Every Christmas we travel to Italy to spend the holidays with my family, but this year we have decided that we will spend it in London. I am excited to start a new holiday tradition, especially since it will be my first Christmas as a British citizen. My parents and aunt will stay with us and we will have the Christmas lunch at my house. My mum will be in charge of the main courses and I will make the pudding. The living room will be filled with the sweet aromas of cinnamon and cloves. And a batch of freshly-baked mostaccioli biscuits will be on the kitchen counter ready to be eaten at the end of our family lunch.
Mostaccioli, or mustacciuoli, are rhombus-shaped spiced biscuits (not too dissimilar to gingerbread biscuits) traditionally eaten at Christmas time in Naples and around other regions of southern Italy, where you can easily buy them from bakeries all year round.
I baked mostaccioli for the first time last week as part of Schwartz Christmas campaign. I wanted to show you how easy it is to create dishes that are a little out of the ordinary for Christmas using Schwartz spices. The biscuits turned out really well, even better than any mostaccioli I’ve ever tasted in Italy! I hope this recipe post will inspire you to spice up your Christmas!
After all, during the festive period we all love to use winter spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice (a blend of cinnamon, coriander, caraway, nutmeg and cloves). These are the flavours that reminds us of Christmas markets, mulled wine, Christmas pudding, wrapping gifts, cooking a meal for the family, sitting on the floor around the tree, singing carols…
Schwartz spices can be used in a variety of Christmas sweets, but if you are looking for something unusual to surprise your guests, then this mostaccioli recipe is perfect! They can also be made as a gift for friends, colleagues and family.
Mostaccioli are vegan as they are made without eggs or dairy. The recipe varies regionally: some recipes (like the one from Puglia featured in Paola Bacchia‘s second cookbook, Adriatico) use vincotto to add sweetness and depth to the flavours. Vincotto literally means “cooked wine”: grape juice that is slow cooked until it’s thickened and reduced in volume. In the region of Campania, mostaccioli are made with a spice blend called “pisto” which you can buy ready-made in and around Naples. It’s a Christmassy blend of cinnamon, clove, coriander, anise and nutmeg.
The secret to making great biscuits is using the best spices. Schwartz carefully selects the best farms to source the spices from. The farmers know how to harvest herbs and spices to capture the best colour, flavour and aroma of each. I used three spices to make the biscuits – cinnamon, clove and nutmeg – from the Schwartz range, which is available in Tesco, Asda and Morrison’s stores. I particularly love ground clove as it really brings up the flavours of Christmas!
Note: mostaccioli are glazed with dark chocolate. You can choose to coat half biscuit, just the top or both sides. Don’t skip this step of the recipe! The biscuits are made without eggs or butter, so the dough is a little bit hard and chewy. The chocolate glaze will soften the biscuit and mellow its taste.
Makes around 20-25 depending on size.
For the biscuits
- 260g plain flour
- 100g ground almonds
- 25g cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground clove
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 80g demerara sugar
- 1 orange zest
- 75ml honey or maple syrup
- 50ml coffee
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 25ml extra virgin olive oil
- 25g dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
- 70ml water, room temperature
For the glaze
- 200g dark chocolate
- a few drops of olive oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, baking powder, spices, sugar and orange zest. Now add the wet ingredients: honey, coffee, vanilla extract and oil. Use a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low speed to mix the ingredients. Scatter the chopped chocolate over the mixture.
Slowly, add the water until you have the consistency of sticky cookie dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. On a floured counter, roll out the dough until it’s about 8-10mm thick. Cut out the biscuits using a rhombus cookie cutter or a knife. Place the biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spaced about 3cm apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove the biscuits from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack to cool down completely.
To make the glaze, break the dark chocolate in small pieces and place them into a heatproof bowl. Add a few drops of olive oil, this will make the chocolate smoother. Sit over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie) and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
Dip the cold biscuits in the melted chocolate. I used a teaspoon to pour the chocolate on top of the biscuits, as I wanted to glaze just one side. Place the biscuits on the counter lined with baking paper. Leave until the chocolate glaze is completely dry.
Store the biscuits in airtight containers for up to 5 days.
Disclaimer: in paid partnership with Schwartz. All opinions are my own.