Pop the cork – we’re making Biscotti Picanti (BBB February 2012)

go directly to the recipe

BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Biscotti Picanti (Sicilian-style rusks made with white wine and flavoured with black pepper, fennel and sesame seeds) based on a recipe by Anissa Helou; Bread Baking Babes 4th anniversary; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) February 2012

It’s the BBBabes’ 4th anniversary! Of course this calls for wine!

Biscotti Picanti (BBB) White wine, in this case.

To go into biscotti. Savoury biscotti. I LOVE savoury things! I LOVE biscotti!! I couldn’t wait to get started.

Well, actually, as it turns out, I managed to wait…. And, being the lazy person I am, I managed to wait until the deadline for making the biscotti was almost upon us. :lalala:

But I didn’t wait to get the wine. Oh my no. It’s good to be properly prepared.

We rarely have white wine any more. But when we were buying wine, I dutifully slipped a bottle of pinot grigio (Italian, of course – the recipe is from Italy) into our basket of bottles of Argentian, Chilean and Italian reds.

On Tuesday, I casually mentioned that I would be using a little white wine for this month’s BBBabe bread and asked if we should have something with shrimps tonight to go with the rest of it.

he: But we already talked about tonight. We’re having Persian food.

me: Oh yah!!! That’s right! And am I supposed to be making Pebbled Persian Bread (Hushva Nan) from “Flatbreads and Flavours?” … mmmmm, Persian food….

I can’t believe that I haven’t raved here about this Persian dinner of lentils, eggplant, beets and ground meat and mint patties! But that’s another story; let me get back to the biscotti…

We decided to shelve the Hushva Nan (as wonderful as it sounds) for another day and I started getting out the ingredients for the biscotti.

Biscotti Picanti Diary:

Tuesday 14 February 11:04: Because of our storage problem, I decided to make half the recipe. I grabbed a piece of junkmail with a blank spot on the back and scrawled out the revisions. (One of these days, I’ll learn to PRINT the recipe instead of scribbling it onto a ragged piece of paper.)

My brain exploded with trying to figure out what half of 1⅔ c was so I simply divided each part in half: ½ c + ⅓ c. Then in an afterthought, I added an outline of the instructions too.

I looked over the ingredients list one more time:

  1. yeast CHECK
  2. All-Purpose flour CHECK
  3. semolina flour CHECK – at least I THINK it’s semolina flour
    (We get finely milled semolina in Indiatown and use it whenever making fresh pasta. I’m assuming it’s the same as semolina flour….)
  4. aniseed …oh oh…
    (I MEANT to get aniseed; I really did. Luckily, we have plenty of fennel seed on hand. Licorice is licorice, right?)
  5. white sesame seeds …oh oh…
    (We do have lots and lots of brown sesame seeds. I can’t imagine there is a whole lot of difference between the two.)
  6. salt CHECK
  7. black pepper CHECK
  8. extra-virgin olive oil CHECK
  9. dry white wine CHECK – Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio

Quel relief. I decreed that we did have all the ingredients after all.

I opened up the pinot grigio and took a sniff. (No, no. Not a snort! Never before 6pm!!) It smelled fine – maybe a little soft – but it should be excellent for cooking.

As I was mixing, I looked at the amount of water and thought “What??? That can’t be right…” and ran upstairs to look at the actual recipe.

Yup. I got it wrong. I had forgotten to halve the amount of water. GOOD THING I CHECKED!!!

The dough came together very well and seemed the perfect consistency. As per the outline, I kneaded it a little and looked at the next step: shaping. “Hey!! Wait a minute… isn’t it supposed to rise before shaping?” And back upstairs I ran to look at the actual recipe. GOOD THING I CHECKED!!!

3. Add yeast, wine and ½ cup (115 ml) warm water en knead briefly to make a rough ball of dough. Knead this for another 3-5 minutes or so. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead for another 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and let rise in a lightly greased bowl, covered with greased plastic, for 1 hour in a warm place (or until doubled).
-BBB Biscotti Picanti recipe

I kneaded the dough til it was smooth, shaped it into a ball and put it into the clean mixing bowl (yes, yes, I know; I was supposed to oil the bowl. I could say that I forgot, but that would be an untruth), covered it and stuck it in the oven with only the light turned on. It’s ridiculously cold in the kitchen right now, so I filled a couple of bowls with really hot water too. Maybe that will encourage it to rise before tomorrow. :lalala:

12:30: The dough hasn’t budged. The water is now lukewarm. I replenished with hot water, closed the oven and crossed my fingers.

