to Caffè Tripoli and try some. In the meantime, you can make your own. They are surprisingly easy to do and absolutely delicious. Happy Easter to you and yours!

  12. Comment by Laura Dembowski:

    I love biscotti, but I’ve never made my own. These are calling my name!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Laura,

      Oh give these a go. They really are good. I bet you will enjoy them, and then you’ll be hooked. There are thousands of variations of biscotti, enough to keep you baking for a lifetime! Enjoy, and thank you for stopping by.

  13. Comment by Frank @Memorie di Angelina:

    And they Lent is a time of fasting and sacrifice… ;=)

  14. Comment by Monique:

    They look fabulous..You ahve mentioned her before..I really should get one of her books..this one:)

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Monique,

      I am glad these caught your eye. Indeed I have mentioned Rosetta before. Check out her website – that will convince you to get her books!

  15. Comment by Laney (Ortensia Blu):

    I was a little early for Easter (or late) because I made these around Christmas when I first received Rosetta’s cookbook and they were wonderful! And I agree that they don’t stay around long – do you think you could just double the recipe? The more the merrier!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Laney,

      They really do go quickly, and I think you could double it with no problem. I was captivated by the chewy center juxtaposed against the crispy exterior and crunchy tips. Catherine Faris, an American expat (and maker of Pascarosa extra virgin olive oil) now lives in Martina Franca in Puglia. She frequents Caffè Tripoli and was thrilled to see the recipe. This one is a keeper! Buona Domenica a te!

  16. Comment by Kloe's Kitchen:

    These look so good! I love biscotti and your turned out lovely! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting, your blog is lovely too!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Kloe,

      It was my pleasure to visit, and thank you for returning the favor. I love cruising around and seeing what others are up to. I am glad you like the Quaresimali. This version of biscotti was new to me, and they are wonderful.

  17. Comment by yummychunklet:

    The Tuesdays with Dorie group is baking biscotti this week. I’ll have to try this version as well!

  18. Comment by sippitysup:

    I’m sure you got that particular twice baked crunch of good biscotti just right. Have a happy (Italian) Easter. GREG

  19. Comment by Marie:

    If I lived near you I’d be hanging out in your kitchen with a cup of coffee in my hands helping Bart taste test these beautiful biscotti! Adri, may I ask what kind of knife you cut them with? I find when I use a lot of nuts and things in my biscotti I tend to make a ton of crumbs when cutting them, last time I used an electric knife and that worked great, nice and clean!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Marie,

      And I would leave the door open for you. Let me tell you about the knife. It is a 14-inch serrated knife, somewhat flexible, far thinner than say a chef’s knife or even a Santoku blade, more on the order of a boning knife. It is made by Forschner (Victorinox.) I received it as a gift WAY back in the early eighties, and it is a wonderful instrument, probably the prime example of how important it is to have the right knife for a specific task. I use it for splitting cakes, where its thinness and extraordinary length make the job simple. For slicing biscotti, it is an absolute dream. I too have “crumb trouble” with nut cookies, but much less when I use this knife. I find that whole nuts, most especially almonds, wreak havoc when I try to slice biscotti, breaking away from the dough and making a big old mess. Now when a recipe for biscotti calls for “whole almonds”, I always give them a rough chop. It just works better. This blade is actually somewhat similar to what you have on your electric knife, so it looks like we have both reached the same conclusion about the best tool for the job, the serrated edge being the solution. This knife was expensive, even back in the eighties, but it is perhaps one of the best gifts I ever received. Check around and see if you can try one out. I bet you will love it.

