Sicilian Sesame Biscuits/Cookies

Reginelle di Palermo are a Sicilian biscuit, coated with sesame seeds.  I have seen this in various websites and they looked very good.  They appear to come in different sizes, I suppose dependent how you want to make them.  

Often they are flavoured with anise or saffron. Sometimes some jam is mixed into the dough as well.  For mine I decided I would simply use a little lemon zest and vanilla to flavour mine beyond the lovely taste of the sesame seeds.

Traditionally these biscuits are made using baking ammonia(ammonium bicarbonate) and lard.  These days baking soda and butter are substituted for those ingredients. I was lucky enough to find some baking ammonia in a local Polish store, so that is what I am going to use.  Baking ammonia was commonly used in baking before the advent of baking soda and baking powder.  It actually creates, apparently, a crisper biscuit that is achieved with baking soda or baking powder.  But using baking soda will certainly give a nice crisp biscuit.  

Lard too helps to create the crispness of the biscuit, different to butter.  But some people may prefer to use butter, simply for the extra flavour.  It will work fine too.

The recipe is actually very simple and doesn’t take too long either.   For mine I decided on small biscuits that you can just pop into your mouth.  They spread and grow a little in the oven, but still remain small enough to eat easily. You can make them any size you want, but remember that larger ones will take longer to cook.

I was very pleased with how mine turned out, and it was difficult not to eat rather too many. They were lovely and crunchy with a great taste of sesame and a little vanilla, though I didn’t really taste the lemon zest, maybe a little more zest would have been better.

Sicilian Sesame Biscuits/Cookies
Sicilian Sesame Biscuits/Cookies – Video

Ingredients:

  • 250g(2 cups)cake & pastry flour(plain flour will be ok)
  • 80g(7tbps) lard(butter can be used, or margarine)
  • 80g(3/8 cup) sugar
  • 35g(1 1/4 oz) beaten egg
  • 20ml(4 tsp) milk
  • 5ml(1 tsp) vanilla extract
  • 1tsp lemon zest
  • 4g(1 tsp) baking ammonia(baking soda is ok)
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g(3 1/2 oz) sesame seeds. (have more seeds available in case you need them)
  • Remainder of egg and some water to coat cut out dough.

Method:

  1. Place the flour into a large bowl and add the lard.
  2. Cut the lard into the flour, rubbing between your fingers too, until it has broken down and you have a sand-like texture to the flour.
  3. Sprinkle over the sugar, baking ammonia, salt and lemon zest and mix to combine well.
  4. Pour in the milk, egg and vanilla extract and stir to bring the mixture together into a clumpy, powdery dough.
  5. Tip out onto the work surface and use your hands to pull the mixture together into a smooth dough.  This will take a minute or so but will come together easily.
  6. Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in cling wrap, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F.
  8. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper, or silicone mats.
  9. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll to a about .5 to1 cm( 1/4 to 1/2 inch) and cut into strips about 4 cm(1 inch) wide.  Then cut each strip into pieces about 1cm(just under 1/2 inch) wide. Or whichever size you prefer.
  10. Take each piece and gently dip, or coat, in the egg/water mixture and then dip into the sesame seeds, turning over to coat completely.  
  11. Place on a baking sheet, leaving a gap between each to allow spreading.
  12. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before eating.


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