Genetti – Forget What You Know About Wheat(c)

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      Kitchen Wisdom Gluten Free Genetti is a traditional recipe  I grew up making  with my Great Aunties.   An old world treasure, one of those particular southern Italian biscotti which begins with just a bit of moisture and gets dryer over time.  Traditional in every way, they are a perfect accompaniment espresso or Cafe Americano.  In baking, fats coat the proteins – which water proofs them – making the protein strands slippery so the carbon dioxide gas bubbles can move easily.  This lubrication makes dough more pliable.

           Sometimes called anise flavored knot cookies, the “knot” is a misnomer.  They are actually, Anise accented Serpent Cookies.  Serpents are an ancient shape throughout Europe and Southern Italy.  They are a respected spirit creature predating  European Christianity.  The Pre-Christian perspective looks at serpents, or snakes, as a symbol of wisdom and regeneration. These biscotti in serpent shapes are a celebration of life during the darkness of winter.  As a girl, I could not wait to get old enough to form the serpent shape myself.  My job was always to roll the dough into one really long snake (usually over the wax paper covered kitchen table.)  How exciting it was to finally have the motor coordination to roll a perfect shape like my dear Great Auntie “Zia Vincenza”!  The feel of rolling the dough under the hand is a form of active meditation.  Engaging in this repetitive activity quiets the thinking mind.  The creation of the form activates imagination and creativity.

     I love these, if there is any recipe which makes me feel like a girl, this is it. Just the act of hands flour and manipulating a pastry blender in a well of flour brings me comfort in my soul.  Sometimes it is as if my aunties are with me.  My Christmas batch of Genetti brought me one of those warm moments, I call it communing with my Ancestors.  I hope you enjoy as much as my family does!

Yields 2  dozen

¼  cup gluten free Potato Flour

1/3  cup gluten free Potato Starch

2/3  cup gluten free White Rice Flour

¾  cup gluten free Sorghum Flour

2 ¼  teaspoons  Baking Powder

¾  teaspoon Guar Gum

1/8  teaspoon Salt

6  Tablespoons Sugar

1 cup (8 ounces) cold Butter

4  Whole Eggs

4  teaspoons gluten free Anise extract

1  teaspoon gluten free Vanilla extract

Sift all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Cube cold butter into smaller and manageable pieces, set aside for a moment.  Using a pastry blender aerate the flour and whisk in sugar – one tablespoon at a time.  With the pastry blender “cut” in the cold butter, a few pieces at a time. Blend and stomp with the blender, keep a butter knife on hand to periodically scrape batter of the tines of the blender.  Do this until the flour is a pebbly texture.


Make a well in the flour.  Add one egg, blend and combine thoroughly.  Repeat this process until you have added all four eggs.


Add  anise xtract and vanilla.  Blend into batter with each teaspoon addition of flavor.

The texture should be sticky, but distinctly dough, not a thin batter.

Shape the dough into a round.  Cover in plastic wrap. Place in thick bowl in refrigerator for at least a half hour.  I often allow as long as two hours before I get onto the next steps.





To assemble or create the serpent:   Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a cookie sheet.  Break off a two inch clump from the dough with your fingers.  Roll the clump under your palm to get the air out and make the dough more pliable. Just roll it around in a circular motion a few times.


Break the ball in half.  Roll (spread) the ball under your fingers in a gentle motion to form a length about ½ inch wide by 5 inches long snake.  Roll forward and gently spread your fingers apart to gently pull the dough and elongate.  This action encourages protein bonds to stretch, it needs to be gentle and slow (slower than the reaction gluten rich flour has.)


Hold the length (snake) in one hand. Using the other hand twist in a slow circular motion  to turn the length into a snake in a coiled up position.  Use a light touch and don’t over think it, after a few, you will get the hang of it.


Place the coiled serpent cookies onto the buttered cookie sheet  spaced about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12 minutes.  Remove to cooling racks.  Ice  when completely cool.


Simple White Icing for Biscotti:  This is the icing used on countless cookies from Southern Italy & Sicily.  This icing can also be host to a few drops of extract or liquor.  The real role of the icing in this recipe is to seal in the cookie’s moisture.

To coat 2 Dozen Genetti  in total,  you will need:

1 1/3  cups Confectioner’s Sugar

8 teaspoons  Milk

2 teaspoons gluten free Anise Extract

To avoid excess crumbs and to keep the icing fresh while I work, I recommend making 2 separate batches.   The goal is to limit the amount of crumbs in the icing, smaller batches is one way of accomplishing this.  I prefer a thicker icing, so I use 4 teaspoons of milk and 1 teaspoon of Anise Extract to 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar.  If you prefer a thinner icing, more like a translucent glaze, then you will whisk in anywhere between ½ teaspoon – 1 ½ teaspoons of additional milk.  Be sure to whisk in the additional milk ½ teaspoon at a time and whisk it smooth, lumps can be so unbecoming on a delicious biscotti.

In a small bowl that you can manage with one hand, vigorously whisk together 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar and add 1 teaspoon of Anise extract, whisk thoroughly to coat sugar.  Then add 2 teaspoons of milk, followed by 1 additional teaspoon of milk.  Then add an additional  teaspoon of milk and frantically whisk again, being sure to create a smooth icing.  If the icing is too thin it will run loose and dry very clear.

Icing the cookies is not difficult, but it does require patience.  I get into a Zen Kitchen moment and just keep moving, quiet the thinking brain and just become flow.

Create your Dipping Workstation:  Place wax paper on counter, place empty cooling racks on top of wax paper.  Place already cooled racks of cookies near you.


To Coat the Cookies:  Tap off excess cookie crumbs at start, do this away from icing bowl.  With icing bowl in one hand and a face down cookie in the other, methodically dunk and twist cookie in circular motion from left to right.  Hold cookie up slightly, so extra can run back into bowl.  Then place cookie on rack above wax paper.   Try to avoid double dipping, as this usually gets crumbs in the icing.  When your icing batch is done, if there are crumbs in the bowl, use a paper towel to remove excess crumb icing, and begin another batch.


genetti w writing

Return cookie top side up, to a cookie rack on wax paper to dry.

Cook’s Notes:

“Cut” Cutting Cold Butter into Recipes:  Use a pastry blender, or the really old school method of two butter knives, and cut the butter into small bits, allowing the flour to coat the butter.  What really happens is the butter covers the individual strands of protein bonds created in the flour and strengthens those bonds during baking.  This is why delicate pastries often use cold butter.

Cold Butter:  Cold butter is often cut into batter to create internal air pockets which provide crisp and structure to baked items.  Cold butter is used  for delicate baked items like puff pastry.

“Genetti” by Liz Conforti,  Forget What You Know About Wheat(c) 2013

Related Kitchen Wisdom Gluten Free Articles:

“What is Gluten” 

“Some Basics in Learning to Bake Gluten Free” 

Kitchen Wisdom Traditional Recipes Deliciously Transformed into  Gluten Free

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