Italian Orange Sesame Seed Cookies (Biscotti Regina)

This will be my last cookie post for the 2013 Christmas season. I make these cookies each year. They are a popular treat in many Sicilian homes and we called them giuggiulenas. This recipe comes from my Cousin Marilyn in New Jersey; she makes them every Christmas and her family loves them. The cookies can be flavored with vanilla or lemon but my favorite flavor is orange. I buy pre-toasted sesame seeds in Asian markets for convenience. They taste best when allowed to age for a few days in a tin. (The recipe calls for butter, but I have made them with dairy-free margarine with good results.)

Italian Orange Sesame Seed Cookies
1 c. unsalted butter or dairy-free margarine, softened
1 c. sugar (sometimes I use vanilla granulated sugar)
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk (you can use almond milk)
1 Tbsp. orange extract or 2 tsp. orange oil or frozen orange juice concentrate, to taste
1-2 tsp. orange zest
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
5 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2-3/4 c. milk for rolling cookies in sesame seeds
2 c. toasted sesame seeds or more as needed

In a mixing bowl combine butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add egg and mix. Add 1/2 cup milk, orange extract, orange zest and juice, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Add nutmeg and mix. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly mix flour mixture into the wet ingredients until you get a smooth, soft dough. Chill 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line four baking sheets with parchment. Take a golfball-size bit of dough and roll into a long rope. Cut the rope into 3/4-inch rectangular pieces. Place milk in a bowl and sesame seeds in a separate bowl. Dip the cut cookie pieces into milk, then roll in sesame seeds. Place on prepared baking sheets. When you have filled a baking sheet, bake for 10-15 minutes until sesame seeds have darkened slightly and cookies are somewhat firm to the touch. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool on racks. Store in metal tins for several weeks. Makes 100 cookies.

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