This group, We Knead To Bake, got together with the objective of baking a variety of yeasted breads through 2103. So this month’s choice migt come as a bit of a surprise because it is not bread! It’s a biscuit or what would be described as a cookie in the US. I had bookmarked this biscuit/ cookie called Torcettini di SaintVincent sometime back, when I first discovered on my wanderings through the internet.
Torcettini are made from yeasted dough and have a somewhat bread-like texture on the inside so I thought they qualified to be baked in this group. These are the first yeasted biscuits/ cookies I have ever baked and I thought it would be a nice change from bread, just this once.
Torcettini are smaller versions of Torcetti (meaning small twists), and these pear/ teardrop shaped twists are made of a dough of flour, yeast and butter which are shaped and then rolled in sugar before being baked. These biscuits/ cookies are synonymous with the town of Saint Vincent in Valle d’Aosta, a small mountainous region in North-Western Italy, even though they’re well known throughout the Piedmont region as well.
Torcetti/ Torcettini are believed to have descended from Grissini (breadsticks) which were made from the leftover scraps of bread dough. According to one story, a Grissini baker had some leftover butter which he needed to use up. Inspiration struck and he decided to add the butter to the last batch of his Grissini dough for the day. To be able to differentiate this lot of “breadsticks” from his Grissini, he rolled them in sugar and shaped them into loops, and the Torcetti was born. Torcetti/ Torchettini are usually flavoured with lime/ lemon zest or anise.
These biscuits/ cookies are crunchy on the outside with a somewhat bread-like texture on the inside. They’re not very sweet and pair very well with cold milk, hot chocolate, tea/ coffee or wine. They are delicious served warm and equally good cold, and keep very well if stored in airtight containers. Apparently, Queen Margaret, the wife of King Umberto I of Savoy loved these biscuits so much during her stay in Valle d’Aosta, that she gave her servants enough provisions to bake an abundant supply for her consumption.
Now I know some of you might wonder why anyone would like to make a cookie that has a “bready” interior. After all, cookies are meant to be cookies and bread should be bread. Why marry the two in one? Beats me too, but I’m not complaining in this case, because I like Torcettii. The fact that they’re not very sweet but have a caramelly crunch that gives way to a yeasted soft texture works for me.
I have adapted this recipe from the one in Nick Malgieri’s “A Baker’s Tour”. Traditionally these biscuits/ cookies are shaped by rolling out bits of dough into “ropes” and then pinching the ends together to form a “teardrop” shape. These are shaped by crossing the rope of dough near the ends to pretty looking twists.
Torcettini di Saint Vincent
(Adpated from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri)