Quaresimali – Chunky Almond Biscotti for Lent
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.
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.
Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!
Quaresimali – step by step
Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
Combine the dry ingredients
Lightly beat the egg whites and vanilla together. Stir the beaten egg whites and vanilla into the dry ingredients
Mix until evenly moistened
On a Silpat mat divide the dough into two and form into logs
Brush each log with a beaten egg yolk wash
Allow the baked logs to cool slightly
Cut each baked and cooled log into twelve pieces
Bake a second time
Cool and serve
Reprinted with permission from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino with Jennie Schacht (Ten Speed Press, © 2013)
Learn more about Rosetta Costantino by visiting her website Cooking with Rosetta.
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I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.