Sweet Maria's Italian Desserts

Classic and Casual Recipes for Cookies, Cakes, Pastry, and Other Favorites

Maria Bruscino Sanchez

St. Martin's Griffin

Sweet Maria's Italian Desserts
COOKIES
 
 
Because cookies are so vital to Italian-American celebrations, they are a large part of this book. Cookie trays are found at most parties, and certain types of cookies are baked for specific occasions such as weddings, Christmas, and Easter. Even when most people say they don't have room for dessert, they usually make room for a cookie.
Italian cookies are generally plain biscuits, enjoyed throughout the year, ideal for dessert with fruit or ice cream, or a simple snack or breakfast. Cookies that are baked for specific holidays, like Christmas and Easter, are usually richer and fancier, using dried fruit, nuts, and raisins.
Italian cookies traditionally have less fat than American cookies. This makes them more like biscuits and harder in texture. I've included some of these cookies as well as variations that are more like American cookies with a bit more butter. Here are a few tips on the types of cookies that follow.
 
Drop Cookies
These are the easiest type of cookie to make. After mixing the dough, simply use a teaspoon to drop the dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
 
Rolled Cookies
This is another simple cookie, formed by rolling the dough into balls. If the dough is a bit sticky, dust your fingers lightly with flour.
 
Rolled and Filled Cookies
These cookies are rolled with a rolling pin. For most of them, the dough should be chilled first for easier rolling. You can usually make the dough ahead and refrigerate overnight. Finish the filling (usually jelly, nuts, and spices) and bake the next day.
When you're rolling and cutting dough, save all your scraps to roll at the end. By adding scraps to the fresh dough you can toughen it. While rolling, store unused portion of dough in the refrigerator to keep chilled.
When using cookie cutters, dust them lightly with flour to eliminate sticking.
 
Biscotti
These are popular Italian cookies that are baked twice. The dough is formed into long thin loaves and baked. After cooling, the loaves are diagonally sliced into ½-inch slices. They are baked again for a toasted crunchy cookie.
 
Bar Cookies
Bar cookies are another easy-to-make cookie and look great on a cookie tray. The dough is pressed into a baking pan, baked, cooled, and cut into squares or strips. You can also cut them into triangles, strips, or diamond shapes.
JELLY AND NUT CRESCENTS
These are a fancy holiday treat that can be made with any flavor jelly. I love them with raspberry filling for the holidays, not just for their flavor but for the way they dress up a holiday cookie tray.
CRUST:
¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED 3 OUNCES CREAM CHEESE, SOFTENED 1 EGG YOLK 1 CUP FLOUR
FILLING:
½ CUP BROWN SUGAR 1 CUP WALNUTS, FINELY CHOPPED ½ TEASPOON CINNAMON ¾ CUP JELLY, ANY FLAVOR
1. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add yolk. Mix until well blended. Gradually add flour on low speed. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.
2. Knead until well blended. Divide dough in half. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F.
4. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon. Set aside.
5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin and surface, roll out one half of dough until inch thick. Spread half the jelly onto dough in a thin layer. Sprinkle with half the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
6. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut the dough into 12 wedges.
7. Roll each edge, starting at the wide end, toward the center of the circle. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and slightly curve each cookie into a crescent. Space cookies about 2 inches apart. Repeat rolling and filling with remaining dough.
8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
9. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Using a metal spatula, place cookies on a wire cooling rack. Cool. Store cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 24 COOKIES
EGG YOLK BISCUITS
These biscuits are perfect for breakfast or a snack. This version is a plain vanilla cookie brushed with egg yolk before baking. The recipe is also flexible: You can flavor the dough with lemon, orange, or almond instead of vanilla extract. Because these cookies are sturdy, use them for the bottom layer of your cookie tray.
½ POUND BUTTER 1 CUP SUGAR 3 EGG YOLKS 2 TEASPOONS VANILLA 2½ CUPS FLOUR 1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER 2 TABLESPOONS MILK
1. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add 2 egg yolks and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. On low speed, add flour, baking powder, and milk. Mix just until blended. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until ¼ inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or rim of a juice glass, cut into circles about 2½ inches in diameter.
4. Place cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart.
5. Brush tops of cookies with remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.
6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
7. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Using a metal spatula, remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on wire cooling rack. Cool.
8. Store unused cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 24 COOKIES
ORANGE DROP COOKIES ANGINETTI D'ARANCIA
These light and flavorful cookies are always a favorite. This recipe uses a fresh orange flavor, a nice variation on the traditional lemon version. They are quite tasty topped with an orange confectioners' icing. After the icing is dry, stack these cookies in a large mound on top of a tiered cake plate for a fabulous wedding or shower sweet.
¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED ½ CUP SUGAR 3 EGGS ½ CUP ORANGE JUICE GRATED RIND OF 1 ORANGE 3 CUPS FLOUR 3 TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add eggs, orange juice, and orange rind. Mix until well blended.
3. On low speed, gradually add the flour and baking powder. Mix just until blended.
4. Using a teaspoon, drop rounded teaspoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing each cookie about 2 inches apart.
5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
6. Remove from the oven. Using a metal spatula, remove cookies from the sheet onto a wire cooling rack. Cool completely. Frost with orange confectioners' icing (see following recipe).
YIELD: ABOUT 50 COOKIES
This versatile icing can be made with almost any flavor. Simply substitute water for orange juice and add 2 teaspoons of extract. This version really accents the orange flavor of the anginetti.
6 CUPS CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR GRATED RIND OF 1 ORANGE ¾ CUP ORANGE JUICE
1. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat all ingredients until smooth.
2. Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies. The frosting will drip down the sides of the cookie. Dry the frosted cookies on a wire cooling rack. Place a sheet of parchment or wax paper underneath cooling rack to catch excess frosting. Store in an airtight container.
YIELD: ENOUGH FOR 50 COOKIES
LENTEN BISCUITS QUARESIMALI
These plain biscuits are usually baked during the Lenten season. Because they use the traditional method of biscotti baking, without fat, be sure to slice them while they're still warm. If you let them cool first, they'll be too hard to slice.
2 CUPS FLOUR ½ CUP BROWN SUGAR 1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER PINCH OF SALT 1 CUP SLICED ALMONDS 2 TEASPOONS CINNAMON 3 EGGS ¼ CUP MILK
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, almonds, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and milk with a wire whisk. Add the egg mixture to the well. Stir with a wooden spoon. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is blended.
