Jewish cinnamon biscotti

Jewish cinnamon biscotti

Tozzetti ebraici

50 biscotti
Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

‘My aunt made these. My father’s family is from Pitigliano. My grandfather was born there. He came to America in 1904.’ An American woman called Kathleen Dickey wrote to me when she saw me write about these intensely cinnamon-scented biscotti, ‘They all made those tozzetti and every Sunday I could smell the cinnamon as I walked in the door for our family dinner.’

I love knowing that this tradition that is holding on by a thread in the ancient place where it was born is alive somewhere else, reviving someone’s family memories through that scent of cinnamon wafting through the air.

I’ve found it difficult to track down any recipes that are even remotely similar to the delicious tozzetti ebraici or ‘Jewish tozzetti’ that I picked up one day at the Forno del Ghetto, a bakery at the mouth of the old ghetto in Pitigliano. I was relieved to know that they did indeed exist outside that bakery – but then the thought dawned on me that perhaps, when the last Jewish families left Pitigliano after the Second World War, they took this recipe with them. Though there is no longer a Jewish community in Pitigliano, a handful of Jewish traditions have survived here. There are still Sfratti, Pitigliano’s best-known baked good; pane azzimo (unleavened matzo or mahtza bread); and these biscotti.

In the biscotti world, almond-studded cantuccini are the best known, especially in northern Tuscany around Florence and in Prato, the town where they were born. In southern Maremma, they are tozzetti, no doubt a tradition that has seeped over the nearby borders of Lazio and Umbria, where they are also common. They’re all similar, of course, but tozzetti are usually made with hazelnuts instead of almonds because they are more commonly available. And then there are mandelbrot (meaning ‘almond bread’) – they’re Jewish cookies that look remarkably similar to classic Tuscan cantuccini, so much so they could be cousins. I can’t help but imagine that tozzetti ebraici are the result of mandelbrot and rustic Maremman tozzetti coming together within the ancient stone walls of Pitigliano. The main feature of tozzetti ebraici is the cinnamon – there’s enough to give these biscotti that hint of coppery brown colour and to perfume the whole house when you pull them out of the oven.


Quantity Ingredient
3 eggs
250g sugar
125ml extra-virgin olive oil
470g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons dutch cocoa powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 lemon, zested
200g whole, peeled hazelnuts


  1. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the oil and blend until creamy. Add the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon, and combine to form a dough. If it’s too sticky to handle, carefully add a little more flour. You should have a soft dough. Add the lemon zest and nuts towards the end.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  3. With floured hands, divide the dough into six portions and roll these into thin logs, about 2.5 cm in width. Place them on the baking trays with plenty of space between them.
  4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. They should appear dry and firm, usually cracked along the top but not browned. Remove from the oven, let them cool for several minutes until you can handle them, and slice with a heavy, sharp knife (not a serrated knife) into biscotti, about 1.5–2 cm thick. Return the sliced biscotti to the oven to dry out ever so slightly, about 5 minutes.
  5. Thick and chunky, these are just the thing for dunking into a cup of tea, coffee or dessert wine.
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