When you are used to a certain kind of cookie since you are a child, you don’t think about their origin. You only eat it.
But that is what happened with zuccherini montanari, sugary dry cookies, old-fashioned scented with aniseeds.
A recipe from the Tuscan-Aemilian Apennines.
The zuccherini cookies tell the story of an area, between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, with common economic, agricultural, cultural, and social characteristics.
In that area, people used the same mountain flours, for instance, the chestnut flour from which the sweet Castagnaccio is made. Winters were severe, summer too hot, and the zuccherini montanari cookies were gifts at weddings and, on both sides of the Apennines, are flavored with aniseed.
These cookies are famous and appreciated in the area among provinces of Bologna and Modena (Emilia), Florence, and Prato (Tuscany). Despite little variations from place to place, there is another common element in the recipe: aroma that distinguishes the smell and flavor of the cookies: aniseed.
In Italy, this plant grows in the stony soils that form the Apennine ravines between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.
The fruit is the scented, grey-green seeds that ripen in the sun of the hot Apennine summers.
Zuccherini, in Italian zuccherini montanari, are also called zuccherotti or biscotti degli sposi, because in Emilia and Tuscany they are associated with marriage.
In the past, it was customary to give them to wedding guests and make necklaces for brides. Don’t confuse zuccherini montanari with zuccherini di Bologna. You can buy both in the city’s bakeries, but the doughs are different. If you find just zuccherini, but it isn’t specified montanari, they are other biscuits. Good, but different.
I love zuccherini cookies.
It’s a very scented biscuit.
In the bite, you would expect it to be crispier. But no. And this is the first pleasant surprise. Although crunchy, it’s not as dry as a biscuit. It’s crumbly. It’s the icing that’s the crispiest part. Although, like a cantucci, it requires double baking.
The second surprise is the scent that tickles your nose as soon as you bring the biscuit to your mouth.
The third is when that same fragrance explodes in the mouth and becomes a taste.
If you don’t like the scent and taste of aniseed, you can make these cookies omitting the aroma. But it would be a bit like taking away their soul. You might want to try another recipe from the ones I’ve published on the blog dedicated to biscuits.
The white glaze.
A thick, white, aniseed-scented sugar glaze covers these cookies. It’s one of their most important distinctive. To make the traditional glaze, melt sugar with anisette liqueur and water in a pan.
When the sugar becomes translucent and thickens, put the cookies in the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar stick to the biscuits like icing.
It sounds easy, but it is not.
Buona cucina, Monica
Stay in the know!
After baking the zuccherini in the oven, leave them to cool before glazing.
How to glaze them:
- Arrange a grate on top of a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the grate without overlapping them.
- Prepare the caramel, and when translucent, pour it over the cookies.
- Scoop up with a spoon the frosting that slips from the cookies onto the baking sheet below. And use it to frost the cookies.
Zuccherini montanari Cookies Recipe
for about 30 biscuits
List of the Ingredients
wheat or 0 flour, 500 g
whole eggs, 3
baking powder, 7g
melted butter, 80g
salt, a pinch
1 tiny glass of anise liqueur, 20g
your choice: aniseed seeds, 5g
anise liqueur, 1 tablespoon
The night before, soak the aniseed seeds in cold water.
If you have not had time to do this step, it is better not to put them in.
You can make these biscuits on the cutting board, using a bowl, or in the planetary mixer.
If you make the dough on a wooden cutting board board, pour in the flour, then make the classic hole in the middle, and sprinkle a pinch of salt on the edges of the crater. Place the eggs, and add warm butter (never hot), baking powder, and liqueur (and aniseed seeds after removing the soaking water).
You can do the same thing in a bowl. If you use a planetary mixer, add the ingredients following the order indicated.
Knead quickly and manipulate the ingredients as little as possible to obtain a firm but soft dough.
Take quantities of dough, each about the size of a walnut, or weigh each piece to get biscuits of the same size, and then shape them into doughnuts with a hole in the center. Make about 30 doughnuts.
Continue until you finish the dough. Make the cookies to rest in one or two baking trays covered with parchment paper.
Bake in the preheated oven at 190C degrees for about 12 minutes. Make attention to the cooking time: the zuccherini cookies should remain light.
Let cool completely before glazing, preferably for a couple of hours.
Pour sugar, water, and anisette, stirring, into a large pan and heat over medium heat until the melted sugar bubbles.
Pour the biscuits into the pan and, being VERY CAREFUL, stir them with caramel until the icing starts to shrink and stick to the biscuits.
Then transfer the biscuits from the pan to a plate covered with parchment paper and leave to cool.
An alternative is to make the glaze and pour it over the biscuits (read my food tip).
Choose whichever way you think is best for you.