4. Divide dough in half. Roll into two loaves, about 12 inches long. Place the loaves on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing them 3 inches apart.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
6. Remove cookie sheet from the oven.
7. Carefully remove hot loaves from the cookie sheet and place on a cutting board. While still warm, cut the loaves diagonally into ½-inch-wide slices.
8. Place slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Cool toasted biscotti on wire cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.
YIELD: 24 COOKIES
ALMOND MERINGUES
These crunchy dry biscuits are sometimes called "forgotten cookies," because they bake in the oven for a long time at a slow temperature. They are a treat served alone, or piled with berries and whipped cream. You can make them any size, but I prefer these sweet little kisses formed with a pastry bag.
4 EGG WHITES 1¼ CUPS SUGAR ½ TEASPOON ALMOND EXTRACT
1. Preheat oven to 225°F.
2. In an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and almond extract. Beat until stiff.
3. Fill a pastry bag (without a tip) with half the meringue dough. Pipe small kisses onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. You can pipe them close together because they don't spread when baking. Refill pastry bag with remaining dough and pipe until finished.
4. Bake for 1½ hours, or until dry.
5. Remove cookies from the oven. Cool meringues on parchment. When cool, carefully remove from parchment with a metal spatula. Store unused meringues in plastic wrap at room temperature.
YIELD: ABOUT 50 SMALL COOKIES
VARIATION: COCOA ALMOND MERINGUES
Enjoy these cookies on their own or use them festively to cover our Mandarin Orange Meringue Cake (see page 72).
4 EGG WHITES 1 CUP SUGAR 3 TABLESPOONS COCOA ½ TEASPOON ALMOND EXTRACT
Follow directions for almond meringues, beating in cocoa after sugar. Bake at 225°F for 1½ hours, or until dry.
HOW TO MAKE A COOKIE TRAY
START WITH A FLAT AND STURDY PLATE OR BASKET. LINE WITH A DOILY. START STACKING COOKIES, PLACING THE MORE DURABLE COOKIES, SUCH AS BISCOTTI, ON THE BOTTOM OF THE TRAY. CONTINUE TO STACK A VARIETY OF FLAVORS IN DECREASING ORDER TO FORM A PYRAMID. PLACE FRAGILE JELLY-FILLED COOKIES ON TOP. WRAP IN CELLOPHANE AND TIE WITH RIBBONS.
SWEET SPICE COOKIES
These tasty little drop cookies are loaded with chocolate chips, nuts, and cinnamon--a delicious combination and one of my favorite take-to-school lunch treats.
½ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED 1 CUP BROWN SUGAR 3 EGGS 2 CUPS FLOUR 1 TEASPOON BAKING SODA PINCH OF SALT 1 TEASPOON CINNAMON 2 CUPS CHOPPED WALNUTS 1 CUP CHOCOLATE CHIPS
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light. Add eggs. Mix until well blended. On low speed, gradually add flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix just until blended.
3. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
4. Using a teaspoon, drop dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing each cookie about 2 inches apart.
5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Using a metal spatula, remove cookies from cookie sheet and place on a wire cooling rack. Cool completely. Store unused cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 50 COOKIES
RICOTTA DROP COOKIES
BISCOTTI DI RICOTTA
These moist cookie drops combine two popular flavors for Italian desserts, ricotta and lemon. This combination is especially popular in the Neapolitan region, where both ingredients are plentiful. It's hard to travel anywhere in southern Italy without seeing endless groves of citrus trees.
¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED 1 CUP SUGAR 1 EGG ¼ CUP RICOTTA GRATED RIND OF 1 LEMON 2 CUPS FLOUR ½ TEASPOON BAKING SODA PINCH OF SALT
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg, ricotta, and lemon rind. Mix until well blended. On low speed, add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until blended.
3. Drop dough from a rounded teaspoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing each cookie about 2 inches apart.
4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely.
5. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve cooled. Store unused cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 30 COOKIES
FIG AND WALNUT BISCOTTI
Perfect dunked in wine or espresso, these hearty biscuits have a shiny professional look from the beaten egg brushed on top. Because they stay fresh for so long, they're the perfect cookie to bake and keep in the cookie jar.
1½ CUPS FLOUR 2 TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER 1 CUP SUGAR 2 TEASPOONS CINNAMON ½ TEASPOON SALT CUP WALNUT HALVES CUP COARSELY CHOPPED DRIED FIGS 2 EGGS 2 TEASPOONS VANILLA 1 EGG FOR EGG WASH
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, salt, walnuts, and figs. Stir until blended. Make a well in the center.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the 2 eggs and vanilla with a wire whisk. Add the eggs to the well. Stir with a wooden spoon. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until dough is blended.
4. Divide dough in half. Roll into two loaves, about 12 inches long. Place the loaves on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing them 3 inches apart.
5. In a small bowl, beat remaining egg with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush the beaten egg on top of the loaves.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven.
8. Carefully remove hot loaves from the cookie sheet and place on a cutting board. While warm, slice the loaves diagonally into ½-inch-wide slices.
