Tuscan cookies. . . The Befanini

This past weekend, with the “ponte” della Befana (Epiphany long weekend), the Italian Christmas Holidays were officially over.

But before I move on I want to share one last holiday recipe.

Last Friday, January 6, in an effort to pay homage to the festivity of the Epiphany and to the Befana, I came across a recipe of traditional Tuscan biscotti (cookies) called precisely Befanini.

The Befanini are a Tuscan tradition, in particular in Versilia, which is the North-West area of the Tuscan coast.

The tradition of the Befanini, the cookies of the Befana, is quite old; they are made with very simple ingredients because they were the holiday’s cookies of the time when there were not other means to celebrate.

The preparation was sort of a ritual, once ready they were packed in colored bags which the children exchanged in the street.

It is also said that they were donated to pregnant women because the popular belief attributed to the biscotti the ability to ensure abundant milk.

Being my first time baking these cookies, I have to say that screening the different versions of the recipe has been more difficult  than the actual processes of making them.

I am very picky when I look for a new recipe (to be honest, I am just picky in general!). I always like to start from the most traditional and authentic recipe and then add my little touch to it.

However, it is not always easy to find the original recipe, think of all the bloggers like myself that like to add their own little touches!

According to the Italian magazine “L’Espresso” , the original recipe included only 5 ingredients (flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and lemon zest) plus the baking powder.

Despite the fact that the Befanini are still made in a traditional way, the recipe has evolved through the years, and it appears that all the more contemporary versions share the use of liquor and colored sprinkles, while some also add anise seeds.

In My recipe I have opted to use the Italian Sambuca liqueur (different versions use Rum or Vinsanto),  I have added orange zest, and used the colored sprinkles because they make the biscotti much more festive.

This past Saturday I hosted a party for the Italian-American of Frederick and everyone seemed to enjoy my Befanini, in fact, I gladly packed several little bags of cookies to go!

Although these biscotti (cookies) are typically made in occurrence of the Epiphany you can enjoy them year around. Try them and let me know.

Ricetta dei Befanini Toscani


3 cups of flour type 00 ( if you don’t have Flour type 00, use 50/50 all purpose and pastry flour)

1-1/2 cups of sugar

7 ounces of softened butter

1/2 cup of milk

3 eggs plus 1 for the egg wash

Zest of one orange

Zest of half lemon

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoon of Sambuca or Rum

multicolored sprinkles


In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the flour and the sugar.

Then add the softened butter and process slowly.

Add the eggs and continue processing.

Now add the orange zest, the lemon zest, the baking powder, the salt and the liqueur.

Work the dough for 10 minutes on medium speed adding the milk as necessary to make a smooth dough.

Process the dough until it detaches from the side of the food processor bowl.

Transfer the dough on a floured pastry board and kned it fast to form a ball.

Wrap the dough in wrapping film and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven at 350 degree.

Add enough flour to the working surface and around your rolling pin and start rolling out the dough. Your sheet of dough should not be less than 1/4 inch tick.

Use cookie cutters in different shapes to cut your cookies.

Place them on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Make an egg wash with one egg and a little bit of milk. Brush the cookies with the egg wash and add sprinkles.

Bake the biscotti for 12-14 minutes at 350. The cookies should be a nice gold color.

Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

Enjoy the Befanini with tea or milk!

The Befanini


My Limoncello Biscotti . . . Perfect for tea!

Perfect for tea!

As promised, here it  is the  follow up on my previous post on Limoncello.

Last Saturday, during the bottling step of the Limoncello making, I kept thinking that I could surely find a good use for this flavorful liqueur infused lemon’s zest. So, rather than discarding it, I decided to save it in a Tupperware. Once my client was gone, I proceeded in decking up my bottles and then it finally hit me . . . ” I was going to make Limoncello Biscotti (cookies)!”

I used an old cookie’s recipe to which I added my wonderful zest and of course some Limoncello. Two hours later My Limoncello biscotti were already cooling on the wire racks! My son would not wait for them to completely cool and kept stealing them every time I would turn my eyes away. My husband after tasting few of them said they were buonissimi (very very good), my neighbor and  friend Lori, who later in the day was pet sitting my two dogs, said they were delicious. However, she was cornered by Luna and Vera (my 10 years old Golden Retriever and my 15 months old Golden Doodle) that didn’t agree with her eating our cookies!

What did I think about the cookies? I thought they were good, yet, I wanted the flavor to be a little more pronounced so I quickly jot down a note on my recipe jurnal to add more zest and Limoncello next time. Ok . . . they were not perfect this first time around, still, they were a perfect companion to my afternoon tea.

I am sure Santa would enjoy these cookies too!

Twenty four hours later my biscotti are gone . . . good thing I had frozen some of my precious zest!

I thought of other ways to use the Limoncello infused lemon’s zest and, although I have not experimented yet, I bet that a Limoncello Pound Cake with bits of zest would be just wonderful! So would be a Limoncello Sorbet or a Limoncello Custard to serve warm with sugar cookies . . . che delizia! (how deliciuos!)

Can you think of other ways to use the zest? Let me know.

Without further ado I give you My recipe.

My Limoncello Biscotti


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 – 1/4 cup granulated sugar

7 oz cold unsalted butter (My preference is European butter)

1 large whole egg

2 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup of Limoncello infused lemon’s zest

1/4 cup of Limoncello

Before you start, in a bowl sift together the flour, the salt and the baking powder.  Also, cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and keep it chill.

In a bowl of a food processor combine the sugar and the lemon zest, pulse until the zest is reduced into tiny bits.

Add the butter, the whole egg and the yolks and process until all the ingredients are combined.

Slowly add the Limoncello then the sifted flour.

Mix on low speed until the dough starts coming together.

Damp the dough on a surface dusted with flour and shape into  two balls.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

You now have two options to shape your  cookies. Work with one ball of dough at the time, keeping the other refrigerated.

Option 1:

Pinch off the dough to form 1 inch balls. Slightly flatten the balls between your hands and placed them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Use your floured index finger to create a slight depression in the center of each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes then, transfer on wire rack to cool completely. Now that I think about it, once the cookies are cool, you could  fill the little depression with a small dollop of Nutella!

Option 2:

On a surface well dusted with flour roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thick (make sure your rolling pin is also dusted with flour). Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. Also, work fast so the dough doesn’t get warm.  Cut into desired shape, place on baking sheet lined with parchment, or silicone baking mat.

Refrigerate the cookies for 10 minutes before baking.

Remove from refrigerator and bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until they are just beginning to turn brown around the edges (I accidentally cooked mine few extra minutes. Make sure you use a timer!). Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer on wire rack until completely cool.

Enjoy your biscotti with tea, or coffee.

Related Post: Limoncello