- The Premier Italian American Newspaper Since 1931 -
Fig and Hazelnut Butter Cookies

The Tradition of Italian Holiday Cookies

When it comes to Christmas cookies, everyone has their favorites and often times, we will prepare our time-tested recipes year after year. One of the fun things to try is a cookie exchange with friends and family. Get together with 4 or 5 other baking enthusiasts and decide on how many recipes each will prepare. If everyone makes two recipes, you will have 10 or 12 different types of cookies. Have a quick discussion to make sure that everyone is preparing a different type of cookie, or at the very least a different variation and get to work. Make enough cookies so that everyone that you share with will receive anywhere from 12 to 18 cookies. Once your cookie exchange is done, you will have enough for a fantastic cookie party!

Fig and Hazelnut Butter Cookies

Courtesy of Lidia Bastianich from ‘Lidia’s Celebrate Like An Italian’

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup fig preserves
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted skinned hazelnuts

Preparation

Sift the flour and salt together. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in the egg and vanilla extract. At low speed, mix in the flour mixture until a dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic and chill until firm, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the top and bottom thirds. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Pinch off heaping-teaspoon-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls. Place balls on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart, and flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake them until they are puffed but not browned, about 8 minutes.

Remove baking sheets from oven and carefully make a small crater in the middle of each cookie, using a teaspoon-sized measuring spoon. Fill each crater with ¼ to ½ teaspoon preserves and sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts into the preserves. Finish baking the cookies until they are golden-brown on the bottom and edges, about 8 minutes more. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to racks and cool completely. Store in airtight containers at room temperature. Makes about 48 cookies.

Chocolate Salami

Chocolate Salami – a classic Italian dessert that can be tied and hung, just like a salami. Made with chocolate, cookies and nuts, it is perfect for kids and adults alike. This recipe makes about 20 generous slices.

Ingredients

  • 9 oz. good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 9 oz. amaretto biscotti
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) soft unsalted butter
  • 5 oz. superfine sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 oz. natural almonds (unskinned), roughly chopped
  • 3 oz. hazelnuts (roughly chopped)
  • 2 oz. pistachios (roughly chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (to decorate)

Preparation

Using a double-boiler, melt the chocolate until smooth. While the chocolate is melting, put the biscotti into a freezer bag, seal and crush with a rolling pin until you have small pieces. After the chocolate has melted, set aside to cool. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. One by one, beat in the eggs, then the amaretto liqueur. Add the cocoa powder to the cooled chocolate and then beat this into the egg mixture until smooth. Add the chopped nuts and crushed biscotti and ensure that everything is chocolate covered. Transfer this mixture to the refrigerator to set for 20–30 minutes. Unroll and slice off 2 large pieces of cling film to use as a surface to roll out the salami. Using your hands, mold the mixture into a fat salami-like log, about 1 foot long.

Cover the chocolate log completely with the clingfilm, and then firmly roll it, as if it were a rolling pin, to create a smooth, rounded cylinder. Twist the ends several times and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Dust it with powdered sugar and it is ready to cut.

“Pollicini” con Marmellata di Orancia   

Deliciously melt-in-your mouth thumbprint cookies, with lemon zest and orange marmalade. The recipe doubles easily. Makes 24 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 oz. sugar
  • Grated zest from 1 lemon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup orange marmalade
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Preparation

In a large bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugar until creamy. Add the lemon zest, salt, and the egg yolk. Mix until creamy. Add the flour and mix to form a dough (it will be rather stiff). On a floured surface, roll out the dough to shape a log of about ¾” in diameter and 12” long. Slice into twenty four ½” thick pieces and roll each into a round ball. Space them 1” apart on an un-greased cookie sheet. With your thumb, make a small indentation in the center of each ball, filling it with jam.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. While oven heats, place the tray in the freezer for 10 minutes. Bake for 15-18 minutes then allow to cool 5 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar.

Chocolate Pizzettes

The short bake time in this recipe isn’t a typo—these cookies should be moist and fudgy in the center, almost like a brownie. It is best if you use bittersweet chocolate from Modica. This recipe makes about 30 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces Modica bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces roasted, unsalted Sicilian almonds, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup hot espresso
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Glaze

  • 4 ounces Modica bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cups powdered sugar
  • Optional – colored sugar, or sprinkles (for serving)

Preparation

For the cookies – preheat oven to 375°F. Mix flour, chocolate chips, almonds and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk coffee and cocoa powder until smooth. Add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt and whisk until smooth. Whisk in egg, egg yolk, granulated sugar, oil and zests.

Stir in dry ingredients with a large spoon until just combined; do not overwork the dough. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide in half, then roll each half into a 1½” wide log. Flatten to 2″ wide. Slice on a bias into 1″ wide cookies. Transfer to parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets, spacing at least 1″ apart. Bake cookies until firm around the edges but still soft in the middle, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.

For the glaze and assembly – melt chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over a large saucepan of simmering water (do not let water touch bowl); stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth (you can also do this in the microwave). Whisk in powdered sugar and 5 Tbsp. boiling water until smooth. Dip tops of cookies into glaze and top with colored sanding sugar or sprinkles. Let cool until glaze is firm, about 2 hours.