Biscochos (Reshas)

Orange & Sesame Cookie Rings

Ingredients

2 eggs + 1 for egg wash
7 Tablespoons white sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
½ cup corn or sunflower oil
3 to 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder (i.e. one heaping teaspoon)
white (‘washed’) sesame seeds

Directions

1. Sift 3 cups flour with the baking powder. Separately, sift another ½ cup and set that aside. (You may not need the last half-cup.)

2. Break two eggs into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, and beat to a thick and creamy consistency,  pale yellow in color. Reduce speed to low and blend in the orange juice and oil.

3. On medium speed, add 1 cup of the sifted flour & baking powder into the liquid. When the flour and liquids are well blended, keep adding flour gradually, blending each addition thoroughly.  When the dough becomes too stiff for your mixer blades, switch to dough hooks or a long-handled wooden spoon to mix in the remaining flour. Add only as much flour as is needed for the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a soft ball, not a hard, dry lump. For the amount of liquid I’ve given, that should be at most 3 ½ cups of flour. (Relative humidity will affect how much flour you use, as will the flour itself.)

4. Knead the dough just enough to add some elasticity. Kneading for a long time will produce a more elastic dough, which is helpful for making twisted ropes, but the finished cookie will be harder, too, with a smoother and more compact texture, lots of snap but less crumbly. If you want to experiment (you do), divide the dough into batches and knead them for different lengths of time. Note how long you knead each, and see which gives you the texture and consistency you like. This is subjective, and you should allow your personal taste – or childhood recollections, you lucky devil – to guide you.

5. Prepare baking sheets with a light coating of oil and dust them with flour, tapping off the excess.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour a half cup of sesame seeds into a small bowl and set it aside. You can replenish this as needed.

6.  Pinch off pieces of dough no bigger than a walnut in its shell, and roll them into uniform balls. Using your palms, roll the dough back and forth in front of you on a wooden board, pressing down gently on the dough while stretching it out lengthwise into a rope – 6” long if you’re making plain rings, and 12” or 13” if you’re making twisted shapes. The rope should be of uniform thickness and the longer rope will obviously be thinner, like a pencil. (The dough will begin to rise and fatten up before you get it into the oven.) If dough sticks to the board, flour the board very lightly.

Traditional Sephardic biscocho shapes include a plain ring, a twisted rope ring, and a pretzel. To make simple rings, just press the ends together. For a very neat edge you can trim the ends on a diagonal and then press them together.  To make twisted rings, fold a long dough rope in half, grasp it lightly with two fingers at either end and raise the folded end up in the air. Give it a few twists, and press the ends together. Depending upon how elastic your dough is, it will stretch a lot or a little as you twist it. That’s fine – some people prefer small rings, others make them as big as a bracelet. However, if the dough is so elastic that the cookie flops when you lift it (to dip in the sesame), then you’ve kneaded too long.

The pretzel shape is easier than you’d think. With a long rope laying horizontally, lift the two ends and draw them downward toward you, then pull them together and lay one side of the rope over the other to form an upside down heart shape. Where the two lengths intersect, give them a twist or two, and lay the loose ends diagonally across either side of the upper half of the pretzel, pressing down gently to hold them in place.

7. Repeat until the baking sheet is full, leaving at least an inch between each cookie. Brush the tops with beaten egg and dip them in the sesame seeds to coat generously. As an alternative to sesame you can sprinkle them with blended sugar and cinnamon (though you’ll never taste the orange) or chopped walnuts. 

8. Bake 20-25 minutes in a moderate oven (350°-360°F). They should be very pale golden, but not white.

9. Once all the cookies have been baked, lower the oven temperature to 210°F. Stack all the cookies on a baking sheet and return them to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or turn the oven off altogether,  and leave them in it until it cools. Either method will crisp the biscochos without turning them dark brown.

Biscochos need some time for the flavor to develop. Let them cool thoroughly before eating them. Serve them alone or with cheese (kashkaval, gruyere,  Emmenthal, or a crumbly cheddar), and some fruit or olives. To drink? Take your pick: coffee, tea, milk, raki, ouzo, a glass of wine, or maybe a good gin tonic. Biscochos are versatile.

If you manage not to finish them off at one sitting (it is soooo tempting), store in an airtight glass jar.

6.25.2013 013

17 responses to “Biscochos (Reshas)

  1. Jackie Sauter

    Hi Janet, love this. Thanks for doing it. I will definitely try your recipe and compare to my Nauna’s. She was from Turkey and we called them Taralecus. Like this:
    3 eggs
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup oil
    1 tsp vanilla
    3 cups flour (or a little more)
    1 tbsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt

    Beta egs. Add sugar, oil and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix first with large spoon and then with hands until workable. Use your hands to roll out the dough, an eighth at a time, into ropes the thickness of your little finger. Cut off pieces 5 inches long and shape into rounds like bracelets. Repeat with rest of dough. Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with seaame seeds, bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, until just light golden brown. Goes great with that 3pm Turkish coffee!

    Jackie Sauter

    • Janet

      Thanks so much, Jackie. I will try yours, too, when the weather cools a little. I have to say, I appreciate the straightforward directions, since my own are so pedantic 😉 How wonderful that your family wrote down your Nona’s recipes! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Bob Altabet

    Thanks, we will try your recipe, but this is our recipe with family from Izmir, Tekirdaq and Cannakale all doing roughly the same recipe. Ours are not your twisted rope, but are rolled and formed with a distinctive set of slits on the outer edge. A friend with family from Salonika called them roskas, but we used that term to referred to a bread. Here is our recipe and our variations:
    Biscochos

    6 large eggs, beaten
    4 tsp. baking powder
    2/3 cup sugar
    ½ cup oil
    5-6 cups flour
    Egg yolk for glaze
    Sesame seeds

    Mix above ingredients. Dough should be dry.
    Divide into 2 sections. Work on floured board/table.
    Knead and fold dough.
    Form rolling pin shape with dough.
    Cut off ½ inch sections. Roll into 4 inch length and form circle, seal by pressing ends together. With dull knife make slits in cookie on outer edge every ¼ to ½ inch.
    Place on floured cookie sheet.
    Glaze with egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

    Bake at 350F for 15-20 min.

    Family Variations:
    1. Dough from one family member: add a bit of vanilla extract to improve taste and dough handling
    2. Form from several family members: a. Can also form loaf with dough, garnish with almonds. Bake and slice like mandel bread. Or b. roll out the dough in a sheet, coat with apple butter (or other fruit filling), then roll up into a loaf form and bake for a fruit filled variety.

    • Janet

      Thanks, Bob. I thought about those slits, and I’m certain I’ve seen them on cookies, though I tend to think of them only for bread. Like your family, we also reserve the word ‘rosca’ for our bread – “THE” bread, which is also on my very long list of topics to bring up here… Thanks again for your recipe – it is gold!

    • Karen

      Dear Bob Altabet – my grandmother was from Salonika, she called them roskitas, she made them the same exact way, we never got her recipe for these, and you just made my day! I am teary eyed, she has been gone a long time, you just gave me back a faily tradition – thank you!!

  3. Dear Janet, thank you so much. I can’t wait to make these. I’m sure they will be wonderful just as I remember from so many years ago. You are the best.

    • Janet

      Estelle, I thank YOU! Know that your participation was real help, and in more ways than one. I will keep my fingers crossed, and look forward to your latest report. I hope I don’t disappoint (and I’m sure you’ll let me know if I do 😉 ) Thanks again for your help and persistent encouragement (heh heh). You’re a champ.

  4. healthgal

    Janet, thank you so much. I can’t wait to make them. I’m sure they will be delicious just like I remember from years ago. You are the best.

    • healthgal

      Janet, didn’t ever mention that my mother, and aunts always put those slits on the rings. I have a couple of ideas about why they did that. Wondering what you think. One of my thoughts is that it allows the ring to cook evenly without puffing up too much. Like notches when sewing allows for flexibility.

    • Janet

      Hi, Estelle. Yes, I think there’s logic in that, since it’s reserved for cookies shaped into thick rings rather than ropes. I’m intrigued as to what your other idea is…

  5. Ilene

    Makes me think of u grandma and our rosquitos which we dunked in Turkish coffee. Thanks

  6. Thank you, Janet, for your recipe and research. I’ve just been making roscos with Spanish village women, baked in traditional domed bread ovens. The roscos are both crunchy and crumbly, at the same time, much as you describe. So very similar to the Sephardic recipes, really. If you want to see, look at my current blog post.

    • Janet

      Thanks, Janet, I will. By the way, up here in my house we just installed a domed bread oven! We broke it in over New Year’s, and I have to say, it’s pretty great 🙂

  7. How exciting to have a domed oven to work with! Are you still in the Barcelona area?

  8. Renee

    Thanks so much for this recipe! My grandmother called them biscochos and made them into rings with the slits. Sometimes she used sesame seeds and sometimes she used cinnamon suger (my favorite!)

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