BISCOCHOS (glossary)

Rhodes-style biscochos and reshas on traditional Jewish pottery from Teruel (Aragon). Photo © Janet Amateau.

Rhodes-style biscochos and reshas on traditional Jewish pottery from Teruel (Aragon). Photo © Janet Amateau.

BISCOCHO (“bis-KŌ-ch ōō”)  – like the French biscuit and Italian biscotto– literally means “twice cooked.” A biscocho is a firm, not-too-sweet, shortbread cookie that is baked once and then re-baked for crisping.  Oil gives the dough great elasticity, making it easy to work into different shapes, and the name changes according to variations in shape and flavorings.  Rhodesli reshas, for example, also called reshikas, are biscocho dough that is twisted into a pretzel-like coil and topped with sesame seeds.

The basic biscocho recipe calls for orange juice as the flavoring – a reflection of tastes developed in Spain – and changes according to the whims of the baker, who might also use cinnamon, anise and/or a liqueur or brandy for additional flavoring.

Biscochos are a staple in Ottoman Sephardic homes.  Ideal with coffee, tea or a glass of milk, they’re the kind of treat you keep on hand for snacks or impromptu visits.

In modern Spanish culture, bizcocho refers to basic yellow cake made with shortening.

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13 Comments

Filed under Glossary

13 responses to “BISCOCHOS (glossary)

  1. healthgal

    I just love Bischochos. My mother’s kitchen was never without them. I would love to see a recipe from Janet, for these lovely little cookies.

  2. Larry

    Is this the same or similar to tadalekoos?

    • Janet Amateau

      Larry – I’m not familiar with these and the name doesn’t show up in my references. If you give me more information – starting with the country/region of origin – I will investigate with pleasure. Thanks! – Janet

  3. Estelle

    We called these Taralikoos (sp). They are what you call Biscochos. I don’t know where the name came from but in my home we never called them Biscochos. Does this help?

    • JA

      Estelle – Yes, this helps. Thank you, and a question: Do I recall correctly that your family came from Bitola?

    • JA

      Estelle & Larry K – the word comes from the Italian ‘tarallo’ (singular) or ‘taralli’ (plural). Taralli dolci (sweet taralli) are what the two of you know as taralikos and the rest of us as biscochos. Larry had called them “tadalekoos” – the ‘d’ sound being close enough to the ‘r’ sound to morph over time. The ‘iko’ or ‘ico’ ending (in Ladino and Spanish, respectively) is diminutive. My earlier question as to where your families came from is to help me explore migration patterns of families and of the cookie itself in its various forms. Families that refer to taralikos rather than biscochos would have had a connection to southern Italy (specifically Puglia), either directly through family ancestry or indirectly through trade. There’s a long and fascinating history attached to biscochos/taralikos. I’m still digging, and I’m writing as fast as I can! – JA

    • Starr

      Hi-In my family, we called them Talalikos (or Talulikos)–with an L instead of an R. My mother’s family is from Castoria (sometimes spelled Kastoria)–in Northern Greece. My mother’s mother made them often, along with other wonderful foods that I’m now enjoying making and sharing with my family. My grandmother also made borekas.

  4. Gail

    My grandmother from Turkey used to make the best biscochos, but the recipe was never written down.
    does anyone have a recipe to share? I remember that she put sesame seeds on the tops of these round delights. Thanks.

  5. K. Nehama

    My husband’s grandma was from Bitola (Monastir) and he has been asking me to make what he calls Talalikos. Thank you SO much for the recipe!

    • Janet Amateau

      I’m wondering whether your husband’s grandma was the woman whose food is so lovingly described in a beautiful video featuring her son, Isaac, who I wrote about in 2010! The link to his interview is at the bottom of the post, which is here. I’ll be posting a recipe or two, I promise 🙂

  6. Rhona

    Do you have a recipe for your biscochco? (our family calls them talalikos). We really miss Grandma and her wonderful baking and cooking. Thanks, and Happy New Year.

    • Janet

      I have, Rhona! I wrote this post a few years ago to explain the many different regional variations. The link to my recipe is at the end of the post, and if you read through the reader comments on the post and on the recipe, you’ll find several variations submitted by readers from different regions of the Ottoman Empire. One of them is sure to tast the way you remember. Enjoy! Here’s the link: Biscochos/reshas/taralikus

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