Plain and Simple

Meet a crispy sesame biscotti named Regina.

Regina is not a glamour puss.

She’s not decked out in the latest and greatest. She’s not trendy in the least. And her sweetness is subtle, almost mysteriously elusive.

Regina is a classic Sicilian cookie, timeless and always welcome at any occasion.

“Biscotti Regina” is from “The Modern Baker” (DK Publishing) by Nick Malgieri, former executive pastry chef of Windows on the World in New York.

It’s a biscotti that is not sliced and baked for a second time. Instead, the dough is rolled into a rope, then cut into cylinders, each of which is dipped into an egg wash, followed by a good dunking into a bowl of white sesame seeds until thoroughly coated.

The biscotti bake just once, and emerge crisp, with a whisper of vanilla and just the merest hint of sweetness. It’s a cookie that’s perfect at the end of a meal with coffee or a sweet dessert wine, or as an afternoon pick-me-up with a relaxing cup of tea.

Make your acquaintance with Regina. I predict a long-lasting relationship.

Biscotti Regina

(makes about 40 cookies)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry measure cup and level off)

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cols unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For egg wash:

2 large eggs well beaten with a pinch of salt

For finishing:

2 cups untoasted sesame seeds

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.

Add butter and pulse repeatedly until butter is finely mixed in, but mixture is still cool and powdery. Add eggs and vanilla, and pulse repeatedly until dough forms a ball.

Invert bowl onto a floured work surface and carefully remove blade. Briefly knead the dough 2 to 3 times to make it smooth. Shape dough into a rough cylinder. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide dough into 8 equal pieces.

Roll 1 piece of dough into a rope about 15 inches long. Cut dough into 3-inch cylinders. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, lining up cylinders on the left side of your work surface.

Prepare two cookies sheets by lining them with parchment or foil.

After all the cookies have been formed, place egg wash and sesame seeds, each in a separate shallow bowl, next to the cookies, and place baking pans to their right.

Drop one of the cookies into the egg wash and use a fork to turn it over so it is completely covered. Use the fork to lift it out of the egg wash, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, and place it on the sesame seeds. Use a second fork to roll the cookie around in the sesame seeds to cover it completely. Use same fork to transfer the coated cookie to one of the prepared pans.

Bake cookies until they are risen, firm, and sesame seeds are golden, about 30 minutes.

After the first 15 minutes, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice versa, turning pans back to front at the same time. If you know that your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack the pan on the lower rack on top of a second one for insulation. Cool cookies on the pan.

Storage: Keep cookies between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid at room temperature.

From “The Modern Baker”

Another recipe from “The Modern Baker”: Lemon Poppy Seed Drops

More: Alice Medrich’s Sesame Seed Cake


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