Ottijiet – Maltese Tea Time Cookies with Sesame Seeds, Cloves and Aniseed

by eat in my kitchen

Ottijiet

Almost ten years ago, I found my favourite tea time cookie on a little island in the Mediterranean. The Maltese Ottijiet are crumbly short crust based cookies, shaped in a figure of 8, hence the name ottijiet (the plural of otta) derived from the Italian word for eight, otto. The composition is not very sweet but packed with wonderful flavours ripened under the Mediterranean sun: orange, lemon, aniseed, cloves and sesame. It’s one of the most aromatic sweets I know. Imagine the smell of the air in my kitchen while they’re baking in the oven, it’s beautiful!

When we’re on the island, I always go to my trusted confectionary Busy Bee in Msida on the first or the second day of our stay to stock up on ottijiet for our traditional 5 o’clock tea breaks in Jenny’s kitchen. As I’m not the only one in the house who is obsessed with them, I buy a few bags right away to avoid cookie shortages. This sweet became an important part of our daily ceremony, we all come together and meet around my Maltese mother’s big wooden table in the afternoon to chat and savour our caramel coloured teas. Many Maltese like to dip the crunchy rings into their warm beverage and our family has often tried to convince me of this ritual – without success, it’s not for me!

Whenever friends and family visit us in Berlin, they know how to make me happy and bring a few packages of ottijiet to our kitchen. But after so many years and cookies, I felt ready to bake my own. I was a bit nervous but luckily we still had a package from Jenny’s last visit so I didn’t have to depend on my taste memory. Ottijiet are kind of a national dish and I have learned a lot about the various traditional recipes and the obligatory spice mixtures from the cooks I met over the years. I knew roughly what I had to do but it took two batches of dough until my Maltese partner approved the result and I was happy too. But then, they were as good as Busy Bee‘s!

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 Ottijiet – Maltese Tea Time Cookies with Sesame Seeds, Cloves  and Aniseed

Before you bake the cookies, the dough should rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.

For 22 ottijiet you need

plain flour 300g / 10.5 ounces
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
aniseed, ground in a mortar, 3 leveled teaspoons
cloves, ground in a mortar, 20 (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
vanilla, the seeds of 1/2 pod
orange zest 1 teaspoon
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
butter, cold, 100g / 3.5 ounces
organic egg, beaten, 1
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
water, cold, 1 tablespoon
sesame seeds about 50g / 2 ounces, for the topping

Combine the flour with the sugar, salt, baking powder, spices and citrus zest. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg, juices and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the sesame seeds on a plate.

Break large walnut sized pieces off the dough and roll them between your hands for about 5 seconds. On the kitchen top, roll them into thin, 25cm / 10″ long sausage shapes and close them well to form a ring. Twist the ring to an 8 shape, dip it into the sesame seeds and spread the cookies on the baking sheet with some space in between them as they will rise. Bake the ottijiet for 11 minutes or until golden brown and let them cool on a rack. Store them in your cookie jars and enjoy with a cup of tea!

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet

 

Ottijiet