Tozzetti – biscuits from Lazio

My friend Tamara lives in Lazio, north of Rome, below the Monti di Cimini range which is full of hazelnut trees.  We chat most weeks – she to improve her English, and me to improve my Italian (she is better and more confident than me).  Perhaps, inevitably, we often talk about food – and she shares some of the very very localised versions of recipes specific to the area, m and even to her village.

Tozzetti is the name used in Lazio and Umbria for the twice baked (biscotto) biscuits that elsewhere in Italy are known as Cantucci (although Artusi calls them biscotti croccanti, or crunchy cookies).  The recipes are all similar; flour, sugar, eggs, nuts, usually almonds, sometimes aniseed, sometimes candied fruit – you bake the loaf, allow to cool, and then slice and rebake, to completely dry the biscuits out, so they’ll keep for ever, ready to be dipped in Vin Santo, and enjoyed.

See here, then is Tamara’s recipe, specific to the region of Tuscia, within Lazio.  It is the same, but different from other twice cooked biscotti recipes, the aniseed liqueur, yeast (which I’ve never seen before) and the thing that truly  sets it apart, is the use of the Monti di Cimini hazelnuts, instead of almonds.

Ingredients

100ml of extra virgin olive oil

400 g of hazelnuts

4 eggs

800 g 00 flour

400 g caster sugar

200 ml milk

7g fast action yeast

10 tablespoons of Mistrà. (This is an Italian aniseed liqueur, I substituted Pastis, which is easier to come by)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of baking soda. (replace with Baking Ammonia if you can find it)

Method:

First toast the hazelnuts in the oven until they begin to brown, then rub them in a dry tea bowl to remove most of the brown skins

Beat the eggs and the sugar to a cream 

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the hazelnuts, then the sifted flour with baking soda or ammonia.

Finally add the hazelnuts and mix well.

Form the dough into two rough loaves and place on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper and bake in a preheated oven at 180 °/Gas mark 6 until they are just golden.

Remove from the oven and wait for them to cool (ideally overnight), this is because otherwise they could crumble.

Once cooled, cut them crosswise, into slices of about 1cm thick (if the dough is still warm, the slices will crumble).

Put them back in the oven at 150 °/Gas Mark 2 to let them brown a little ( you’ll need to turn the slices to brown booth sides) . As soon as they are down, switch off the heat, but leave them in the oven, to cool, with the door ajar.

Stored in an airtight container, these will keep for two to three weeks, but if they go soft, just reheat them in the oven, to dry them out again.

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