Confession: I gave up sugar for lent. And I’m craving cookies.
If you know me well, you know that cookies are my downfall. And Italians have SO many good cookie recipes. The options run through my mind all day and it’s got to stop. On top of the cravings, I get emails – lots of emails – about cookies, especially during the spring.
Spring often means bridal showers and that means home baking for the cookie tables. I would guess this is one of the most popular times for baking each year (second only to Christmas). Have you never been to an Italian bridal shower? You can check out pictures from my own and my sisters from this previous post, then you’ll understand the allure. To help you get ready for your baking (for whatever the reason) and save me from eating cookies myself, I’ve found an easy, traditional and flavourful recipe to add to your repertoire. From Rosetta Costantino’s book Southern Italian Desserts, Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies) are the classic Nonna cookie. In fact, my husband’s eyes lit up when he grabbed a few off the tray the last time I made them, he hadn’t had them for years. Rosetta’s book is a recommended purchase for anyone who loves Italian desserts, I refer to it regularly! Enjoy the baking!
A foreword from Rosetta: My mother’s friend Yolanda Tateo shared her mother’s recipe for these cookies. Yolanda moved to the United States from Sava (Puglia) when she was in her twenties. This is one of the few recipes from home that she has kept over the years. These bite-sized cookies are perfect to have on hand for visitors or to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s worth splurging on good-quality cinnamon because it is the predominant flavouring. The recipe makes a lot of cookies; they can be stored for up to a month in an airtight container.
Pezzetti di Cannella
2 cups (264 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups (250 g) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
5 tablespoons (75 ml) fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and baking powder into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, oil, milk, and lemon zest. Mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture with a fork until the flour is mostly incorporated, then continue by kneading with your hands in the bowl until the dough comes together into a smooth ball. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one piece and, using a bit of flour if needed, roll it with your hands on a flat surface to form a rope about 5/8 inch wide. Press down to slightly flatten the rope, then cut it on the diagonal into 1-inch diamond-shaped pieces. Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking sheets with an inch between them. Repeat to form cookies with the remaining three pieces of dough. (I form half of the cookies, then bake them while I form the second half.)
Bake until the cookies are puffed and firm to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks until the cookies are completely cool, at least 1 hour.
To glaze the cookies, in a wide, shallow bowl large enough to hold all the cookies, use a whisk to stir the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice together to form a thick, smooth glaze. If the glaze is too thin, add a bit more sugar. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put all of the cookies into the glaze at once and use your hands to coat them on all sides. Transfer the cookies one at a time to the prepared baking sheets—the glaze should cling to the cookies without pooling on the sheet. Let the cookies stand until the glaze is completely dry, which can take up to 24 hours, before packing them into an airtight container.
Photo credit: Sara Remington
Reprinted with permission from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino, copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.