The week before Easter it is customary throughout Greece to bake biscuits; but these bright yellow, spicy ones from the island of Astypalaia were very different from the sweet, laden with eggs cookies I was familiar with… Read MORE
I start with the baking-powder version, a variation on the original yeasted biscuits, which produces very good results quite fast. If you want to make a more interesting yeasted one as it was the custom in the old days, use my recipe for Yogurt Bread adding the saffron diluted in the milk, as I describe below, and the other spices (allspice, nutmeg and pepper). Make the dough, omitting the stuffings, and when it has risen form into doughnut-like paximadia or smaller biscuits. Sprinkle with caraway seeds, if you like.
These biscuits are great as snacks, with coffee or drinks, and are an ideal accompaniment to soft cheeses, both sweet and creamy ones, like manouri and ricotta, and sharp ones, like Gorgonzola, Roquefort or any other blue
Makes about 56 biscuits
1/2 cup milk
2/3 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
3 tablespoons honey, preferably thyme honey
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/2–1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup thick sheep’s milk yogurt, or Greek Yogurt
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), softened
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk with the saffron threads and simmer gently over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until the milk is deep yellow (the saffron threads won’t dissolve completely). Stir in the honey, remove from the heat and let cool.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, white pepper, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the yogurt with the egg and butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cooled saffron milk, the half-and-half and oil and beat for 1 minute. Add to the flour mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula, to make a soft, oily dough; do not overmix.
Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a log about 12 inches long; don’t worry if the dough isn’t perfectly smooth. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaves are firm and the tops are starting to turn golden.
Reduce the heat to 200°F and leave the loaves in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
As soon as the logs are cool, slice each into 1/4-inch-thick slices, using a good serrated knife. Place the slices directly on the middle rack of the oven.
Heat the oven to about 180˚ F and leave the slices to dry completely, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (You may need to place the biscuits in two racks, and change position 1-2 times while they dry).
Let the biscuits cool completely on racks after you turn off the heat.
Stored in airtight containers, they will keep for up to 6 months.