When cookies grow up: Brandy Biscuits

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Just a post or two ago, I was thinking about foods that I never ate as a child, but love dearly now that I’m a bit older. I must say though, there are some “grownup” foods that I’ve always loved, like…

…lobster, I’ve always loved lobster. My family used to go to York, Maine once a summer, and when I was very small my parents would break off the little legs and give me a great big pile to work my way through while they enjoyed the rest of dinner. When David and I spent a week in Maine right after we were married we found a great place that served fresh steamed twin lobsters for an outrageously low price. We went three nights in a row, and I ate twins all three nights. It was the best of times.

I’ve also loved chicken livers, Brussels sprouts, curry, and maple-walnut ice cream for ages. Now, don’t get bent out of shape over the maple-walnut ice cream if you love it too, and don’t consider yourself a grownup yet. It’s just one of those flavors that seems to be tied to an older generation, along with butter brickle. It is what it is, and we order it regardless.

Thinking back, I’m sure you can remember a time when you were checking out the buffet or dinner spread and some well-meaning adult came along, pointed out something that looked pretty darn good, and said to you “Oh no, honey, you wouldn’t like that. It’s for grownups.” This usually meant it had A: expensive ingredients or B: alcohol or C: was something they wanted all to themselves (guilty of that one myself, thank you).

Sometimes, though, you’d come across an adult with a child’s heart. These are the dear aunties and grammies who would save a bit of each of these forbidden goodies and pass you little nibbles along the way. For me, it was my dad who encouraged me to try new things like sips of his beer (Genesee cream ale), the aforementioned chicken livers, beef summer sausage, and the inspiration for these Brandy Biscuits, my Gramma Coppolino’s wine biscuits. Thanks, Pop!

I remember their texture first. It was dry and a bit crumbly. Not at all like cookies; but again, not like dinner biscuits. They definitely tasted of sherry wine, and I found them to be addictive; you couldn’t stop with just one. When I was brainstorming for ideas for a new cookie, these jumped right out of my memory, begging to be re-created with a new twist.

First, I traded out sherry for brandy. I like the mellow flavor of brandy a bit better, and find it pairs with our Fiori di Sicilia beautifully. If you prefer, you can use apple juice or all water, but keep in mind the flavor will definitely be different.

Next, I fiddled with the amount of sugar. These cookies aren’t supe-sweet, and that’s definitely in line with their being termed biscuits and not cookies. Think of these with a cup of tea, coffee, or even wine, rather than a cold glass of milk.

Finally, I knew I wanted to use Fiori di Sicilia to flavor these biscuits. Fiori has a sophisticated citrus/vanilla flavor that brings a unique taste to baked goods. It makes tasters stop and say “What is that flavor? It’s amazing!” Just the ticket for dressing up a plain biscuit/cookie.

So, hop aboard the grownup train and let’s make Brandy Biscuits.

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Mix the brandy (or apple juice) and water in a liquid measure.

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Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. This dough is quite soft and could also be easily made by hand.

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Add the vegetable oil and Fiori di Sicilia to the brandy/water mixture. Stop and relax, admiring the lava lamp-like ebb and flow of the mixture. Simple pleasures, man, it’s all about simple pleasures.

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Speaking of simple pleasures, have you tried our exclusive Fiori di Sicilia yet? I’m completely in love with this flavoring. Its citrus-orange scent makes me feel calm and mellow, and the flavor of citrus and vanilla always keeps me coming back for more. It’s a potent flavor, too, so my frugal Vermonter self is happy knowing a little goes a long way. I really get my money’s worth out of a bottle.

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Pour the liquid into the dry all at once and mix for 2 minutes on medium-low speed until a very soft dough forms. It won’t be a super-smooth dough, but rather a bit rough and “orange peel” looking. Don’t worry, the texture will smooth out during the shaping. This dough also has a bit of an oily texture to it, so it doesn’t stick to your hands or to surfaces.

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Break off small pieces of dough, each about the size of a walnut. Now, here’s where you get to play a bit. You can make simple wreaths or rings, twists, sticks, braids, whatever suits your fancy. For a special presentation, try crescents.

