Since I have been living abroad, these past couple of years, people have been asking me what I miss most about Malta. For me that is a no brainer; as apart, of course my family and friends, I miss the FOOD! Maltese cuisine has a nice mixture of ingredients and elements that it simply cannot be easily reproduced while away from Malta. Ottijiet are one type of food that I miss the most, as these are quite a staple in our house. I remember clearly that since an early age I used to love these; my mother used to, along with a nice cup of tea with milk, give me two of these biscuits so that I can dunk them either for breakfast or for tea time. Now, whenever I go home I ask my mother in advance to get some extra packets from the baker as I always plan to overeat while I am there. If you ever are in Malta and want to try these type of biscuits, I suggest that you do not look for them at a supermarket but rather at a local bakery or small convenience shops as these tend to have the freshest and best type of Ottijiet. Another interesting thing about these biscuits is that although there name is Ottijiet, which is derived from the italian word ‘otto’ (i.e. the number eight), and the suffix ‘-ijiet’, used in Maltese to give the plural form, you can easily find them as rings, which are practically the same thing just in a different shape.
What I really enjoy about these biscuits is their mix of spices and aromas, which perfectly sum up what I would say the Maltese taste. The mix of the citrus from fresh oranges and lemons together with ground cloves and anise creates a flavour that one cannot easily forget. Once you will try these you will get what I am talking about, and your taste buds will thank you for it! 🙂
These biscuits can be either eaten on their own, as the mix of flavours together with the crunchiness of the dough with sesame make up for a good treat; or else they can be enjoyed with a nice cup of hot tea with milk or coffee, as you please. Personally, although I enjoy eating them alone, I prefer dunking them, yet I do not get them all soggy, as I used to do when I was younger and which actually strangely enough was my favourite thing to do with biscuits!
The recipe that I am going to be giving is in my opinion the best one, yet there are different versions of them as some tend not to have aniseed, cloves or vanilla, some might use olive oil instead butter and some might omit either the orange or the lemon. However, I have chosen the one that is to my liking, the one I prefer to eat, as it is rich, and the flavours come out nice.
Ingredients: (makes about 20 biscuits)
- 350g plain flour
- 100g sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 egg
- a pinch of salt
- 2 ½-ground aniseed
- 1 ½-ground cloves
- ½ pod of vanilla (the seeds) or else 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 100g butter
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- sesame seeds (for decoration)
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and the spices. Combine also the citrus zest.
- As soon as you take the butter of the fridge, cut into small pieces, add to the dry mixture, and combine everything with your hands.
- In another container, mix the egg, juices and water.
- Combine everything and mix with your hands. Do not worry if the dough gets too crumbly, this is what we want.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and place it in the fridge for about an hour.
- Pre-heat oven to 190°C.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set on the side a small plate with sesame seeds in it.
- After taking out the dough, start cutting small pieces and roll them between your hands until you get rolls of about 20 cm long.
- Close the ends together so that it forms a ring, and then twist the ring to get the 8 shape.
- Dip the dough into the sesame seeds and then place it on the baking tray. Important to leave some space between each 8 and do not overcrowd the tray as these biscuits tend to rise while baking.
- Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Let them cool on cooling rack and enjoy.
Store these biscuits in airtight containers or a good cookie jar and these biscuits can last up to six days; if you can resist 😉
Hope that you will enjoy this recipe! If you have any comments I would love to read them! Enjoy and speak soon! 🙂 xx