Blood orange biscotti

The first time I tasted blood oranges was when I was living in Italy. I was 6 years old and we had recently migrated from Australia back to Italy. Since I can remember mamma would get up at the crack of dawn, to prepare bowls of steaming milky coffee for papa’ and herself, and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice each for me and my sister. In Australia the juice had been a sunny summery orange but in Italy, much to my surprise and suspicion, it was deep blood red.

It took me quite a while to get up enough courage to drink it. The ruby-like colour was all wrong – a bit like the first time I saw purple carrots. And it smelt slightly different too – sweeter, bolder, with an undercurrent of raspberries. My zia Clara told me that the orange and speckled red-skinned fruit came from Sicily, which seemed exotic compared to neighbouring towns Gorizia and Trieste. At first I refused (I was stubborn when it came to food and was enjoying a small stash of Australian goodies that had come over on the ship with us), but after some coercing, I tried it …a small sip to start with, then the whole glass. I begrudgingly said that I liked it. And over the weeks, I fell in love with its opulent richness, wondering how I had enjoyed its paler and less dramatic orange cousin. Blood orange juice still reminds me of Italy and eating breakfast in our tiny apartment and its kitchen window looking out onto Via Ceriani.

blood orange juice goblet-italy on my mind

I had mixed feelings when we migrated back to Australia – I was happy to once again have a large back yard, be able to play with my best friend Joanne, eat Twisties and enjoy salty Vegemite on toast (which my zio Mario in Italy used to tease me about – he would ask me if it was “grasso per la macchina” ie.grease/oil for the car). On the down side, I would miss eating finely sliced peppery mortadella and creamy stracchino from Franco Bais, who ran the delicatessen in Via Ceriani, the sweet custard flakey pastries called paste creme (pronounced pass-teh crem-eh) that we would eat every Sunday after going to mass from Miniussi, the bakery on Via 9 Giugno and glasses of freshly squeezed blood red orange juice before breakfast.

blood oranges-biscotti morbidi-italy on my mind

biscotti mixed

Times have of course changed and what was once only available in Italy is almost always found in Melbourne. Blood oranges are now popular and grown locally, and every winter I consume close to my weight in them. I not only squeeze the juice, but love slicing them up and eating them with crunchy fennel in a salad, or turn them into a cake such as this Campari and orange semolina cake or almond and orange flourless cake. I am always on the lookout for more recipes for biscotti, and found a lovely recipe for soft lemon biscotti (biscotti morbidi al limone) on an Italian website. The word “morbido/morbidi” (singular/plural) does not mean “morbid” (in spite of the fact that I decided to pair it with blood orange), but means tender.

blood orange juice and biscotti morbidi-italy on my mind

In addition to the blood orange version, I made a variant with cocoa and blood orange, for those of you who might enjoy the Jaffa chocolate and orange combination. This latter goes particularly well with an afternoon espresso or a short macchiato – they are tender, sweet and very pretty. The blood orange ones ended up looking slightly green rather than red – I imagine you could use a couple of drops of red food colouring if you were really keen for them to have a ruby glow. Make sure you roll them in plenty of icing sugar before baking to get that lovely cracked powdered sugar exterior. These keep for up to 10 days in an airtight container.

biscottini morbidi-blood orange-italy on my mind

blood orange biscotti - two ways

biscotti with blood orange
100g butter softened
80g sugar
40 ml blood orange juice
zest of one blood orange
1 egg (70g)
270g 00 cake flour (or plain flour)
large pinch salt (1/4 tsp)
8g baking powder
for rolling:
granulated sugar (as much as needed)
icing sugar (as much as needed)

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until well incorporated.Add the juice, zest and egg and whizz a bit more. Place the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl a whisk by hand to remove any lumps. Tip into the processor and whizz about a minute until the mixture comes together. Remove the dough and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper. Prepare two small plates with piles of sugar – one with the granulated sugar and one with icing sugar. Sift the icing sugar if needed. I started off with about 1/4 cup of each. Roll walnut size balls of dough, about 18g in weight, in granulated sugar, then in plenty of icing sugar. Place on the lined baking tray, well spaced as the biscotti spread a bit. Bake in two batches – about 12 minutes. The top will be pale and the base just coloured and firm. Cool slightly before removing from your baking tray and place on a wire rack to cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to ten days.

biscotti with blood orange and cocoa
100g butter softened
95g sugar
60 ml blood orange juice
zest of one blood orange
1 egg (70g)
270g 00 cake flour (or plain flour)
1 tablespoon dark (bitter) cocoa powder
large pinch salt (1/4 tsp)
8g baking powder
for rolling:
granulated sugar (as much as needed)
icing sugar (as much as needed)

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until well incorporated.Add the juice, zest and egg and whizz a bit more. Place the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a bowl a whisk by hand to remove any lumps. Tip into the processor and whizz about a minute until the mixture comes together. Remove the dough and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper. Prepare two small plates with piles of sugar – one with the granulated sugar and one with icing sugar. Sift the icing sugar if needed. I started off with about 1/4 cup of each. Roll walnut size balls of dough, about 18g in weight, in granulated sugar, then in plenty of icing sugar. Place on the lined baking tray, well spaced as the biscotti spread a bit. Bake in two batches – about 12 minutes. The top will be pale and the base just coloured and firm. Cool slightly before removing from your baking tray and place on a wire rack to cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to ten days.

blood oranges-italy on my mind

25 Comments

  • Joanne O'Mara says:

    Fantastic post! have a few kilos of blood oranges for me to eat this week. I remember how Sad I was when you left in grade one…. and how exciting it was when you finally came back to our school. I am going to make some of these, and also the blood orange gelato recipe from the gelato Messina book.

