Apr 29, 2013

We Knead to Bake #4 : Torcettini di Saint Vincent - sugar crusted yeasted cookies from Valle d'Aosta

I’m part of a lovely baker’s group started by Aparna Balasubramaniam called 'We Knead to Bake'. Our aim is to bake one bread every month for the whole of 2013 as suggested by Aparna and post it on our blogs by 24th of each month (ya I know I’m late).  I missed the March event due to all my busy packing and home shifting, but dint want to miss the April one…not when it has such a classy name…Lol!

Torcettini di Saint Vincent - doesn't the name just sound classy.  Torcettini are yeasted cookies/biscuits, yes yeasted cookies and not bread. They are almost bread like in texture, but with a crunchy exterior and rather soft flaky interior. They are usually shaped into twisted loops or tear drops and rolled in sugar before baking.
{ These cookies are synonymous with the town of Saint Vincent in Valle d'Aosta, a small mountainous region in North-Western Italy. Torcetti/ Torcettini are believed to have descended from Grissini (breadsticks) which were made from the leftover scraps of bread dough. According to one story, a Grissini baker had some leftover butter which he needed to use up. Inspiration struck and he decided to add the butter to the last batch of his Grissini dough for the day. To be able to differentiate this lot of “breadsticks” from his Grissini, he rolled them in sugar and shaped them into loops, and the Torcetti was born. Torcetti/ Torchettini are usually flavored with lime/ lemon zest or anise } – taken from Aparna’s blog

The bottom of the cookies get a deep brown color after baking 

They were really easy to make, and though it was suggested to let the dough rise from 1hr to 24hrs…I let it rise for 3 hrs and made it the same day. Instead of rolling the twisted dough in plain sugar I sprinkled some cinnamon into the sugar, thus making cinnamon sugar and rolled some in that.

As my parents preferred to have a less sweeter version , I rolled some cookies in plain sesame seeds. We loved both versions.

The cookies tastes best on the same day as they are baked.  They should ideally get a mild brown color but mine dint brown much. If you have eaten Little Hearts biscuits or Plamiers, then that’s somewhat how these cookies would taste. I personally enjoyed the mild flavor from the lemon zest and the subtle sweetness from the sugar. The sesame seeds on the cookies got toasted well and added a lovely crunch. 

And I went crazy taking pics and took quite a lot, so bear with me and hope you like them :-)

Here you see me getting all ready - my yeast is proofing, lemon is zested and flour is mixed with butter. I kept peeking at Aparna’s gorgeous pictures of the torcettini that she baked for inspiration while following the instructions in the recipe she shared :-)  

Torcettini di Saint Vincent

You'll need:
1/2 cup warm water, about 45C (110F)
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 tsp instant yeast)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lime/ lemon zest or 1 tsp crushed anise seeds ( I used zest of a full lemon)
40gm 2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
about 1/3 cup granulated sugar for rolling the cookies ( I used cinnamon sugar and sesame seeds)

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, in a small bowl and keep aside.
2. Put the flour and the salt in the food processor bowl (or a larger regular bowl if kneading by hand) and pulse a couple of times to mix.
3. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the butter is well mixed and the flour-butter mixture looks powdery.
4. Add the yeast-water mixture and pulse till it all comes together as a ball. Do not over process or knead.
5. Place the ball of dough in a oiled bowl, turning it so it is well coated with the oil. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise quite a bit. This dough does not really double in volume, but it should look “puffy” after about an hour or so.
6. When you pinch off a bit from the top you can see the interior looking a bit like honeycomb. 
Press down the dough and deflate it, wrap it in cling warp and refrigerate it for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
7. When ready to make the cookies, take the dough out and lightly roll it out into an approximately 6” square. If the dough feels sticky, scatter a little sugar on it. Using a pizza wheel cut the dough into four strips of equal width. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, by cutting across, making a total of 24 pieces. The measurements are not very critical in this part because this just makes it easier to have 24 equal sized bits of dough, as compared to pinching of bits of the dough.

