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Cookies with Nuts
Papatilli Molisani
Pepatello / Pepatelli / Pappatill / Papatilli/ Mbeptielle/Mpapatielle (Spice cookies with almonds, honey and pepper)
Originated from: Molise, Italy
Occasion: Christmas and other times
Contributed by: Adapted from an Italian cookbook published in the 1990s

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1 cup honey
1 cup flour
1/2 cup roasted almonds, halved
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
1 teaspoon pepper


Heat up the honey.

Add the lemon zest and pepper and stir.

Add the roasted almonds and stir.

Remove from heat.

Add the flour gradually and stir constantly until a thick mixture is formed.

Place the mixture on a large platter that has been lined with parchment paper or one that has been greased. Flatten it so that the mixture is about 1/2 an inch high (The length and width does not matter).

Allow the mixture to cool.

When the mixture is cool, cut into small square pieces -- about 1 inch by 1 inch (Or, rectangular pieces 1 inch by 2 inches.

Place the squares on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or one that is well-greased).

Bake in a pre-heated 275 F. degrees oven until the mixture solidifies and is dry -- about 12 to 18 minutes (P.S. Right out of the oven the cookies are on the soft side, but as soon as they cool they harden).


Apparently this is the "traditional" possibly 19th century manner of doing "papatalli" (spelling varies) cookies. Actually, some cookbook writers refer to these cookies as "candies." In some ways they are candies in the sense that they are rock-hard. But unlike candies, they don't melt in the mouth. I can't for the love of me understand how these cookies/candies became popular. They are absolutely awful!!!! They don't taste either sweet or sour, or sweet and sour. The recipe in this entry calls for lemon zest, and that really doesn't work for me. Other recipes for "papatalli" cookies call for orange zest and that is better. Mind you, nowadays what is considered a "papatalli" cookie varies -- some modern-day versions of "paptalli" cookies don't even include pepper or honey. My own aunt, Zia Rosina, who grew up in Casacalenda, Molise in the 1930s, uses both honey and sugar in her almond-honey (papatalli) spice almond & honey cookie recipe (For Zia Rosina's recipe see Italy Revisited/Cookies with Nuts). The recipe for "papatalli" in this entry calls for the cookie batter to be sliced prior to baking, my aunt does not slice her cookies prior to baking, but after baking. It wouldn't surprise me if other home cooks followed this method as well. It makes no sense to cut the cookies prior to baking. I suspect many home cooks in Molise varied their papatalli recipes and made them easier to do and more pleasant to the pallet than the recipe in this entry (As an archivist I am as interested in the history of regional recipes as I am in what they taste like, that's why I do not hesitate to include recipes I myself don't like. What fascinates me is how food was prepared in the past and how people used what they had to make life bearable and so on....). In any case, many cookbooks have this "papatalli" recipe (including Wikibooks) and they all have the same ingredients and almost identical proportions, and so it appears that the recipes in these sources are authentic. But I suspect something isn't quite right with these old recipes, but what, I don't know. These cookies are quite pleasant if eaten warm -- could it be that in the old days these cookies were eaten right out of the oven? Who knows? All I know for sure is that prior to World War II, the region I myself was born in, any cookie using honey or sugar would have been expensive to make (Few people had their own beehives). Why would anyone use expensive ingredients to make cookies that are jawbreakers? Was the eating of them part of some kind of food game -- as was often the case with hot peppers -- the more you could eat of the stuff, the more "manly" you were thought to be. Those men who could tolerate eating very hot peppers had status at the dinner table -- were seen as strong and possibly virile. And healthy too (The sick certainly couldn't consume hot chilies!). Perhaps one day I will find out why almond-honey cookies were spiced with pepper and why they were made so hard, but right now I haven't the foggiest idea. Sure these cookies are economical in the sense that they don't use eggs so that would decrease the cost (Might be a reason?), but water could be added and that would soften the dough, so why wasn't it used? Beats me. Those who are curious about how "papatelli" cookies were done in the late 19th century might try out this recipe, but I personally think it's a waste of time and effort............ Personal comments and photo: Mary Melfi. The following text was taken from the Italian Wikipedia (Machine google translation): "The pepatelli (locally called pepatilli) Christmas cakes are typical Abruzzi rectangular in shape, so called because of the presence of pepper in the dough. Heat the honey over low heat and stir in the meantime. Just starts to simmer, add chopped almonds, grated orange peel, pepper and flour, the latter two ingredients, along with honey, will form the dough. After being mixed, pour the mixture on a baking sheet and cut to form rectangles of length not exceeding 10 cm and a width of about 1 cm." Original text: Pepatelli Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera. Origini Luogo d'origine Italia Italia Regioni Abruzzo Molise Zona di produzione Teramo Dettagli Categoria dolce Riconoscimento P.A.T. Settore biscotti freschi e prodotti della panetteria e della biscotteria Ingredienti principali farina, miele, cacao, mandorle intere, buccia d'arancio grattugiata, pepe macinato Varianti "mbepetielle" molisani I pepatelli (localmente chiamati pappatill) sono dolci natalizi tipici abruzzesi di forma rettangolare, così chiamati per la presenza di pepe nell'impasto. Fate scaldare il miele a fuoco lento e nel frattempo mescolate. Appena inizierà a sobbollire, aggiungete mandorle tritate, scorza di arancia grattugiata, pepe e farina; questi ultimi due ingredienti, insieme al miele, formeranno l'impasto. Dopo averlo mescolato, versate l'impasto su una teglia e tagliatelo in modo da formare dei rettangoli di lunghezza non superiore ai 10 cm e larghezza di circa 1 cm."

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