‘Pepatelli’ are typical dry biscuits from Molise, prepared during Christmas holidays. Their name derives from the presence of a pinch of pepper in the original recipe which, combined with the sweetness of honey, makes these sweets unique.
Between Christmas and New Year, many molisan grandmothers prepare pepatelli, or mbepatiell in the local dialect, dry biscuits that can be kept for a long time and offered to guests during all holidays. Pepatelli are usually served with a glass of sweet wine or milk so that they can be soaked and softened before tasting.
The original recipe calls for a dough made with flour, melted honey and whole almonds, preferably unshelled, to preserve the typical bitter aftertaste of the fruit peel. The ingredient that gives the pepatelli their name is then added: it is a pinch of freshly ground pepper capable of making the flavor unique and clearly distinguishable from that of similar tuscan cantucci or tozzetti from Lazio. The latter in fact also have an oily component (butter or oil) which makes the biscuits much softer than the very crunchy pepatelli.
The basic recipe is sometimes modified according to local or family tradition with the addition of eggs to make the dough less dry and lemon or orange zest to give a fresh aroma to the sweets.
Here we present the recipe by Giovanni Rateni, characterized by the exceptional lack of pepper and the presence of lemon.
1 kg of flour
1 kg of honey
1 kg of almonds
Toast the whole almonds in the oven and grate the lemon peel. Melt the honey in a saucepan over low heat and after having allowed it to cool a little, add the flour, toasted almonds and grated lemon peel, mixing everything with a spoon to avoid getting burnt.
Once the dough has cooled, form an elongated loaf and bake it in the oven at 180 degrees for half an hour. After taking the dough out of the oven, cut it into thin slices while it is still hot, using a cloth to keep it firm.
Silvia Di Menna