Even though we are but moments away from Christmas celebrations and festive food, I love having a recipe up my sleeve for something simpler, that will tide me through the times when I have had enough panettone and when I know I should really be saving the home made panforte for gifts. Something with fennel or aniseed, which feels fresher and lighter. That is where biscotti di San Martino come in; they are Sicilian and traditionally made for the feast of St Martin, on 11 November. Ok, so it is now December but frankly it is only a month later. Some make them with aniseed, others with fennel and I have also seen cinnamon added. They are not too sweet and are cooked until they are quite firm, making them perfect for dunking in wine (preferably though not essentially, a sweet wine). They take me back to beautiful Sicily, a place I have not been to since 2017. This might not seem a long time to many, but to me it feels like forever, in a year where time has moved ever so slowly.
I have been reminiscing over photos from my trips to Sicily; memories of Palermo, the Quattro Canti and the cluster of vibrant markets and delicious pasticcerie that can be found there; the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School where I ran a few workshops in 2016 and 2017. I even pulled up my old WordPress travel blog from 2013, “Italy on the Road”, which was how I shared our trip with family and friends. If you are interested there are a couple of posts about Sicily on it: a post about the Southeast corner (Ragusa, Modica etc),one about Siracusa and the Greek ruins and a third one about Taormina and Catania.
A reminder that in-person cooking classes in my home are back! There are a couple of Pasta 101 classes next weekend (both still have a few spots if you are interested). Then I will take my usual summer break, as the weather is too hot in my home to run classes during the hotter months; plus there is Christmas and I have a feeling that after the many months of lock-down, we are a bit tired of cooking (and preferring to support the local businesses). Then I will be back in late February. Click here for my schedule of 2021 classes.
Now that I am on a (blog) roll, I plan to put up one more post soon, a Christmas-themed one. But in the meantime, here is the recipe for my favourite wine-biscuits/cookies.
wine biscuits with fennel seeds
makes about 20
250g plain flour
4g instant dried yeast
good pinch salt
10g fennel seeds
50g butter, at room temperature
75ml tepid water (or more or less as needed)
Place the flour, sugar, salt, instant dried yeast and fennel seeds in a bowl. Give it a quick whisk to combine, then add the butter, chopped into small pieces. Work that through the dry ingredients with your fingertips. Next, add the water, bit by bit, stirring initially with a spoon and then using your hands to bring it together. Add a bit more/less water depending on the point when the dough comes together. Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough it smooth and homogenous.
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Break off balls of about 22g and roll into a rope about 12 cm long. Form a spiral with the rope, tucking the outer end under the biscotto. Place on a baking tray, leaving space between the dough spirals so they can rise. Cover loosely with a tea-towel and place in a warm spot in the kitchen (or in the oven with only the light on) for about an hour and a half. They should have risen nicely, not quite doubled but close to it.
Place in a 180C conventional oven and bake for 12-14 minutes until golden. Turn off the oven and let the biscotti sit in there for another 20 or so minutes. They should become quite crisp and firm as they cool. If you would like a softer biscuit/cookie, take them out when you turn off the oven.
Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.