  20. Comment by TheKitchenLioness:

    Cara Adri, these Chunky Almond Biscotti look like a cookie lovers dream come true – with lots of sweet, delicious natural almonds, orange peel and cinnamon – baked twice to perfection. Love the look and sound of that recipe – since I bake quite a few biscotti myself, I just know that they must taste heavenly – thank you for posting these wonderful recipes! Easter baking will never be all “German” at my house anymore!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Andrea,

      Well it is quite a compliment that this one caught your most discerning glance. I can’t say enough good things about these. No jaw-breaking crunch, just the right amount degree of resistance to the bite and what flavor! Be sure to look at Rosetta’s tutorial on making one’s own candied orange zest. About a month ago I attended a class she gave and she treated us all to a taste of her own candied orange peel. What a revelation. Well worth the effort, it is absolutely divine. Buona Pasqua a tutti!

  21. Comment by cheri:

    Love the way the almonds look in biscotti when they are sliced. Such a beautiful cookie. Your instructions are very detailed and your pics really help one see what needs to be done. Great post!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Benvenuta Cheri,

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I am glad the photoessay was helpful. And with Rosetta’s detailed written recipes, I think we’ve taken the mystery out of this one. I hope you give these a go! Happy Easter, and thank you for visiting.

  22. Comment by Due Spaghetti:

    We’ve never heard of these, either! They look scrumptious. You didn’t mention what dessert wine accompanies them in the photo. That is dessert wine, right?!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Due,

      These were new to me also, and I am awfully glad I made them. That is in fact, a glass of Amaretto – a big glass! I think that a Passito di Pantelleria, however, would be fabulous. Buona Pasqua a tutti!

  23. Comment by John@Kitchen Riffs:

    I’d say a cookie an hour is about right. ;-) I’ll bet they’d disappear even faster at our house! These look terrific — I love Italian sweets, the cookies in particular. Must try this — thanks.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi John,

      It was pretty funny. The pile on the plate just kept getting smaller and smaller. I hope you enjoy these. Have a great weekend, and Happy Easter to you and yours!

  24. Comment by Angie@Angie's Recipes:

    These biscotti look fantastic and loaded with all the goodness, Adri.

  25. Comment by amy @ fearless homemaker:

    Oh wow, these biscotti look divine! And I love the step-by-step pictures – I’ve never made biscotti, so that really helps visualize how to do it. YUM!

  26. Comment by speedy70:

    Ottimo questi biscotti, da rifare!!!!

  27. Comment by Paola Lovisetti Scamihorm:

    Thanks for sharing this mouth-watering recipes! I love almonds, this sounds perfect for me. Happy Easter my dear Adri! Buona Pasqua. Paola

  28. Comment by Lizzy (Good Things):

    Oh Adri, these sound absolutely divine!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Lizzy,

      They were a revelation to me. I was completely unfamiliar with this cookie. Both Bart and I adored them. I hope you try your hand at them. They come together with surprising ease, and Rosetta’s instructions are perfection.

  29. Comment by Bam's Kitchen:

    I have to agree that the Italians really know how to celebrate Easter from a culinary perspective and it makes me miss my Aunts and Uncles as they used to always make special dishes that we would only get once a year around Easter. I love your biscotti biscuits with the candied orange peel. Is that a glass of Amaretto next to your biscotti?

  30. Comment by Maureen | Orgasmic Chef:

    I haven’t done anything special for Lent for I can’t remember how many years. After looking at these gorgeous photos, I think it’s time I got religion again. :) I’m a chewy cookie fan and I do like biscotti. I’m eager to try my hand at these.

  31. Comment by Chiara:

    A wonderful recipe for Easter, thank you Adri, thank you Rosetta !Happy Easter my friends !

  32. Comment by ela@GrayApron:

    Looks like a great book. These cookie are right in my alley. Thanks! :) ela

    • Comment by Adri:

      Benvenuta,

      The book is indeed marvelous. I have lost count of the number of recipes I have made from it. I hope you give these cookies a try! Buon weekend!

  33. Comment by Pam @ MyNewlywedCookingAdventures:

    I was thinking they looked like biscotti! I love the idea of baking these cookies once so they stay chewy. I have never gotten into biscotti because they need dunking and I don’t drink coffee. These cookies would be perfect for me!

  34. Comment by Anthony Fama:

    These look mouthwatering

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