    • Blood orange gelato – divine! And you will love these biscotti.
      I was so excited coming back after my year in Italy in grade one – as well as the time in Year 10. I will forget you meeting me at the airport when I was 16 that time – such a special memory

  • Lyn says:

    Blood orange juice is always one of the first things I have when I arrive in Italy. I love the biscotti but I have not been successful with cooking it myself. These look divine.

    • I think you will find this recipe quite easy if you do decide to try it Lyn. And the blood orange juice tastes better in Italy – I am sure of it, and I think it is because I am so excited when I get back there! Maybe this is the same for you too

  • Suzanne Apps says:

    Hello Paula It is Suzanne here. We have recently returned from overseas, having spent considerable time in Italy (influenced by neighbours of long ago). Oh, the quality of ingredients and food in Italy charmed me beyond imagination. Life changing stuff. I learnt this spending time with your family and then to enjoy it in Italy directly, was a joy. Love your blog and posts.

    • hi Suzanne, thanks for your kind words and that is wonderful to hear that you have made it to Italy and experienced the food and way of living first hand. I still have (somewhat faded) memories of living in Station St (I was 6 when I left) and the friendship that you and Barbara shared. Through the years I have heard stories of how our families interacted, all gorgeous memories. Lovely to know you are out there ready my stories. Thank you X

  • David says:

    Paola – my first taste of blood orange juice was when I was on my first trip to Italy. In the small negozio, there were so many different kinds of juice to try – pear, apricot, blood orange. I had to try them all, so I went on a juice-drinking binge. And I loved them all. Since then, I have found fresh blood oranges and the fresh juice is so much better. The blood orange and fennel salad sounds delightful, and I can’t wait to try your biscotti. I expect we will start seeing blood oranges in 5 months or so.

    • I love your blood orange memories in Italy – and a fresh fruit juice binge sounds quite perfect (though I would have craved a bit of Prosecco in the mix).

  • pblevitt says:

    I will be making these during our winter, using blood oranges from our tree. Wonderful post full of touching memories.

  • tried. loved. I didn’t have blood oranges, couldn’t wait, so I used plain old oranges and then I tried with lemon. both yum. every one of your recipes that I’ve tried have been great. so easy to follow. looking forward to book. thanks Paula

    • thanks so much Ros – you know I only cook uncomplicated food! Glad you enjoyed the biscotti. I should have the book for sale on my site by late August – I have an advance copy in my hands now and it feels quite amazing to hold it.

  • Merry says:

    I have just had my first fruit on my blood orange tree, so your recipe for blood orange biscotti was perfect timing. I only had 3 oranges, but they were a beautiful vibrant red colour but the intensity of flavour was less than i remembered. I topped up the juice and zest with a tiny bit of cumquat, from my overladen tree. The biscotti smelled beautiful while cooking, and the flavour was good. They didnt look quite as good as yours, need a bit more icing sugar. Thank you for another wonderful recipe.

  • Recipe sounds yummy-I’ll have to try it. I really enjoyed reading about your childhood memories!

  • “Opulent richness” – you’ve so perfectly captured the blood orange in words and pictures!

  • paninigirl says:

    These look so good and I can’t wait for blood orange season here to bake up a batch.

    • thank you! you can of course make these with out of season oranges but it is not quite the same as when they are in season. A lemons work well too 🙂

  • Karen Parker says:

    Hi Paola, I am dying to make these but have a small question. My scales only measure in 5 gm increments. So roughly how much is 8 gm’s of baking powder? Is it a teaspoon, a tablespoon ??? Your posts take me back to my childhood, our farm being surrounded by Italian market gardens. Good luck with the book launch, cant wait to read it!

    • Hi again Karen, it is a heaped teaspoon 🙂 And so glad you like my posts. I am soo excited about the book! Cannot wait for it to be released. And I should have them to sell online by the end of next week (even more exciting!)

  • Karen Parker says:

    And one more question! Is there a facility on your blog to print off the recipe? I cant seem to find it and often print off and laminate favourite recipes for when I am offshore. Many thanks, Karen

    • Hi Karen, no there isn’t a printing facility sorry – I will look into it though – it is a good point. Will need ask the web designer though as it isn’t something that is that easy (I think…)

%d bloggers like this: