Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to Make Italian Pepper Biscuits

dad's pepper biscuits

Last week I shared my mom's recipe for traditional Italian almond biscotti, which she submitted to my Eat Christmas Cookies event. Now you didn't think my dad would be outdone by her, did you?

So today it's time for my dad's entry, Italian Pepper Biscuits. This recipe was my grandmother's original and has been in the family for over 80 years.

(Click on the logo for details and see all of the delicious entries here.)

Now you may be asking yourself, "what is a pepper biscuit?" It's a savory Italian biscuit made primarily of flour, olive oil, black pepper, and fennel seeds. They can be found in many Italian delis and are usually ring-shaped biscuits that have been boiled.

My family's pepper biscuits are baked instead of boiled. When you bite into one, you'll find the texture to be satisfyingly crisp and slightly crumbly. They're all-occasion biscuits too. Serve them as a part of an antipasto. Crumble them into "croutons" for a unique salad topping. Or savor them with a hot espresso or tea.

Pepper biscuits make great easy and inexpensive Christmas gifts too because they can be made ahead. Once cooled, store in air-tight container (preferably tin to maintain their crispness) and keep in a cool area; they should last up to a month.

dad's pepper biscuits in a gift box
(This festive Christmas colored "Chinese take out" box was $1 at Target!)

Even though my mom loves to make pepper biscuits, she prefers when my dad does because he twists each cookie so uniformly. If you're not into twisting, you can also roll the dough into a cigar shape and simply form a circle. They're equally delicious no matter what shape they come in.

Dad's Italian Pepper Biscuits
These savory Italian biscuits are satisfyingly crisp and slightly crumbly. They are all-occasion biscuits too. Serve them as a part of an antipasto. Crumble them into "croutons" for a unique salad topping. Or savor them with a hot espresso or tea.

Makes 30 biscuits
Print recipe only here.

1 cup olive oil, preferably extra virgin
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, hand mix olive oil, water, salt, black pepper, and fennel seed. Add baking powder and flour. Mix until well blended and a dough begins to forms. Lightly work the dough with your hands until the texture is oily and smooth. If the dough is too sticky, then mix in 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour at a time, until smooth.

Using your hands, pinch off a 2-tablespoon size piece of dough. Roll the dough between lightly floured hands. Roll into a thin cigar shape that is approximately 8 inches long. Form a U shape, then criss-cross the pieces until a braid forms. Place 15 biscuits per baking sheet. Brush tops of biscuits with egg wash. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans mid-way through. Biscuits should have a golden color and be crisp on the bottom. Remove from oven and place on a cookie rack to cool completely.

Biscuits should be stored in an air-tight tin container (preferably tin to maintain their crispness) and kept in a cool area, such as a cupboard. Properly stored, they should last up to one month.

Here are more easy and inexpensive edible Christmas gifts you might like:

Traditional Italian Almond Biscotti
Biscotti can be made ahead and stored. Given their sturdy texture, they stand up well to packing, so they make great edible gift to mail.

Chocolate Dipped Almond Biscotti
I am downright giddy when I receive a gift box of of my mother-in-law's chocolate dipped almond biscotti.

Orange, Date, and Pecan Bread
Mini quick breads in decorative porcelain baking dishes make attractive and thoughtful gifts. You could also make mini Banana Coconut Almond Bread or Persimmon and Date Bread.

Mom's Peanut Butter Fudge
Everyone loves receiving fudge, especially when it's thick and creamy and studded with peanuts. Feel free to play around with other add-ins such as marshmallows, dried fruit, crushed candy canes, or whatever else you fancy.

Also I'm giving the gift of pepper biscuits to The Happy Cook over at My Kitchen Treasures who is looking for Homemade Christmas Gifts. Click here for many more delicious ideas.

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