Roll 2 pieces of dough out to about 6 inches long.

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Here’s what you’re shooting for in the end. Keep it in mind as you twist the strands.

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Pinch the ends of the strands together at one end.

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Pick up one strand and drape it across the other strand. Drape rather loosely so that the strands won’t be too tight and burst during baking.

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Alternating strands, drape one over the other as the twist gets longer. This always reminds me of hopscotch, first one, then the other, then the first, over and over.

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When you reach the end of the strands, pinch the ends together to hold the twists in place.

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Use your fingers to curve the crescent. You can make the ends touch, or leave them open; it’s up to you.

Place the shaped crescents on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Sacrifice one crescent by breaking it open to make sure it’s baked all the way through. If it looks doughy, place it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

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As you can see, the bottoms will be a lovely golden brown. Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze and allow to drip for a moment.

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The glaze should be very thin. You just want a light coating over the cookies, not a heavy frosting.

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Fresh orange zest really brings out the citrus tones of the Fiori. Our handy Microplane zester shaves just the colored zest and none of the pith. If you hold the plane bottom side up, you can easily see how much zest you’ve gathered.

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Sprinkle fresh zest on the still-wet glaze. Set aside to firm up a bit before plating, although you could just treat yourself to one right now, glaze dripping down your fingers. After all, some of the best grownups are the ones who are still children at heart.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Brandy Biscuits.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Lish

    Oh my these look wonderful. I bet they would also be delicious made with ginger flavored brandy. One of my favorite cookies growing up was a brandied wreath cookie that my mom made. These look like a fresher more all purpose version, and I can’t wait to try them. Now do I make these or the scones first?

    So many recipes, so little time! Your variation of the recipe sounds delicious. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  2. linda

    great post & evoked my memories of my husband & me spending our vacations in maine…eating @ the lobster pound in ogunquit …steamed & delicious & inexpensive…& yes it was the best of times.
    your brandy biscuits peaked my interest & will be baking them soon!
    Hi Linda,
    Yes, we’ve been to the Lobster Pound too. We’ve also been eating at Newick’s for nearly 40 years. Can’t wait for summer now, ice cream at Brown’s by the lighthouse, and taffy from the Goldenrod in York. My mother used to go there when she was younger, so that’s a big part of family history for us. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. Jessica

    Wow as soon as I saw this posted I knew they looked familiar! My grandma made almost these identical style of cookies when I was small and I LOVED them. Thank you so much for posting this. Nice to see “grown up” cookies :)
    Glad to share the memories Jessica. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. Mike T.

    Wow! I was looking for something for this weekend… I’ve got the Fiori di Sicilia Now, where did I put that bottle of Brandy…

    Reply
  5. kathy

    Let’s hear it for bringing back the old school! I’m only 31, but I grew up reading old cookbooks (and still do). These cookies sound delicious.
    Thanks Kathy,
    As you can imagine, we are big fans of old cookbooks too, and love to find new treasures at book sales. Happy Baking!
    ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. Mary Ann

    I notice there is no leavening. Please describe the texture once they are baked.
    Hi Mary Ann,
    These cookies are firm and crisp, slightly moist in the center, but more dry than your average cookie. Not quite as dry as biscotti, not quite as sandy as shortbread. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. jacquie

    they look yummy. i tend to not use oil in baking – how do you think melted butter would alter the texture? would it totally alter the effect you are lookng for? i wonder if they would be too crumbly …..

    HI Jacquie,
    I’ve never seen this type of a recipe using butter as the fat. If you want to try it, try using 50/50 butter and oil and see how you like the results, then adjust from there. Let us know how it turns out. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. Jonie

    Hi! I made these today to serve as dessert for my cooking club — Italian themed. I halved the recipe & made the following substitutions, for personal taste preference: subbed amaretto for the brandy & used 1 TBS almond extract in place of the fioiri di siclia . Shaped as shown, baked perfectly in time suggested. For the glaze, I added some corn syrup, as it helps the glaze “set” better, used almond extract in place of vanilla, & topped each biscuit w/lightly toasted sliced almonds. They were absolutely fabulous! Everyone loved them & they were so easy & fast to make, this will be a “go-to” recipe for me again & again. Thanks for sharing.

