Afternoon delight: sweet Biscottini

In Novara in the Piemonte region of Northern Italy there’s a little bakery where golden, crisp, light-as-a-feather biscottini have been made since 1852 using a 16th century recipe created by the nuns in the 1500s to bake biscuits for the Pope.

Traditional moulds and the paper now used for baking.

To ensure the biscuits survived the journey from Novara to Rome they were baked twice on squares of paper for good heat induction, and to produce a super crisp texture. They are still made in the same way with the first baking taking just 130 seconds at around 300°C and a further 20 minutes at 80°C to ensure a warm golden colour.

Mixing the flour, sugar and eggs with a little vanilla.

There are no palm or other oils and no dairy in the recipe just simple ingredients of eggs, flour and vanilla, as well as bicarbonate of soda to rise.

The proof is in the pudding or biscotinni in this case.

Fifth generation Camporelli owner, Master Baker Ambrogio Sasola, employs 18 people in the bakery so we’re not talking mass production here.  And yet, staggeringly, each day they prepare 1,440 eggs, cracking each egg by hand! Daily production is 100,000 biscottini and with a population of 100,000 that equates to one biscuit per head in Novara where they are most popular. Actually, the biscuits are sold with two in a pack and they are exported to Tokyo and other countries.

Camporelli owner, Master Baker Ambrogio Sasola.

Not too sweet, they are perfect with a coffee. They would also work in an English trifle or Italian tiramisu, or with a zabaglione.  

Assistants at Camporelli in Novaro.

The abundance of independent shops is one of the things I love about Italy especially. Here an elegant shop selling nothing but hats. And further along the street another offering a whole shop full of high quality hosiery.

I’m a pushover for an elegant patisserie with displays of beautifully wrapped confectionary and exquisite cakes. The Camporelli shop in the centre of Novara is stocked with not only their own biscottini but other Piedmontese confectionary.  When I visited it was quietly busy with locals popping in to choose a sweet treat.

Supporting local communities and small businesses is so important when we travel. Visitors can book to go behind the scenes at Camporelli (but not into the actual bakery for health and safety reasons) to hear how the biscottini are made.

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