From the Venetian lagoon on the Adriatic Sea in Italy, when Venice was center of the commerce with Asia from 13th to 19th centuries, the organic baking traditions were born that are still practiced today. Sailors & explorers carried foodstuffs on board the war and merchant galleons that would survive the long voyages in the perilous seas. Among these were sweet treats, simple to make, that in name and taste, reflected their Venetian origins. Not to mention the only existing agriculture created the organic food; no pesticides or additives were used in foods, except those from mother nature herself.
The Queen of these, & the most famous, is the organic cookie named “Biscotti Baicoli” was created in the 1700’s, the word “baicoli” is Venetian dialect for sea bass. In fact, their oval, long, thin, shape is very similar to the sea bass which inhabit the lagoon. At same time, bakers supplied them to coffee shops, or they were served to the house guests along with zabaglione hot chocolate, cream, or tea. Still others served them with the sweet Doge’s desert wine, the Venetian Moscato dei Doge.
Today they are considered a delicate, yet flavorful, light, organic cookie to be enjoyed by everyone. In fact, almost every child in the Venice today knows the poem in Venetian dialect which brags of the goodness of the Baicoli & its Venetian origins.
In the lagoon sits Burano, the fisherman’s island, famous for its rows of the brightly colored houses. From this very small island becomes the organic cookie “Bussola Buranello”, which translated, means compass of the Burano. Here also, the marine traditions date back centuries. Baked in a shape outlining the circle, or a backwards “s”, this cookie was the typical Easter treat, kneaded at home by the women of Burano, & then brought to the baker’s for baking. On feast days, it was dipped in the holy wine “vin santo”, & 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 & nutritional organic cookie, it is enjoyed in the same manner, or served to children. Both organic cookies are easy to prepare fast, with simple organic food ingredients. The recipes follow:
Ingredients of Organic Food: ¼ cup melted butter (unsalted), 1 ¾ cups flour, ¼ cup sugar, 1 small glass of milk, one half ounce of yeast. Dissolve the yeast in a small amount of tepid milk in the glass, & then mix it together with ¼ cup of flour. Form a ball & leave it to rest, covered by a cloth, in a warm place until it doubles in volume (approx. half hour).
Mix together rest of the ingredients, starting with the flour & sugar, then the melted butter, & finally the tepid milk. (You may also add the bit of freshy squeezed orange juice for more flavor) Add the leavened dough & knead all together.
Leave the dough in the mixing bowl & place the bowl in a larger bowl of boiling hot water in the oven (turned off), for at least 1 hour.
Divide the dough in roughly 6 long, oval shapes, each roughly three inches in width. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 300°C, & then increase the temperature to 430° until completely cooked (approx. 1 hour). Remove from the oven & let it completely cool. Then slice the 6 oval shapes thinly into organic cookies, & put them back in the oven to “toast” for 20 min at 120°C to 175°C.
Dip in hot chocolate, tea, or coffee. Or serve with zabaglione cream or also in a sweet desert wine.
Bussola Buranello –
Ingredients of Organic Food: 6 egg yolks, 1 cup butter softened at normal room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, a dash of extract (choose between, lemon, vanilla, or anise, the island tradition), a dash of salt.
On a kitchen workspace, form the volcano shape with the flour, & in the middle create a crater where you add the softened butter (not melted).
In a bowl, lightly beat all eggs with the sugar. Then add this to the flour/ butter mixture, & quickly mix /knead with your hands.
Take the dough and create the desired cookie shapes (outline of a circle / backwards “s”) & cook in the oven at 350°C until done.
Modern versions add dark chocolate raisins, chips, or substitute a bit of the white flour with coconut flour.
Serve these organic treats at the home along with your usual array of organic foods or try them on your friends at your next gathering. Bring to your table an organic, culinary, pastry delight which is centuries old, yet enjoyed every day by Venetians & tourists alike.