8. Roll each piece into a pencil thick “rope” about 5” long. Sprinkle a little sugar on your work surface and roll the “rope” in it so the sugar crusts the dough uniformly. Form the “rope” into a loop crossing it over before the ends.
9. Place the Torcettini on parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2" between them. Leave them for about 20 minutes or so till they rise/ puff up slightly. They will not “puff up” much, like bread, but the “puff” will be visible.
10. Bake them at 160C (325F) for about 25 minutes till they’re a nice golden brown. Cool the cookies completely, on a rack.

Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature. This recipe makes 24 cookies.

Some tips that might make a difference to your Torcettini –
1.  For a variation on these biscuits, you can make them chocolate flavoured.  If making chocolate Torcettini, remove 2 tbsp all-purpose flour and add 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder.  Also add 2 tbsp powdered sugar and replace the lemon zest with orange zest while making the dough.
2.  Once your Torcettini have been shaped, don’t let them rise for longer than 20 minutes. If you do, your Torcettini will more bread-like on the inside due to the extra “rise”.
3.  To make sure the Torcettini dough does not rise for more than 20 minutes, it’s a good idea to work on shaping the 2nd batch while the first batch is in the oven.
4.  If you do not want to use parchment paper, you can grease you cookie sheets and place the shaped Torcettini dough on them directly. Just remember to take them off the sheets while they’re still hot. You will need a spatula to the dislodge them, and do so carefully so they don’t break. Once they’re cool, the caramelised sugar on the Torcettini make them stick to cookie sheets and they become difficult to dislodge without breaking them! 
(All the tips are copied exactly as mentioned in Aparna's blog )

These were really fun to make and my parents actually ate quite a few along with our evening tea. Thanks once again Aparna for such a perfect recipe and unique cookie. Do stop over at Aparna's space to check out what the others have shared.

So until next month's challenge, well we should just wait :-) Have a good day everyone.



  1. Lovely pictures Manju! I enjoyed them :)

  2. exotic looking cookies, Manju! I bet they tasted great. I am keen to join the bake along now , after seeing this.

  3. these look so cute manju... your laptop reminded of mine, though it's a smaller one, that i leave on the marble slab, now i'm behind HD to approve for a tablet, he says, ullathu pore??? hehe... the pics look awesome as well... wish i could just sink my teeth into one... :)

    1. Rafeeda, my laptop is bought from Dubai only, it had both english and arabic alphabets on it :-)

  4. Looks so yum and gorgeous Manju :-)

  5. they look so perfect. Beautiful colour and texture.. Lovely clicks BTW :)

  6. What an intriguing cookie recipe...
    And your photos are lovely, Manju :)

  7. Manju, love to try this. Hope you have settled in your new place.

  8. Torcettini have come out really gud :) and lovely clicks manju :)

  9. Wow...how beautiful. I could eat a dozen of both kinds. Well done! I know you're enjoying your big new kitchen.. the counter tops look gorgeous.

    1. hmmm Ramona...i wonder how big is a big kitchen...lol!! :-D Mine isn't very big, almost the same as my apartment kitchen, but gets a lot of good sunlight which was my priority :-)

  10. They look yummy. And who doesn't like little hearts???? My kids would love these. You kitchen counter looks similar to mine :).

  11. Cuties and seriously i love that sesame yeasted cookies..love ur kitchen counter.

  12. Wow...looks incredible..makes me very hungry. Beautiful clicks too.

  13. Manju the clicks are worth the effort, so keep going. Lovely cookies

  14. Delicious one....awesome clicks...and ur son looks so so cute,happy following u

  15. I like your blog, food looks delicious. would you mind following each other, I would be more than happy to follow you back.

    1. Thanks a lot for stopping by Melgie and I'll be happy to follow you.

  16. These are so unique Manju! And totally gorgeous much like the name. Thank you for stopping by and leaving sweet comments on my blog. I was away from blogging for a while but made a mental note to visit yours as soon as I could. Love your blog...its filled with all things I love.

  17. Wow! This is so beautiful! Loved these baked beauties!


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