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biscotti molisana
Nonna Giovanna's Biscotti con Mennole (Molisani Almond Biscotti, soft-style, using vegetable oil and roasted almonds)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: For visitors and other special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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Nonna Giovanna's Biscotti con Mennole

Nonna Giavanna's original recipe for biscotti (Uses 2 baking pans, makes about 58 biscotti) "Version A"

7 extra large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 cups flour, preferably Robin Hood (a touch more if needed)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 cups roasted almonds, quartered

Oil for greasing pan
Four for dusting pan

Equipment needed:
2 baking bans -- 13 inches wide, 18 inches long, and 1 1/4 inches high (33 cm wide, 46 cm long, and 3 cm high)


**** Nonna Giavanna's Updated Recipe for Biscotti (Uses 1 baking pan, makes about 34 biscotti) "Version B"

6 extra large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups roasted almonds, quartered (or chopped)
2 tablespoons Magic baking powder
4 1/4 cups flour (Robin Hood brand if available)

Oil for greasing pan
Four for dusting pan

Equipment needed
1 baking pan -- 13 inches wide, 18 inches long, and 1 1/4 inches high (33 cm wide, 46 cm long, and 3 cm high)

* My mother recently revised her original recipe so that the mixture would fit in one pan (making it a lot less trouble to do). In Casacalenda, Molise the word used for almonds was not "mandorla" but rather "mennole" -- these cookies were often referred to as: Biscot' ci mennol.


o Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

o Beat eggs.

o Add oil to the egg mixture and beat well.

o Add sugar to the oil and egg mixture and beat well (about 3 minutes with an electric mixer).

o Add about 1 1/2 cups flour and baking powder to the egg and oil mixture. Mix well.

o Add another cup of flour and mix well.

o By this time the mixture will probably be too hard to use an electric mixture. Add more flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until you get a cookie batter that is neither hard nor soft, but somewhere in the middle. It should be thicker than a pancake batter, but not so hard as it can be shaped into a cantuccini-style log. This batter is NOT shaped into a log (It is poured into the pan). However, it should not be so soft that the batter will spread and take up the entire pan -- two separate (soft) logs should form and retain their shape.

o When the batter is the right consistency, fold in the roasted almonds.

o Traditionally the batter is placed on a greased and floured baking pan. If using the original recipe (Version A) divide the batter into four parts. If using Version B divide the batter into two parts.

o The divided batter is spread on the left and right side of the greased baking pan, leaving ample space in the middle for the cookies to expand (also a small space, about 1/2 inch, can be left on the edge of the pan so that the batter can expand there as well). If the batter is the right consistency then it will spread a little, but not too much. Each resulting (soft) log should be about 3 1/2 inches wide (and be as long as the pan). The two (soft) logs will spread about an 1/2 inch to an inch prior to being placed in the oven. Still, there should be ample space between the logs -- in a 13 inch wide pan, one should get a space of about 4 inches in the center of the pan. The height of the batter should be about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch. P.S. Keep in mind that the batter will get bigger while it is baking, and that the resulting measurements of the batter should nearly double by the time it cooks.

o Bake the batter in the middle rack at 350 F degrees oven for about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 F degrees and cook for another 12 minutes or until the batter is golden (The amount of time needed to bake the batter varies, depending on the size and type of pan one uses, the thickness of the batter, as well as the "real" temperature inside one's oven).

o When the batter is golden remove and cool for about 6 minutes (Cooling it will make it easier to remove from the pan).

o If the batter was just the right consistency, the two (soft) logs should not have spread so much that they are joined together in the pan. If the logs did spread and spread, cut the cookie batter in the center.

o Remove the separated cookie logs from the pan.

o Using a sharp serrated knife cut the batter into 1/2 inch biscotti slices. Ideally, each biscotti should be about 1/2 inch thick, measure about 6 inches long, and the height should be about 1 1/2 inches at its thickest point (the middle), and about 1/2 inch on the edges (thinnest point).

o Place the biscotti slices [flat side down] on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 325 F degree oven for about 10 minutes or until both sides are golden (If the bottom half of the biscotti cooks faster than the top, turn them over, or put on the broiler). ALTERNATIVELY, one can simply turn on the boiler and cook the top half until golden, and then turn flip the biscotti over, and cook the other half until golden.

o Remove from the oven and let cool. The biscotti should have hardened a bit after they have been cooked the second time, but they still should be a touch on the soft side and be crispy as well.


