In an effort to expand both my baking repertoire and knowledge of my heritage, I picked up a book from the library on Italian desserts. I really enjoyed how the book broke down which region each dessert was from, and was fascinated by how simple many of the recipes were – some containing as few as three ingredients. There were even some desserts that I think many American’s would find quite silly, but that I found to be quite intriguing, such as spaghetti pie.
Another reason I picked up the book is because my favorite cookies of all time – wait I don’t actually know what they’re really called – are Italian Sprinkle Cookies. I believe I’ve also heard them called Italian Anisette Cookies. Regardless, my grandmother makes them for holidays, namely Easter and Christmas, and she always sends me home with a plateful of them. That plate doesn’t last but a day in my house. I’ve even tried putting half the plate in the freezer to enjoy at a later date, but that never works.
I was really hoping the book filled with Italian dessert recipes would open my eyes to some similar cookie delights to my all-time favorite Italian Sprinkle. One of the recipes that immediately caught my eye was a favorite of Sicily, the Sesame Cookie.
Apparently, these cookies have many different names in Sicily, including:
Biscotti regina, or Queen’s Cookie
Strunzi di sciocca, or Chicken’s Poop
Strunzi d’ancilu, or Angel’s Poop
While I’d say these cookies are rightfully named the Queen’s Cookie, tasting so elegantly delicious right out of the oven, my husband would probably agree more with Chicken’s Poop. With little appreciation for most chocolate-less desserts, James ate these cookies topped with small pieces of recently homemade dark chocolate (recipe coming soon!). I thought them delicious as they were – with a hint of lemon and a brilliant nutty taste from the sesame seeds.
I warn you if you decide to make these that you will not be able to eat just one. While I can maintain slightly more control with these cookies than the Italian Sprinkles, they’re still just as dangerous. I’d highly advise indulging when they come warm out of the oven, placing a few in a Tupperware container to live on your counter for a week, and placing the rest in the freezer for a dessert emergency.
I will also warn you that these cookies can be a little frustrating to make. The dough is very flakey, and halfway through you might want to give up and toss the cookie sheet across the kitchen like I did. But, stick with it because the end result is so worth the trouble!
- 2 c all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c sugar
- 8 T butter (1 stick)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 T milk
- 1 T honey
- grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 t salt
- 3/4 c sesame seeds
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- Add egg YOLKS, milk, honey, lemon and salt and knead until dough forms.
- Roll the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cover with sesame seeds. Toast the sesame seeds in the oven until light golden - about 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, beat egg whites with 3 tablespoons of water.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 4 portions. Roll each section out into a log about 1 inch thick. Cut each log into ½ inch sections.
- Dip each cut piece of dough in egg whites, then roll in sesame seeds and place on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack.