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Biscotti di San Martino


Biscotti di San Martino
Pan' e vino, e San Martino: Bread and Wine, and Saint Martin.  You may hear this  phrase in Sicily (especially in Palermo)in reference to Feast Day of San Martino. He happens to be the patron saint of wine and wine making! On November 11th, you enjoy biscotti di San Martino by dipping them in Moscato (an Italian sweet wine) or any new wine (I love my in-laws homemade wine!).

Biscotti di San Martino


The story goes that San Martino became a monk after his work finished of a Roman soldier. San Martino was traveling on a cold, rainy day in November on horseback and encountered a half-naked beggar. San Martino cut his cloak in half and gave one half to the cold man. As he continued on his journey, the sun came out and the temperature became warmer. This is where the "Estate di San Martino" (The Summer of San Martino)comes from.

San Martino and the so-called "summer of San Martino" in Palermo are celebrated with cakes and wine.  It is actually celebrated in different parts of Italy with sagras (small food festivals) that are all about the chestnuts of autumn and the new wines.  Not too many Italians probably know the history of the saint, but they will enjoy a reason to celebrate with delicious food and great wine on November 11th.
Biscotti di San Martino


Biscotti di San Martino
Biscotti di San Martino


In Palermo, November 11th is to celebrate San Martino of the rich. The following Sunday is to celebrate San Martino of the poor. And those that really love their sweets will find an excuse to celebrate on both days! There are different kinds of sweets that are made. There are these simple cookies that are perfect to dip in new wine or even your hot coffee (I enjoy it with my espresso!). There are more decadent sweets that are filled with fresh ricotta cheese and some are even beautifully decorated.

My Sicilian father left me quite a collection of his Italian and Sicilian proverbs and quotes! Here are a few about San Martino.

Italian Proverbs for San Martino

  • Per San Martino castagne e buon vino [For St. Martin's chestnuts and good wine.]
  • Da San Martino l'inverno è in cammino [From St. Martin's winter is on the way.]
  • Per San Martino nespole e vino [For St. Martin's comquats and wine.]
  • A San Martino si lascia l'acqua e si beve il vino [At St. Martin's you leave water and drink wine.]

I have seen recipes where they do an egg wash and sprinkle on sesame seeds before baking. My kids aren't too crazy about sesame seeds, so I kept mine simple. I also probably added a dash more of cinnamon and less fennel seeds than is typical. But I wanted them to be something the kids would enjoy as well!!



Biscotti di San Martino

by Savoring Italy
Prep Time: about 1 hour
Cook Time: approx 10-15 minutes

Ingredients (18 cookies)
  • 4 cups of flour
  • dash of salt
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 10 Tablespoons shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel (or anice) seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
Let the yeast dissolve in the water with about a teaspoon of sugar. It's ready when it bubbles up.
Add the flour, shortening, sugar and nice seeds to the drum of a food processor. Pulse together a few times. 

Add in the water with the yeast and pulse until it combines. Add a little more water (about a teaspoon at a time)if it's not reaching a workable consistency. You don't want the dough to be too wet.
Dump the dough onto the counter (if it's a little too wet, add a bit of flour until you achieve a workable consistency). 

Knead the dough together until it's smooth. Place in upside down in an oiled boil. Swish it around right side up. Cover and let it rise for 45 minutes. While dough is resting, heat the oven to 400F.

Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper.

Cut the dough into 18 pieces (each piece should weigh 50 grams). Cover the cut pieces with a tea towel. Start working one piece at a time. Roll a piece into a strip about 8 inches long and shape into a snail shape. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat process with the rest of the dough pieces. 

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until a nice golden brown.

23 comments

  1. And now I want these cookies and wine! That was fascinating!

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  2. They look so good I can almost taste them.

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  3. Yum!! These look so pretty and I love the idea of dunking them in wine :)

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  4. What a fun and culturally educational post - and those treats look so yummy!

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  5. I love the swirls and the fact that they contain anise or fennel - awesome! But the legend behind them is the coolest (the 4th proverb is my favorite). Beautiful.

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  6. I would love to get my hands on a couple of these. Yum!

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  7. Cookies and wine? That sounds like my kind of tradition. I have never had fennel in a cookie before, sounds very interesting.

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  8. These look amazing... I'm a sucker for fennel in sweets, so these are totally calling my name right now. I think there's a batch of these in my very near future.

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  9. I'm the worst at using yeast. I always get so scared! However, this looks perfect! I wish I had a few for a midnight snack :)

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  10. I love a good saint day celebration! Cookies AND wine? ON PURPOSE? Yes, please. Sign me up! Thanks for sharing.

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  11. I am such a history buff, but history is even better with a little food and wine involved. ;) These look delicious!

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  12. I love the knotted shape of these cookies. Are these ones eaten on the day of the rich or the day of the poor?

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  13. I'm so intrigued by this recipe. They're perfect little swirl rolls with a nice hit of fennel. I think I'm in love! I must try them...along with a glass of wine :)

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  14. Adoro Adoro Adoro San Martino! And these biscotti of course ; )

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  15. So interested in this recipe! Thanks for sharing some of the background.

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  16. I made this yesterday and just loved them. They are easy to make and're rich in flavour.

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  17. Thanks for letting me know, Darja! Simple and flavorful!

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  18. They are eaten on both days. From my talking with my family there, there isn't much of a distinction on which one to eat (at least with them).

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  19. I love that you are giving me permission to have cookies and wine!! These look incredible!

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  20. Oh my gosh...I haven't seen these since I was a young girl. They were always around for Christmas when I was child and as my grandmother got older, she baked less and less...I just had a bunch of Christmas memories flash before my eyes. I had all but forgotten about these. Thank you!!!! Pinning.

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  21. What an interesting tradition! Are these more soft or firmer?

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  22. It is, isn't it?:) Mine were in between. For me, the perfect texture.

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  23. It was so nice to read your comment, Michelle. I am so happy that these biscotti brought back Christmas memories of you grandmother. Thank you for letting me know!! :)

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