    These sound like delicious tweaks, Jonie – thanks for sharing. PJH

    Reply
  9. Barbara

    Oh my gosh! did these ever bring back memories My grandmother Coppola made these and she shaped them into knots. Made them today and they came out wonderful. I forgot how good they were. I did not have brandy and I used the boiled cider as a sub.

    Reply
  10. Marianna

    When I was four years old went went on vacation to Maine with my father’s sister and her family. We went out to dinner one night and all the adults ordered lobster. I ask my father what a lobster was and he said “DELICIOUS!” so I decided that I wanted a lobster too. My aunt was horrified and told me I was getting fish sticks like my cousins. My Dad said NO, she wants lobster. I ate the whole thing and loved it. I still laugh to myself when I think about how angry my aunt was that my father “wasted” lobster on a four year old.
    When I was growing up most of the moms didn’t bake from scratch. I guess most people still don’t. That was something old fashioned that grandma’s did. I always loved those great old fashioned and ethnic treats and when I can I ask for and treaure the recipes. This recipe reminds me of a cookie that a dear friend’s Nonna used to make and I am looking forward to making them and remembering her! :)
    Bravo to your Dad Marianna! Of course, introducing your kids to the big ticket items on the menu can prove dangerous to the wallet! :) Hope you enjoy the cookies. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. Gretchen

    Made the brandy biscuits today. They are delicious. Just have to add one BIG note of caution!

    DO NOT USE CONVECTION BAKING!

    Twice the oven door blew open when the alcohol vapors ignited! Changed the oven to conventional bake and everything is fine. My husband thinks the convection motor ignited the fumes.
    Wow Gretchen, I’ve never heard of that happening, and fellow bakers hadn’t either. Glad it worked out in the end and everyone still has their eyebrows. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. Kathy

    Made these little gems on Saturday and really enjoyed them! I’m about to post a detailed review of them at the recipe site itself, so stay tuned.
    Awesome Kathy! Glad you liked them, and thanks for taking the time to review. It really helps folks choose new recipes and learn how others liked them. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. Marianna

    MaryJane, I do agree that buying a lobster dinner for a four year old could be a pricey mistake! I have my suspicions that Dad wouldn’t have been too upset if he had to step up to the plate and eat that lobster if I hadn’t enjoyed it! ;)
    Yep, that’s exactly what I thought when I let my daughter order lobster bisque. I thought “mmmm, more for me” but she LOVED it. I did get a few bites though. :) ~ MJ

    Reply
  14. Anita

    I’ve seen a recipe like this too, called Taralli, but it had Baking Powder to lighten the dough. What would happen if BP was added to the recipe and how much would you add?

    I’ve been looking for a Taralli recipe for 5 years, but the one my mother made were light and not heavy with a slight yeast flavor.

    As always, thanks for the info.
    Anita
    We have not tried making these with baking powder but go ahead and try and then let us know how they turned out. Joan @KAF

    Reply
  15. Ann Ever

    Delicious! These remind me of my Grandmother, she wasn’t the best cook but added to sherry to everything she made “to make it taste better.” I used the KA all purpose white wheat flour and added the juice of one lemon and almond extract to the batter and then a little fresh orange juice to the icing. Wonderful recipe! Thanks!
    Your grandmother and my grandmother must have come from the same school of cooking! What a great story. Your recipe tweaks sound delicious! Molly @ KAF

    Those sound terrific! I’ll have to give your version a try. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  16. Becky S.

    These cookies sound great. I don’t keep brandy in the house, so maybe this will be a good reason to finally get some. Or, for a southern twist, maybe some peach schnapps…

    My parents took me to a restaurant just over the Maine/NH border when I was four, and I ate nearly all of my mother’s lobster! They still talk about it.

    Reply

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