Hazelnut cookies (Tozzetti alle nocciole)

Typical of traditional baking in the province of Viterbo are Tozzetti or Fettarelle, crunchy biscuits made with hazelnuts (using the Nocciola Romana DOP type from the Cimini Mountains); these hazelnuts have been much appreciated since at least the 19th century.

Trapezoid or rhomboid in shape, tozzetti are made with the local hazelnut cultivar (Tonda gentile Romana), one of the most celebrated varieties in Italy because of its organoleptic qualities; they are much used in confectionery production, ranging from chocolate to nougat to biscuits.

Hazelnut production expanded in the 1950s and 60s, when the agricultural area devoted to this crop increased from 2,000 to 20,000 hectares, concentrated in the Cimini Mountains, and became the most important crop in the province of Viterbo’s agricultural economy.
The biscuits are eaten after dinner, dipped in a local dessert wine like Aleatico di Gradoli DOC.
Let’s see how to make them.

Ingredients (for 10 people):
1 kg flour
2 dl extra-virgin olive oil
6 eggs
600 grams sugar
600 grams shelled hazelnuts
1 sachet of yeast
grated zest of 1 lemon
I cup of milk (optional)

Mix the eggs with the sugar in a bowl with a wooden spoon, adding the oil, yeast, lemon zest and milk, if desired. Stir in the nuts, roasted in the oven, shelled and chopped, and then gradually the flour. Once you have a soft dough, make sausage shapes (2 cm high and 10 cm wide) and arrange on a baking tin that has been greased and sprinkled with flour. Brush the shapes with beaten egg and place in the oven, at a moderate heat. When they are baked remove them from the oven and before they are completely cooled, cut them crosswise to obtain 2 cm wide biscuits. Put them back in the oven in the baking tin for a few minutes to get the surfaces brittle and crunchy. Keep in a tin or glass jar.

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