15:30: Whoohoooooooo!!! It’s rising!! It’s rising!!! (almost doubled)

4. […] [S]hape each piece into a loaf about 12”( 30 cm) long. Transfer the logs to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and leaving at least 2 inches/5 cm between them so they can expand. Take a dough cutter (or sharp knife) and cut the loaves into 1 inch/2,5 cm thick slices (or if you prefer them thinner in 1″/1 cm slices). Cover with greased plastic and let the rise for about 45 minutes.
-BBB Biscotti Picanti recipe

Biscotti Picanti (BBB) 16:32: I just sliced the shaped loaves. Loaves that are only about 6 inches long. Loaves that flattened out completely when being cut. Oh dear. I do hope I’ve done it correctly. (Suddenly so many doubts, so many doubts!)

16:40: Oh NOW I see this note from Tanna!!

I found the knife and bench scrapper mashed the dough down and I didn’t like. I used dental floss and cut all the way through…like that the best, just gave the ends a gentle push back so it was loosely together
-Tanna, via email to BBBs

Of course! Dental floss WOULD work better!! Next time.

RRrrrrrrr… :stomp: I just realized that I’ve managed to time this so that the oven will be on during peak hours: 17:30 to 19:30. :stomp: Isn’t Ontario clever to charge us the most over the dinner hour in the winter? (Interesting that in the summer time, the dinner hour is not considered peak time….) Why oh why can’t our rates be based on how much we consume rather than when we’re using the power?

18:54: The oven is preheating and (I’m so thrilled) the little shaped loaves have risen!!

Yes, it’s true; I let them sit for longer than the specified 45 minutes. I made an executive decision that there was some rising expected in that time. (I’m afraid I didn’t look after 45 minutes to confirm that nothing much had occurred.)

Biscotti Picanti (BBB) 19:17: Hmmm, not quite as golden as I expected. Perhaps I should have turned the oven higher than 400F. Still, if I squint, I can detect a very light gold colour.

22:32: Of course, these were baking while we were eating dinner. And because I didn’t want to have to be jumping up and down checking them every 5 minutes after the requisite hour had passed, I simply turned the oven off and left them there to languish until we were finished eating.

They smelled divine!! We each tasted one. And they were delicious!! T said he couldn’t wait til the morning to have them with marmalade and coffee. Neither can I!

Thank you, Lien! I knew these were going to be good but I didn’t realize they would be this good! :-) What a perfect way to celebrate an anniversary!

Biscotti Picanti (BBB) Here is this month’s BBB recipe. And here is what I did to it:

Biscotti Picanti
adapted from a recipe in Anissa Helou’s Savory baking from the Mediterranean

makes 18 (or so) rusks

  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp lukewarm water
  • ½ c + ⅓ c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ c + ⅓ c semolina flour
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds ¹
  • 1½ Tbsp brown sesame seeds ²
  • ½ tsp fine seasalt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 5 Tbsp good quality olive oil ³
  • 2 Tbsp dry white wine
  • ¼ c additional water
  1. mixing In a small bowl, whisk in the yeast into the lukewarm water and set aside.
  2. Put all the dry ingedients into a largish mixing bowl and whisk to blend well.
  3. Pour in the olive oil and using the tips of your fingers, blend it into the flour mixture until it looks like very dry crumbly porridge.
  4. kneading Turn the dough out onto an UNfloured board. Let it sit for a moment as you wash and dry the mixing bowl (cleans the bowl AND washes your hands). Hand knead the dough for 8 minutes until it is smooth and silky.
  5. proofing Form into a ball and place in the clean mixing bowl. Cover it with a plate and put it into a warm spot out of drafts to rise until it has doubled.
  6. shaping Divide the dough in 2 equal pieces and shape each into two log-like loaves. Place them on a parchment papered cookie sheet, making sure to leave plenty of space between them. Use your dough scraper to slice each loaf into 2cm (or so) pieces. But leave the loaves otherwise intact. Cover with a clean tea towel followed by a plastic bag. (Helou suggests covering with greased plastic.) Leave in a warm spot out of drafts to rise for about an hour.
  7. baking Preheat the oven to 400F (Helou suggests 500F). 4 Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, until tinged with gold. Remove from the oven to prepare for the second part of the baking.
  8. Turn the oven down to to 175F. As the oven temperature lowers, separate the slices and lay them flat on the parchment paper. Put them back in the oven to bake for an hour until they are hardened. They are supposed to turn gold as well. (Mine didn’t. :lalala:) After an hour has passed, turn the oven off but leave them in the oven for a little longer to ensure that they are crispy.
  9. Allow to cool on a well ventilated rack before putting them into a tin.

The biscotti can be kept for up to 3 weeks. Good luck with that. They’re really delicious and won’t last much more than a couple of days.


1.) Fennel Seeds: The recipe calls for aniseed. I would have used them if we had had them. I ALMOST substituted with dill seeds but at the last minute found myself reaching for the fennel seed jar.

2.) Sesame Seeds: The recipe calls for white sesame seeds. We only had brown sesame seeds (because that’s what is readily available in Indiatown).

3.) Olive Oil: As suggested, we used extra-virgin olive oil.