9. Place slices in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Return to oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Cool toasted biscotti on wire cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.
YIELD: ABOUT 25 COOKIES
ORANGE CLOVE BISCOTTI
These biscotti are a classic pairing of citrus and spice. They are one of the first cookies I learned to bake with my mom. They're perfect partners to a tall glass of iced cappuccino or a few scoops of chocolate ice cream.
¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED 1 CUP SUGAR 2 EGGS GRATED RIND OF 2 ORANGES JUICE OF 1 ORANGE 2½ CUPS FLOUR 1½ TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER 1½ TEASPOONS GROUND CLOVES
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add eggs, orange rind, and orange juice. Mix until well blended. On low speed, add flour, baking powder, and cloves. Mix just until blended.
3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into thirds. Roll into three loaves, about 12 inches long. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing each 3 inches apart.
4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
5. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Using two metal spatulas, carefully place loaves on wire cooling racks. Cool.
6. Place cooled loaves on a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut diagonally into ½-inch slices.
7. Place slices on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from the oven. Cool toasted biscotti on wire cooling racks. Store in an airtight container.
YIELD: 30 COOKIES
MOLASSES NUT SLICES
These cookies have a rich molasses flavor, perfect with a glass of cold milk. They are so easy to make--just roll into loaves, refrigerate, cut, and bake. When I was a child, these cookies always reminded me of slices of pepperoni.
½ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED ½ CUP SUGAR 2 TABLESPOONS MOLASSES 1 EGG 2 CUPS FLOUR 1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER ¾ CUP CHOPPED WALNUTS
1. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add molasses and egg. Blend until well mixed. On low speed, gradually add flour, baking powder, and nuts. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.
2. Divide dough in half. Roll each piece into a cylinder about 1½ inches wide. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F.
4. Place dough cylinders on a cutting board. Cut dough into slices about ½ inch wide. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing each 2 inches apart.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven.
6. Use a metal spatula to remove cookies to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely.
7. Store in an airtight container.
YIELD: 40 COOKIES
AMARETTI
These classic Italian almond macaroons are very popular. To roll the cookies more easily, dip your fingers into a bowl of water. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. In Sicily, amaretti cookies are formed into mounds with a crater on top, dusted with confectioners' sugar, and baked, so that they resemble Mount Etna. My version is shaped in the more traditional cookie manner, but is dusted with confectioners' sugar too.
½ POUND ALMOND PASTE, BROKEN INTO SMALL PIECES ½ CUP SUGAR ½ CUP FLOUR ½ CUP CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR 1 EGG ADDITIONAL CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR TO GARNISH
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, combine almond paste, sugar, flour, and confectioners' sugar. Mix on low speed until blended. Add egg. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes. This will make a sticky dough.
3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Using your fingers, press down the tops gently to flatten slightly. Dust the tops of cookies with additional confectioners' sugar.
4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Let cookies cool completely on parchment for easiest removal. When cookies are completely cooled, use a metal spatula to loosen them from the parchment. Store in an airtight container.
YIELD: 20 COOKIES
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT BISCOTTI
BISCOTTI DI CIOCCOLATA CON NOCI
Chocolate lovers adore these rich biscotti with toasted hazelnuts. For the richest flavor, use a Dutch process cocoa and freshly toasted hazelnuts.
¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED ¾ CUP SUGAR 2 TABLESPOONS HAZELNUT LIQUEUR 2 EGGS 2 CUPS FLOUR ½ CUP COCOA, PREFERABLY DUTCH PROCESS 2 TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER ¾ CUP HAZELNUTS, CHOPPED AND TOASTED
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add hazelnut liqueur and eggs. Mix until well blended.
3. On low speed, gradually add flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Stir in hazelnuts.
4. Divide dough in half. Shape the dough into two loaves about 10 inches long. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing them 3 inches apart.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops of loaves are firm. Remove cookie sheet from the oven.
6. Using two metal spatulas, carefully remove loaves from hot cookie sheet onto wire racks. Cool. Place cooled loaves on cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the loaves diagonally into ½-inch-wide slices.
7. Place the slices on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Return to the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Cool toasted biscotti on a wire cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 24 BISCOTTI
LADY'S KISSES
BACI DI DAMA
These petite sandwich cookies are delicately flavored with an almond and chocolate filling. When using the pastry bag, try to make all the cookies the same size. This will make it easier to pair them with the filling.
 