If "biscotti con mennole" (or in perfect Molisani dialect: Biscot' ci mennol" which in Italian would be "biscotti con Mandarole" aren't Molise's most famous cookies, but they should be. If done well, these cookies will surpass in flavor any store-bought biscotti on the market, including those whose flavors are enhanced with artificial ingredients that no one can pronounce. O.K., that's just my opinion and my opinion is somewhat influenced by my childhood experiences (That blessed state!). Still, Molisani soft-style biscotti are superior in taste (in my opinion) to the now world-famous Tuscan biscotti which are often as hard as nails, and are bland to boot. If one likes jaw-breakers, then store-bought cantuccini can pass the taste-test, but if one prefers a softer, gentler style of biscotti one might consider investigating the various recipes on the internet for Molisani-style biscotti. As far back as I can remember "biscotti con mennole" were just that, "biscotti con mennole" -- biscotti with almonds. Now, it turns out there is no such word as "mennole" (at least not on the world-wide web's Italian dictionaries). The Italian word for almond is "mandorle" so it's likely that these biscotti are now known in Molise as "biscotti di mandorli." The under 30 crowd may never have heard of "biscotti con mennole." Recently, a visitor to this site brought to my attention that this style of biscotti was known in some areas of Molise as "mpepitelli" (or "peppatella"). This is a new word for me, and one I have problems pronouncing, let alone associating with my favorite cookie of all time. I suspect though that "peppatella" is not this style of cookie, but rather those made with honey (Recipes for honey biscotti are also available on this website.). In my family, that's including the Melfis, Alfieris, Romanos and Nemeths, this style of cookie has only one name and its, "Nonna Giovanna's biscotti." That's not how I think of them, but as my mother has more grandchildren than daughters, the majority rules (at least, when naming a cookie)......... Apparently, prior to World War II, "biscotti con mennole" were only made in the Molisani countryside for special occasions, but unlike other cookies which were limited to major life celebrations, like weddings and baptisms, these cookies were also made for minor social events -- like entertaining Sunday visitors. Back then making any kind of cookies required a great deal of effort, not only because there were no electric appliances on hand, but also because no one owned ovens, so the batter had to be brought to the local communal wood-burning oven to cook. As one had to pre-book the communal oven to bake one's cookies, one had to plan ahead. In the 1930s no one living in the Molisani countryside -- Why not even the rich! -- had cookies on hand in their homes at all times. Sweets were reserved for celebrations, not for munching (Nuts, lupini, olives etc. were kept for that). Back then one couldn't buy pre-packaged cookies in the shops, one had no choice but to bake them (A lot of trouble then, and still a lot of trouble now). Apparently, candies were available in the shops but they didn't come pre-packaged (Though they did sell candies that were individually wrapped) -- the storekeeper scooped out the amount required etc. As previously noted, cookies were only made to offer to guests, and were not made for one's own pleasure. The favored treat in the 1930s seems to have been "pizza fritta," fried pizza dough, not necessarily because people liked it more than cookies (They didn't) but because it was the easiest to make and by far the cheapest to do as well. When a mother made her bread dough, she often set aside a bit of the risen yeast dough to fry. After frying the yeast dough, she sprinkled it with sugar and possibly cinnamon, and gave it to her children. "Pizza fritta" was loved not only because it was cheap, but also because one could cook it at home -- one didn't have to take the trouble of bringing it to the communal oven. So, it was the one sweet anyone could have any old time (Sugar-glazed nuts could also be done at home, but generally that treat was kept for special events). Well, not exactly "any old time" -- bread (depending on the size of the family) was not made "any old time," it was generally made every two weeks. So obviously kids had to wait around for awhile before they got to savor their "pizza fritta." In fact, the poorest of the poor didn't make "pizza fritta" "any old time" at all, they generally only made it for some special holiday. Sugar was very expensive in the 1930s, so it was rationed. Nonetheless, for major life celebrations everyone, even the poorest of the poor, made biscotti. Luckily, those Italians who immigrated to North America in the 1950s did not have to wait around for very special occasions to make their beloved sweets as on this continent flour and sugar were relatively inexpensive. Nonetheless, in the early years Italian immigrants didn't make cookies for everyday consumption -- they reserved their home-made biscotti for Sunday visitors. For everyday consumption, store-bought pre-packaged Italian cookies which could be had by the truckload, were good enough. By the late 1960s most Italian-Canadians started making biscotti any old time they felt like it -- they were no longer reserved for Sunday visitors. Almond biscotti certainly became ever-present in the Melfi household. In the 1960s home-made cookies (other than biscotti) were generally kept for major life celebrations like weddings, baptisms and confirmations. Later, in the 1970s, new recipes were learned from neighbors and co-workers from other regions of Italy and suddenly a melange of home-made cookies appeared when visitors dropped by (and/or "any old time"). In any case, everyone in my family, including my great nieces and nephews, grew up on my mother's "biscotti con mennole" and love them perhaps a wee bit too much........... P.S. My mother keeps changing the proportions of this recipe because she is never satisfied with her biscotti. Even though everyone loves her biscotti she forever finds fault with them. I myself was with her a number of times when she made the biscotti and each time the proportions were different. Version A of this recipe is the one my mother used to do a few years back (Or, the one that I took the measurements of a few years ago). As my mother does not use measuring cups or measuring spoons, but does everything "by eye" she never uses the exact same proportions for the same recipe each time. Recently, because she wanted to use one pan rather than two (Takes far too much effort to do two, she is over 80 after all!), she changed the recipe quite drastically. She now uses slivered almonds rather than quartering them (or uses a glass to crush the roasted almonds), she also uses less oil and more sugar in the biscotti mixture. In addition, she has changed the way she re-bakes the biscotti. She used to bake them in a "slow" oven, but nowadays she uses the broiler. Obviously, this is not all that important, it just goes to show you that this recipe is rather versatile. Even when the biscotti don't look perfect, they taste pretty good (They're a touch similar to ladyfingers, except they have lots of roasted almonds in them). Personally I prefer Version B, but that could just be me....... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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