Biscotti di Mosto
by gina depalma
When I first stumbled on a recipe for Marche’s Biscotti di Mosto, I expected them to be dark and deep in both flavor and color, stained by the intense, burgundy color of red grape must. But as I read the Italian recipe once, and then again, I discovered that the key ingredient is white grape must. It makes perfect sense, since crisp, floral Verdicchio is one Marche’s best wine varietals. The white must keeps the color pale and the taste delightfully light, tangy and airy.
The secret used by Marchese cooks is to use white grape must that is relatively new, still somewhat sweet and just beginning to ferment. The best substitute I’ve found here in New York is Verjus, a white, lightly fermented grape juice with just a hint of acidity. Raisins and a touch of anise provide added texture and flavor. I really recommend using Italy’s 00 flour here, as results in a finer texture and even crumb.
These morsels are darn yummy, really easy, and somewhat addictive, all qualities I look for in a truly great cookie. And they are sophisticated enough to serve with a bit of wine for an elegant final dessert course. Elegant, simple, unique, like Marche itself.
Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine them.
Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the olive oil, verjus, orange juice, anise seed, lemon zest and raisins. Beat on medium speed to combine all the ingredients and create a smooth, homogenous dough
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place some granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured board, roll one half into a long rope, about 18 to 20 inches long. With a sharp knife, cut slices on the bias, about ¼ of an inch thick, to create a longish, finger-like shape.
Coat each cookie generously in sugar and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about ½ an inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. The cookies are done when they are firm and a pale golden color.
Slide the cookies off the sheets onto a rack to cool completely. Store them in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Makes 75 to 80 cookies