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Cookies with Nuts
Sicilian chocolate spice mostaccioli cookies
Biscotti di Cioccolate (Sicilian mostaccioli-style chocolate spice cookies, with walnuts, brown sugar, cocoa and orange zest)
Originated from: Sicily, Italy
Occasion: Any time & special times
Contributed by: Adapted from "The Art of Sicilian Cooking" by Anna Muffoletto (1971)

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For spice cookies*
1 cup lard, melted
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup shelled walnuts, chopped
finely grated zest of 1 medium orange

For Lemon Icing
2 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons milk
about 1 cup Maraschino cherries, cut in halves (optional)

Equipment needed
2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper

*Yields about 5 dozen cookies


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F..

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

For dough

Using an electric mixer, cream brown sugar with lard.

In another bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed sugar and lard mixture.

In a separate bowl mix vanilla with milk, then add to the flour mixture.

Mix in the raisins, chopped walnuts and finely grated orange zest to the flour mixture; using a wooden spoon blend the ingredients very well.

Take about 2 teaspoons of the cookie dough and shape into small balls.

Place balls on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool cookies.

For icing

Drain the Maraschino cherries of all liquid; cut in half and place on paper towels (to usurp excess liquid).

In a clean bowl blend icing sugar, lemon juice and milk together until smooth. The icing should be thin and liquidy.

When cookies have cooled, spread icing over tops and place them on cookie sheets that have been lined with fresh parchment paper.

While the icing is still soft, place a Maraschino cherry which has been cut in half and drained of all liquid, on top of each cookie.

Air dry until the icing is firm (about 2 hours).

Place in an appropriate container and keep in the fridge until needed.


The recipe in this entry was adapted from "The Art of Sicilian Cooking" by Anna Muffoletto (New York: Doubleday, 1971). The cookbook can be borrowed for free at the on-line library, www.openlibrary.org....Generally, most Italian spice cookies use almonds, so it came as a surprise to me that the one made in Sicily uses walnuts. Actually, Italy's most famous cookbook author, Ada Boni, also gave a recipe for mostaccioli using walnuts (not almonds) in her now classic cookbook, "Il Piccolo Talisman Della Felicita" (1923). That particular recipe (can be found on this website in this category) does not use too many spices, whereas other recipes for this style of cookies uses spices aplenty. The recipe in this entry is very flavorful. The original recipe (Can be viewed at www.openlibrary.org) calls for the same spices, but more of them (not 1/4 teaspoon but rather 1/2 teaspoon of all of the spices noted). The amount of spices the cookbook author, Anna Muffoletto, suggested, frightened me as I am not all that fond of nutmeg and cloves. I myself might not use too much of these spices, still, when I do get the pleasure of eating other people's mostaccioli cookies I prefer them to mine which play it safe. Still, the best mostaccioli cookies in Montreal (in my opinion) can be found at a pastry shop at 5540 Jean Talon Street East -- "Italia, La Casa della Pizza." They present the extra-large cookies in the classic diamond shape, and they coat the cookies with semi-sweet chocolate not only on the top, but also on the bottom -- a major feat. The cookies are expensive ($1.75 each) and while I am frugal by nature, I find that these cookies are worth the price. For what it's worth, I don't know the owners of the shop, and the owners certainly never heard of me or of this website, so I am not here trying to plug their products. I loathe advertising. Maybe, I loathe it because I don't enjoy being told what to do, and advertising does tell you what to do -- buy this, rather than that. In fact, I loathe consumerism, and the idea that happiness can be bought. The saying, "The best things are free," might sound like a big, awful, disgusting lie to those who don't have cash (And it is!), but to those who do have cash and found out that what they're missing can't be bought (E.g., a loving, faithful partner), well, that realization (Some "light bulb moment") is worse than a blow on the head (It hurts like crazy!). Still, given a choice between having cash and not having cash -- it's no choice at all. Cash is the means to an end -- freedom. Freedom from want. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from advertisers (Eye/ear/sound pollution!). Now, I'm getting off the topic. Enough said.... Well, I do want to say one more thing regarding the recipe in this entry -- the halved Maraschino cherries placed on top of these chocolate spice cookies look nice and all that, but they do dominate the flavor of the cookies, so I don't know if I myself would present the cookies with them on (The original recipe in Anna Muffoletto's suggest they should be presented in this fashion). If one wants good-looking cookies, then one can add the cherries, but if one wants real spice cookies that aim to please the taste buds rather than the eye (Though one can do both I suppose) than one might not use the halved cherries. Very good home cooks (Not me!) can slice the Maraschino cherries in quarters, and that might be the right thing to do -- get a bit of color, but not too much flavor. Quartering the Maraschino cherries without crumbling them into a thousand little pieces is difficult (It is for me!). It would be nice if one would be able to buy them already sliced and without all that heavy sugary syrup they're drowning in, but one can't at least not in my neck of the woods. Oh well.... Personal comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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