Discover the Secrets of Traditional Venetian Cookies with Organic Food Baking Recipes

Canal Grande – Photo © Silvia Massetti
Canal Grande – Photo © Silvia Massetti

Author: Heather Bettendorf

From an enchanting lagoon on the Adriatic sea in Italy, when Venice was the center of commerce with Asia from the 13th to the 19th centuries, organic baking traditions were born that are still practiced today by pastry chefs and housewives alike. Explorers and sailors carried foodstuffs on board the merchant and war galleons that would survive the long voyages on the open seas. Among these were sweet treats, simple to make, that in taste and name, reflected their Venetian origins. Not to mention that in those days, the only existing agriculture created organic food; no additives or pesticides were used in foods, except those from mother nature herself.

The Queen of these, and the most famous, is the organic cookie named “Biscotti Baicoli”. Created in the 1700′s, the word “baicoli” is Venetian dialect for sea bass. In fact, their oval, thin, long shape is very similar to the sea bass which inhabit the lagoon. At that time, bakers supplied them to coffee shops, or they were served to house guests along with zabaglione cream, hot chocolate or tea. Still others served them with a sweet Doge’s desert wine, the Venetian Moscato dei Doge.

Today they are considered a delicate, light, yet flavorful organic cookie to be enjoyed by everyone. In fact, almost every child in Venice today knows the poem in Venetian dialect which brags of the goodness of the Baicoli and its Venetian origins.

In the lagoon sits Burano, the fisherman’s island, famous for it’s rows of brightly colored houses. From this tiny island comes the organic cookie “Bussola Buranello”, which translated, means the compass of Burano. Here too, the marine traditions date back centuries. Baked in a shape like a backwards “s” or an outline of a circle, this cookie was a typical Easter treat, kneaded at home by the women of Burano, and then brought to the baker’s for baking. On feast days, it was dipped in holy wine “vin santo”, or in local whites. Packaged, they were placed in the middle of clothes drawers in order to scent them with the delicious aroma characteristic of this cookie.

Still today, considered a genuine and nutritional organic cookie, it is enjoyed in the same manner, or served to children.

Both organic cookies are easy to prepare, with simple organic food ingredients. The recipes follow:

Biscotti Baicoli 

Organic Food Ingredients: 1 ¾ cups flour, ¼ cup melted butter (unsalted), ¼ cup sugar, 1 small glass of milk, one half ounce of yeast

Dissolve the yeast in a small amount of tepid milk in a glass, and then mix it together with ¼ cup of flour. Form a ball and leave it to rest, covered by a cloth, in a warm place until it doubles in volume (approx 30 min).

Mix together the remaining ingredients, starting with the flour and sugar, then the melted butter, and finally the tepid milk. (You may also add a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice for more flavor) Add the leavened dough and knead all together.

Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and place the bowl in a larger bowl of boiling hot water in the oven (turned off), for at least one hour.

Divide the dough in roughly 6 long, oval shapes, each roughly 3 inches in width. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 300°, and then increase the temperature to 430° until completely cooked (approx 1 hour). Remove from the oven and let it completely cool. Then slice the 6 oval shapes thinly into organic cookies, and put them back in the oven to “toast” for 20 min at 120° – 175°.

Dip in hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Or serve with zabaglione cream or a sweet desert wine.

Bussola Buranello –

Organic Food Ingredients: 6 egg yolks, 1 cup butter softened at room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, a dash of extract (choosed between, vanilla, lemon or anise, the island tradition), a dash of salt.

On a kitchen workspace, form a volcano shape with the flour, and in the middle create a crater where you add the softened butter (not melted).

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the sugar. Then add this to the butter /flour mixture, and quickly mix /knead with your hands.

Take the dough and create the desired cookie shapes (outline of a circle or backwards “s”) and cook in the oven at 350° until done.

Modern versions add dark chocolate chips, raisins, or substitute a bit of the white flour with coconut flour.

Serve these organic treats at home along with your usual array of organic foods or try them on your friends at your next gathering. Bring to your table a culinary, organic, pastry delight which is centuries old, yet enjoyed every day by Venetians and tourists alike.

About the author:

By Heather Bettendorf – President, PRIMA Organic Cookies ( http://www.primaorganic.com ) – Offering traditional organic cookies from Italy. Our unique cookie formulations and combinations include Natural Lemon, Italian Almond, Sunny Vanilla, and Venetian Classic.