 
COOKIE:
½ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED ¾ CUP CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR 1 EGG 1 TEASPOON ALMOND EXTRACT 1½ CUPS FLOUR PINCH OF SALT
FILLING:
½ CUP ALMONDS, FINELY GROUND 1 TABLESPOON ALMOND PASTE 1 CUP CHOCOLATE CHIPS
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar. Add egg and almond extract. Mix well. On low speed, gradually add the flour and salt. Mix just until blended.
3. Using a pastry bag without a tip (coupler only), pipe 1-inch circles onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.
4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges of cookies begin to brown. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Cool cookies on parchment.
5. Place almonds and almond paste in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Set aside.
6. Melt chocolate chips.
7. Using a butter knife, spread a thin layer of chocolate on the flat side of only 6 to 8 cookies at a time. Otherwise the chocolate will dry before you sandwich them. Dipone chocolate side into almond mixture and press together with another flat sided cookie.
8. Repeat spreading and dipping in almond mixture until all cookies are matched.
YIELD: 30 COOKIES
ALMOND PASTE
THIS IS A POPULAR ITALIAN CONFECTION THAT IS MADE FROM ALMONDS AND SUGAR. IT IS MASHED INTO A PASTE THAT IS USED FOR AMARETTI COOKIES. IT IS ALSO USED FOR MAKING MARZIPAN.
SICILIAN PISTACHIO BISCOTTI
These salty snacks are studded with pistachios. They're a great warm-weather snack or appetizer with a cold beer. Try to find pistachios that are already shelled. Whenever I buy pistachios in the shell, I barely have enough left after shelling. Suddenly everyone in the bakery wants to help shell them, just so they can sneak a few to munch on.
¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED ¼ CUP SUGAR 1 TABLESPOON MARSALA WINE 2 EGGS 2 CUPS FLOUR 1½ CUPS COARSELY CHOPPED PISTA- CHIOS
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add marsala and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add flour.
3. Roll dough into ¾-inch balls. Roll balls in water and then in pistachios to coat them. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Flatten the tops slightly with your finger.
4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
5. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Using a metal spatula, remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire cooling rack. Cool. Store cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 24 COOKIES
VANILLA BISCOTTI
Using a vanilla bean to flavor these biscotti really gives it a rich natural taste. I love to wrap these cookies in small plastic bags and tie with festive ribbons. They are a great little make-ahead gift or shower favor.
1 CUP SUGAR 1 VANILLA BEAN ¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED 2 EGGS 2 CUPS FLOUR 1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER PINCH OF SALT
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place sugar in a small bowl. Slice vanilla bean in half with a paring knife. Using the tip of the knife, scrape the vanilla into the sugar. Mix until well blended.
3. In an electric mixer, cream butter and vanilla sugar until light. Add eggs. Mix until well blended. On low speed, gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a cylinder about 12 inches long. Place cylinders on parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing 3 inches apart.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Using two metal spatulas, carefully remove loaves from the cookie sheet and place on wire cooling racks. Cool. Place cooled loaves on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the loaves diagonally into ½-inch slices.
6. Place the slices on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Return to the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool toasted biscotti on wire cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 24 COOKIES
VENETIANS
These bar cookies are a staple for most Italian bakeries. Their bright red, white, and green colors will brighten up any cookie tray. The colors remind us of the Italian flag or the vibrant colors of Murano glass in Venice.
6 EGGS, SEPARATED 1½ CUPS SUGAR ¼ TEASPOON CREAM OF TARTAR 1 POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED 1 TEASPOON ALMOND EXTRACT 12 OUNCES ALMOND PASTE 3 CUPS FLOUR ¼ TEASPOON SALT 2 CUPS APRICOT PRESERVES 2 CUPS SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease and line three 15 x 10-inch cookie sheets, with sides, with parchment. Grease parchment. Set aside.
3. In an electric mixer with wire whisk, beat egg whites, ½ cup sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
4. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar. Add egg yolks and almond extract. Break up almond paste into small pieces. Add and mix until well blended and smooth. Add flour and salt. Mix until well blended.
5. With wire whisk attachment, fold in egg white mixture.
6. Divide dough into three equal portions. Add a few drops of red food coloring to one and a few drops of green coloring to another. Leave one dough natural color.
