Continuing on the Italian theme, we have noticed that several of our favourite brands are in fact Italian. We use De Cecco pasta; we take Lavazza coffee as a hallmark of good quality whenever we are out, and also buy their beans for use in our own home; our fridge is never without a bottle of sparkling San Pellegrino; and our biscuit tin also gets in on the act, thanks to Mulino Bianco biscuits, which are owned by another Italian pasta giant, Barilla.
A limited selection of these is available in France, where we live. However, we were still lusting after some of the varieties listed on the back of the packet that we had never seen in our local supermarket, or those that my husband recalled eating as a child, but had not seen on sale for many years. Our urge was satisfied, though, upon a visit to Italian Continental Stores Ltd., which recently featured on the Hairy Bikers’ Everyday Gourmet series (and was irritatingly described for no reason as being in High Wycombe, when it is in fact in Maidenhead). It is an enormous warehouse housing Italian specialities of all kinds – from fresh meat, fish and cheese to all types of pasta, limoncello and biscuits. No surprises, then, when an entire wall was taken up purely by Mulino Bianco biscuits. We stood gazing in wonder for a moment, and then started taking bags from the shelves for our later delectation.
Why do we like them so much? It probably comes down to the authenticity in the flavour combinations used, the high-quality ingredients, and the sheer range of flavours available. Here are a few reviews of those we’ve tried:
Cuor di mela
With the name literally meaning ‘heart of honey’, these biscuits combine honey and apples for natural sweetness, meaning that the middle of the biscuit is not runny, but an almost ‘jammy’ texture thanks to this mixture. The Mulino Bianco website recommends consuming them with black tea (English Breakfast works well for us), and adding a fruit yoghurt to a few of these biscuits for a perfect tea-time snack. These work quite well for dunking (and this can warm up the filling a bit) but are also a little crumbly, meaning you can expect a little bit of sludge at the bottom of your cup.
These biscuits alternate in stripes of almond biscuit and cocoa-flavoured biscuit, resulting in a rich and slightly floury taste. These biscuits are enormous (think the length of your palm), meaning that theoretically you should only need to eat half as many (cough). Sturdy and thick, with a ridged pattern on top, these stand up quite well to the dunking process and absorb tea well without breaking. Try consuming with a cappuccino, or perhaps a hot chocolate – and I’m sure Starbucks or some other purveyor probably sells almond syrup as well to complement your hot drink of choice should you be this way inclined. ‘Ritornello’ means ‘refrain’ in Italian, with the verb ‘ritorno’ meaning ‘I return’, so perhaps these biscuits are intended to serve some sort of nostalgic purpose (but I find that biscuits in general tend to do this anyway).
Loosely translated, ‘baiocchi’ means ‘money’ in Italian, and it makes sense: these biscuits essentially look like coins, with two circular biscuits making a sandwich with chocolate and hazelnut cream. Basically a higher-class form of BN biscuits, these are flavoured in a more refined way, but are sadly not so good for dunking thanks to the creamy centre. Drink with fruit juice for a refreshing finish.
Tenerezze al limone
Meaning ‘lemon tenderness’ in Italian, the name of these biscuits certainly proves accurate thanks to its soft, sharp lemon centre. This is more like a lemon jelly than a creamy lemon curd. The biscuit, however, remains sturdy enough for dunking purposes – but, similarly to the cuor di mela biscuits, suffers slightly from crumbliness, meaning there will be post-dunking sludge to contend with. I’d recommend drinking this with Earl Grey tea, as the citric note provided by the bergamot within the tea should complement the biscuits nicely. Fruit juice would also be a suitable complement (the Mulino Bianco website recommends peach juice).
These biscuits resemble childish cut-outs of flowers or even suns, so I’m not sure that the name ‘canestrini’ (which means ‘baskets’) makes much sense. Resembling crunchy shortbread, they’re sprinkled with icing sugar, and would go well with a tannic green tea.
Italy is renowned for its chocolate, and I’m told that while there you can drink a particular type of hot chocolate called Ciocchino (pronounced ‘choceeno’), which has now also lent its name to these biscuits. The Ciocchini are essentially chocolate chip cookies that also contain orange peel. Drink with a mocha or hot chocolate in the winter for that chocolate orange feeling, or with orange juice in the summer.
But now for the really important part…where can YOU buy Mulino Bianco biscuits?
Seeing as I’ve now got your taste-buds going, it seems only fair to tell you. Online retailers of Italian produce abound – try Nifeislife.com, Melbury & Appleton, Aromatico.co.uk or even Amazon. But not everybody enjoys shopping online, especially for food, and prefer to visit physical stores. Unfortunately, none of the major UK supermarkets seem to stock these. However, if you just Google “Italian shop” or “Italian supermarket” and then the name of your area, you may be able to find a purveyor of these biscuits locally to you. Just a little random searching produced results for Italian shops in Northampton, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, and St Albans. Buon appetito!