Last month I tried out a new cookie recipe, Basler Brunsli from Germany (chocolate-almond spice cookies). Well, looks wise, they didn’t turn out, although ironically enough they tasted delicious. It’s a recipe that doesn’t require a lot of steps or ingredients. However, moving forward, I now know to stay away from any cookie recipe that doesn’t include flour. Yes, basler brunsli are flourless and require only have two egg whites (among the other ingredients are sugar, almonds, chocolate, cloves, and cinnamon). My first batch, well, they morphed into blobs during the baking time (I had used some cooking spray so clearly that was a mistake). The second batch was slightly better but then I wasn’t able to get them from the baking sheet without mildly destroying them. A bust all around compounded by the fact these were also roll-out cookies, which meant more time being wasted. It served as a reminder that even the best of cooks can encounter some resistance when trying out a recipe for the first time.
I wanted to try another new cookie recipe to do away with the disappointing results of the basler brunsli, and so I turned to my North End Italian Cookbook (the North End here being Boston’s Little Italy neighborhood) and came across a recipe for sesame seed cookies. The author raved about the recipe. It didn’t seem difficult, it actually called for flour (scores of it), and it was a different cookie altogether (i.e. nothing with chocolate, nothing excessively sweet). That, and the fact I actually had sesame seeds on hand thanks to a recipe I made a few summers ago. So I gave it a go. And they turned out to be phenomenal.
I remember on my Boston food tour, one of the first things our guide spoke of were the differences between Italian cuisine and Italian-American cuisine, but especially how the latter features more sweeter desserts. With the sesame seed cookie, it’s easy to tell that this is straight up an Italian dessert. It’s sweet but not overly so and is perfect to eat along with a hot cup of coffee, cappuccino, or in my case, a chai latte.
My only slight critique of the recipe is that I seemed to lose quite a bit of the sesame seeds due to my hands being sticky from the milk and obviously I was not going to wash my hands after preparing each cookie.
Although I still hope to make authentic German Lebkuchen (I ordered the wafers you need from Amazon to be entirely authentic), I would definitely love to try out another cookie recipe or two from this cookbook as well. The Italians know food and they certainly know sweets.
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
recipe courtesy of The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane
1 cup melted butter or margarine, cooled
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tablespoons milk, plus additional for coating
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 1/2-4 cups unbleached flour
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
-With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream melted butter and sugar
-Add 2 well-beaten eggs and mix
-Add milk, vanilla, and baking powder
-Add enough flour as needed. Mix until dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky
-Remove from bowl and knead gently, adding more flour if needed. Cover and allow to rest 15 minutes
-Pour some milk in a deep bowl and put sesame seeds in a wide bowl
-Break off dough pieces the size of walnuts and roll in the palms of your hands
-Roll dough pieces in milk first, then in seeds, covering generously all over
-Place on a greased cookie sheet, then flatten slightly. Cookies should have a short and wide rectangular shape for a better appearance after cooking
-Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Use middle rack, so bottoms of cookies will not burn.
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen large or 3 1/2 dozen small cookies