7. Evenly spread each dough into prepared pans. Each layer will be thin.
8. Bake each batter for 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove pans from the oven.
9. Cool on wire cooling rack.
10. Remove and discard parchment. Place the green layer on a parchment-linedcookie sheet. Spread one cup of apricot preserves over the green layer. Slide yellow layer of cake on top of the preserves. Spread remaining cup of preserves over yellow layer. Slide the red layer over the preserves. Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with a cutting board on top. Refrigerate overnight.
11. Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips. Spread in a thin layer over the top of the red layer. Let set until dry. Flip cake over onto parchment. Melt remaining cup of chocolate chips. Spread over green layer. Let set.
12. Using a serrated knife, trim edges. Cut into 1-inch squares.
YIELD: ABOUT 80 COOKIES
BOMBONIERE
ITALIAN BRIDAL SHOWERS AND WEDDINGS OFTEN FEATURE FAVORS COMPRISED OF SMALL BOXES OR BAGS FILLED WITH FANCY CANDIES OR COOKIES. A TRADITIONAL BOMBONIERA IS A SMALL CLUSTER OF CANDYCOATED ALMONDS WRAPPED IN TUILLE AND TIED WITH MONOGRAMMED RIBBON.
CHOCOLATE CALZONES
These chocolate- and walnut-filled pockets are deep-fried and delicious. Many people are familiar with calzones that use pizza dough to encase cheese and other toppings. This sweet calzone uses the same technique--a round piece of chocolate dough that encloses a delicious chocolate and nut filling.
DOUGH:
¼ POUND BUTTER. SOFTENED ¼ CUP COCOA ¼ CUP SOUR CREAM ¾ CUP FLOUR
FILLING:
¾ CUP CHOPPED WALNUTS ½ CUP SUGAR VEGETABLE OIL FOR FRYING ½ CUP SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS ¼ CUP HEAVY CREAM
1. In an electric mixer, cream butter until light. Add cocoa and sour cream. Mix until well blended. Add flour. Mix until just blended. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until well blended. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine all filling ingredients. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.
3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until inch thick. Using a 3-inchround cookie cutter or the rim of a juice glass, cut dough into circles. Place ½ teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Brush edges of circle with water. Fold dough over to form a turnover. Seal edges with a fork. Fill all the dough and let calzones rest for 15 to 20 minutes before frying.
4. Heat about 3 inches of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
5. Deep-fry calzones in preheated oil until lightly browned. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Drain on absorbent paper. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or cool.
YIELD: 20 CALZONES
ITALIAN RING BISCUITS
CIAMBELLE
These slightly sweet ring-shaped taralle are perfect for breakfast, a snack, or for appetizers. Be sure to bake them until they are golden brown and they'll stay crunchy for days.
¼ CUP SUGAR ½ CUP OIL ½ CUP WHITE WINE 1 ¾ CUPS FLOUR
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, and wine. Stir in flour. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until well blended.
3. Roll dough into pencil-size pieces, about 5 inches long. Form into a ring and pinch ends together. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing each ring about 2 inches apart.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
5. Remove cookie sheet from the oven. Place cookies on wire cooling rack. Cool completely. Store unused ciambelle in plastic wrap at room temperature.
YIELD: 25 CIAMBELLE
ITALIAN LADYFINGERS
SAVOIARDI
These biscuits are thicker and crunchier than the ladyfingers most Americans know. They're hard on the outside yet spongy inside to absorb the espresso used to soak them while making tiramisù (see recipe page 141).
3 EGGS, SEPARATED ½ TEASPOON CREAM OF TARTAR 8 TABLESPOONS SUGAR CUP FLOUR ½ CUP CORNSTARCH 4 TABLESPOONS WATER
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer with wire whisk attachment, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar. Whip until stiff. Set aside.
3. In an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and remaining 4 tablespoons sugar. Mix until light in color. Gradually add flour and cornstarch. Add water and mix until well blended.
4. Using a rubber spatula and small wrist-turning strokes, fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Batter will be light like a sponge cake batter. Spoon batter into a pastry bag without a tip. Pipe 5-inch strips onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. You can pipe these cookies close together. If they spread while baking you can break apart after they cool.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cookie sheet from the oven.
6. Cool cookies on parchment. When completely cool, carefully remove from parchment. Store unused cookies in a plastic bag at room temperature.
YIELD: 20 LADYFINGERS
APRICOT ORANGE BARS
These bars are easy to make and look great on a cookie tray. Try cutting them into squares, diamonds, or triangles. If you're stacking these cookies on a tray, try to keep them on top so they won't crumble.
 
