We called them the “White Cookies”

fullsizeoutput_149cI was the one in our family who could devour a whole batch of “white cookies” in just a couple of sittings. So when my mom would say — should I make the white cookies? I had a push/pull feeling. Yes! I love them. No! I’ll be only one to eat them and here comes some extra pounds. Grr. BUT they’re so good.

Why was it only me who liked them? Well, they’re not too sweet (I’m not big on too sweet), they have a cakey almost biscuity body with a lemony vanilla-y icing. Ohhhh. Very good. Soft to the bite, exciting to the palate. Maybe they’re very sophisticated and that’s why I’m the only who recognized that (ha ha, just kidding).

Make them. Bake them. They’ll stay nice in a tin (after icing sets) for a week. But they won’t last that long. Because you’ll eat them first. And, yes, they’re from my Italian-American background, and despite our simple name for them I’ve seen similar cookies in Italian bakeries with the name: anginetti. But those bakery cookies never lived up to the ones coming from our home kitchen. So now…from your home kitchen!

“White Cookies” or Italian Lemon Cookies

For the cookies:

½ stick unsalted butter (four tablespoons)

5 tablespoons sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft (room temp)

1 ¼ cups powdered sugar

2 drops lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Make the cookies:

Cream butter and sugar till smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla extract. Beat to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Beat to combine until a dough forms. Don’t over mix. Pinch off one-inch pieces of dough and shape into balls. Place on a baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough.

Bake for about 15 minutes until cookies are slightly colored golden-tan. Use a spatula to gentle move cookies from baking pan to a rack to cool (or open a brown paper bag flat and let cool on that). 

Make the icing:

In a medium mixing bowl, use a spoon to mash the butter flat. Add the sugar, and mix roughly. Run tap water until it is very hot. Drizzle in a little hot water – just start with about a teaspoon – and stir to combine, mixing vigorously and quickly to incorporate the butter. Add more water little by little until you reach a good consistency…like honey.

When cookies are cool, dip them top-first into the icing, then stand them icing-side up on a flat surface. Continue with all the cookies. You can store cookies in airtight tins once the icing has dried and set.

Biscotti Regina – Sesame Seed Cookies

 

BOOK seeded cookies

biscotti regina–family “seeded cookies”

How old do you have to be to eat a cookie? I mean: what’s the youngest age? 2? 1? 3? Whatever it is that’s how far back my memory connects to biscotti regina. I can’t remember my first bite, but I know them like I know my own blink.

In my family, they were “the seeded cookies.” Mom, are you gonna make the seeded cookies?

Sesame seeds, that is. And the seeds must have the hull on (don’t get the pale, pitiful unhulled sesame seeds). Get the one with hulls. The more bullish seed. The ones that make a statement. You can eat them raw and the taste pops. But with this cookie they also get toasted in the oven on the backs of the vanilla-strong cookie dough.

Usually seeded cookies make a grand entrance in the kitchen at Christmas time. Along with my mom’s pressed butter cookies (in some circles called “spritz” cookies, but we never called them that). The butter cookies are delicate and decorated with dipped chocolate, crushed walnuts, and pieces of candied cherries.

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Mom’s delicate butter cookies

The seeded cookies are the blue-collar plain Janes next to these dainty pretty ones. But one bite of that deep toasty, sesame, vanilla-flavored biscotti and you’ll have a new favorite cookie.

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adorable! biscotti regina

Italians call all cookies biscotti. They call this one “Regina” (regina means queen) because they must have been a favorite of an Italian queen. (Pizza Margherita is so-called after an Italian queen. See how important food is in Italy?) These cookies come from Sicily originally. My first sighting in Sicily was in Cefalu and then in Palermo. Seeing those very familiar childhood-to-lifelong cherished cookies in a Sicilian pastry showcase, or packed in a cellophane bag on a Sicilian shelf, was time-warping & transporting. My roots in a cookie!

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in Cefalu

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in Palermo

You gotta bake these cookies. Our family recipe makes a lot of cookies. That’s okay, you want a lot. When done, they resemble small Italian loaves of bread. They have the perfect crunch and can stand up to a dunking in espresso. Oh, dear, oh, yum. Take the secret family recipe below…and run!

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making biscotti regina in one of my classes

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making biscotti regina in one of my classes

Biscotti Regina (Sesame Seed Cookies)

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 1/8 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tablespoons milk, plus 1-2 cups for coating dough

2 tablespoons vanilla

4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3-4 cups unhulled sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and incorporate. Add 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla, mix to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder and add to the wet ingredients. Mix to combine, don’t overmix, until a dough forms.

Place about a cup and a half of milk in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle most of the sesame seeds on a long piece of waxed paper or parchment. Pinch off a small dollop of dough (about 1-2 tablespoons) and shape into a small log. Coat with milk and set on the seeds. Holding up the sides of the waxed paper, rock the dough log in the seeds to coat then transfer to a cookie sheet. You can do 4-5 at a time. Continue with all the dough.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown. With a spatula gentle push cookies from baking sheet onto a flat paper bag to cool.