4.) Oven Temperatures: We have an ancient oven and are quite unsure about the actual temperature. I rarely set it higher than 400F now. But I may set it to 450F for these the next time. The loaves were barely gold after 15 minutes at 400F.

Biscotti Picanti (BBB) These biscotti really are delicious! Now I’m sorry that I made just half the recipe… luckily, we still have some white wine left in the fridge. I can make some more. :whoohoo:

Thank you, once again, Lien!

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: Biscotti Picanti (February 2012)

Lien (Notitie van Lien) is the host of February 2012’s Bread Baking Babes’ task and chose Anissa Helou’s recipe for Biscotti Picanti. Lien wrote:

4 YEAR BREAD BAKING BABES ANNIVERSARY!!! How time flies when you’re having fun. And of course that calls for party food to nibble on with a sip of wine. And as I have the honour to be the kitchen of the month this time, I’ve picked a Sicilian recipe to enjoy with (or without) a little wine, that even has wine in it too! It’s from the wonderful Anissa Helou book “Savory baking from the Mediterranean”.

What a perfect way to celebrate! We do hope you’ll join us.

To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: bake Biscotti Picanti in the next couple of weeks and post about them – please remember to link to Anissa Helou’s Blog (www.anissas.com/blog1/) in your post (we love to see how your bread turned out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 February 2012. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ Biscotti:


Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


definition and etymology of biscotti

bis·cot·to noun \bi-'skät-oē\ plural bis·cot·ti [...] a crisp cookie or biscuit of Italian origin that is flavored usually with anise and filberts or almonds - usually used in plural [...] from (pane) biscotto, literally, bread baked twice

Merriam Webster: Biscotto

biscotti 1990s, from It. biscotti, pl. of biscotto, from O.It. biscotto, from M.L. biscoctum (see biscuit).

biscuit (n.) respelled early 19c. from bisket (16c.), ultimately (besquite, early 14c.) from O.Fr. bescuit (12c.), lit. "twice cooked;" altered under influence of cognate O.It. biscotto, both from M.L. biscoctum, from L. (panis) bis coctus "(bread) twice-baked;"

Online Etymological Dictionary

Biscotti Picanti (BBB)


related: Bread Discs – the good kind (fennel seed Pernod crackers based on Susan’s recipe for “Tortas de Aceite”)

This entry was posted in anniversaries, baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes, side on by . BBB Giscotti Picanti - ejm February 2012

* Thank you for visiting. Even though I may not get a chance to reply to you directly, I love seeing your responses and/or questions and read each and every one of them. Please note that your e-mail address will never be displayed on this site, nor will it ever be shared.

"Moderation" is in use. It may take a little time before your response appears. Responses containing unsolicited advertising will be deleted as spam (which means any subsequent attempts will be automatically relegated to the spam section and unlikely to be retrieved). For further information, please read the Discussion Policy.

7 responses to “Pop the cork – we’re making Biscotti Picanti (BBB February 2012)

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Not sure I’ve ever seen you so prepared and organized ;-)!!
    Trust me not to worry, I used red wine and it works very well so don’t fret the red or white, use what’s open and in the cabinet.
    I think we were all surprised how much we liked these.
    Great baking with you!

  2. Elle

    Did they go well with marmalade and coffe in the morning? That sounds so delicious I’ll have to try it…I have a few biscotti left. Happy Anniversary Elizabeth! I love your detailed write-ups.

  3. Lien

    Maybe it’s just good thinking to make half the recipe…then you make more variations with it when you make it again :)
    I’m curious about the brown sesame seeds. I know them white and black, but not brown. Could that be the white ones without husks (do they have husks…. ah well just rambling here). I’d love them with fennelseeds too, delicious!!
    happy anniversary Elizabeth!

  4. ejm Post author

    I do love to check boxes, Karen. There is something so satisfying about saying “Check!” triumphantly as I flamboyantly make each checkmark.

    Tanna, good to know that the biscuits work with red wine as well. I really should have looked to see how much wine was called for (only 2 Tbsp!!), before racing out to buy white wine (see? I wasn’t THAT prepared.)

    They go brilliantly with marmalade and coffee, Elle!

    Quite right, Lien. And I’m thinking that next time they need more black pepper. And perhaps a few mustard seeds. I don’t know whether the brown sesame seeds are simply unhusked white sesame seeds. I just know that that’s what we always buy. They taste just like sesame seeds….

    Katie, they are delicious. And while they’re very good with coffee, they are also excellent with a hearty red wine. :-) Yes. Very versatile, as Karen already pointed out.



Post a Response

You must fill in the "response", "name", and "email" fields. Please rest assured that your email address will never be posted or shared. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your discussion data is processed. Please note that the optional fields that point to your website URL and website name may be removed without notice. For more information about what can (or cannot) be included, please read the Discussion Policy.