CRUST:
¾ CUP FLOUR ½ CUP SEMOLINA FLOUR ½ CUP SUGAR ¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED
FILLING:
1 CUP DRIED APRICOTS. CHOPPED GRATED RIND OF 1 ORANGE JUICE OF 1 ORANGE 1 CUP WATER
1. In a medium saucepan, combine all filling ingredients. Boil over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until apricots are tender and liquid is reduced. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 375°F.
3. Grease an 8-inch square cake pan. Set aside.
4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, semolina flour, and sugar. Mix well. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press half the crust mixture into the prepared pan. Spread filling on top of crust. Lightly press remaining crumb mixture evenly over the filling.
5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned.
6. Remove pan from the oven. Place on wire cooling rack. Cool completely. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store unused cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 42 COOKIES
ALMOND BARS
These bars have a buttery crust topped with sliced almonds. Almonds are one of the most popular nuts used in Italian cooking. My mom and aunts fight to bring home from the bakery any extra toasted almonds to use in their string beans for dinner.
 
CRUST:
¾ CUP FLOUR ¼ CUP SUGAR ¼ POUND BUTTER, SOFTENED
TOPPING:
2 EGGS 1 CUP SUGAR 2 TABLESPOONS AMARETTO 2 TABLESPOONS FLOUR 1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER 1½ CUPS ALMONDS, SLICED
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Grease an 8-inch square cake pan. Set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press crumb mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
4. Remove crust from the oven. Place on wire cooling rack. Prepare filling.
5. In another bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until thick. Blend in amaretto. Add flour, baking powder, and almonds. Mix until well blended.
6. Pour egg mixture on top of the prepared crust. Spread evenly.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
8. Remove pan from the oven and place on wire cooling rack. Cool completely. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store unused cookies in an airtight container.
YIELD: 42 COOKIES
A TASTE OF ITALY
ONE OF MY FAVORITE TIMES TO VISIT ROME IS AROUND MARCH 19, THE FEAST DAY OF SAINT JOSEPH. ONE OF MY FAVORITE PASTRY SHOPS, NEAR THE VIA CONDOTTI, MAKES INCREDIBLE ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE, A DELICIOUS FRIED CRULLER FILLED WITH PASTRY CREAM. THIS IS A FRESH AND FABULOUS TREAT THAT I CAN NEVER RE-CREATE AT HOME. JUST BEFORE WE WERE TO LEAVE FOR THE AIRPORT ON OUR MOST RECENT VISIT, MY DAD AND I RAN FROM THE HOTEL TO THE PASTRY SHOP, JUST TO HAVE A FINAL TASTE. I ORDERED, PAID, AND CRADLED MY PRETTY PACKAGE OF THREE ZEPPOLE. I GUESS I DIDN'T CRADLE THE BUNDLE WELL ENOUGH. IN OUR MAD DASH BACK TO THE HOTEL, I HEARD A SMALL THUMP AND REALIZED MY PRECIOUS PACKAGE HAD SLIPPED FROM MY HANDS AND ONTO THE STREET. O DIO! MY DAD AND I STARED DOWN IN DISBELIEF. WE SCOOPED THEM UP, BROUGHT THEM BACK TO THE HOTEL ROOM, AND DUSTED OFF OUR ZEPPOLE. WE SALVAGED A FEW SMALL BITES EACH. THIS WAS A REAL TASTE OF ITALY!
SWEET MARIA'S ITALIAN DESSERTS. Copyright © 2000 by Maria Bruscino Sanchez. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York. N.Y. 10010.