Friday, August 22, 2008

Zuie

'Zuie' or zuille is what my suocera calls her Calabrese honey based biscotti of which there are numerous interpretations. Early recipes for a similar cookie, perhaps more commonly called mostaccioli, were likely a simple batter made with honey (probably fig or citrus), flour, a little olive oil and maybe a bit of liqueur for added flavouring.  Earlier versions may have even been fried instead of baked. More recently, I've seen them in specialty bakeries called Marzallette al miele.

From these beginnings, the recipes have evolved to contain anything from candied peel and nuts to exotic spices and even butter.  The decorative and symbolic mostaccioli are cut into religious or animal shapes and others are sliced into the more familiar form. Typical versions are still predominately sweetened with honey, with the teeniest amount of fat and usually flavoured with cinnamon and/or clove. I like the version that is most like the one I've bought in San Giorgio Morgeto, honey-scented, studded with almonds and twice baked.

Terese's 'Zuie'

2 eggs
2 oz vegetable shortening
1 3/4 c brown sugar
8 oz honey
8 oz almonds
1 tsp baking soda
flour to make a stiff dough

Have about 2 - 2 1/2 cups of flour sifted with the baking soda into a large bowl (you could add a bit of cinnamon or ginger if desired). Make a well in the center. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs with a fork or whisk until blended and slightly foamy.

Carefully melt shortening, honey and sugar in saucepan over low heat. Stir almost constantly so not to burn. When all is melted and there are no sugary bits remaining, set aside to cool. When mixture is still slightly warm, add eggs and then add all (almonds too) to the bowl containing the flour. Stir and fold to incorporate flour. Mixture will come together quickly but more flour may be required. Dough should be stiff but not dry and smooth but not glossy.

I like biscotti that are about the size of the one in the photo and this is achieved by dividing the dough into 3 or 4 sections and forming the logs on parchement lined baking trays (but you can make a dantier biscotti if you wish). I usually bake these one third at a time in my small gas oven at 180C for about 25 minutes. Cookies will be dark and set when done. You can toothpick test the thickest part to ensure there is no gooey batter remaining. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, cut into 1.5- 2cm widths (or to your preference).

When all are baked and sliced, place in the still warm oven (gas off or with only the heat of the pilot) just to dry slightly and firm up. These aren't meant to be toothbreakers, but solid enough to withstand an espresso dunking.

Note: This recipe is also easily doubled. In this post, it has been reduced (to the best of my ability) because the true original makes biscotti for a small army.

2 comments:

Pearl said...

wow! great pictures!

question: does it taste a lot like honey? or is it really subtle? i've never had biscotti so i don't know if it's supposed to be pretty sweet or only slightly so..

Mary said...

Hi Pearl,
Thank you for your kind comments. This is a mildly sweet biscotti and the flavour can vary in flavour depending on the honey. If you use a field honey this will be sweet-ish and tastes somewhat of honey but without the depth of some of the earthier types of honey, such as buckwheat or chestnut. It may not be readily available everywhere but I really like the flavour that a portion of the later (chestnut honey) adds to this recipe.