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Nov 1, 2006 07:13 PM

Italian cookie recipe, hard to find

I am looking for a recipe for an Italian (from Sicily, I think) Christmas cookie recipe. The cookie is made from a very hard dough, kind of like biscotti dough. It is a basic dough with cinnamon. The dough is rolled into a long strip and then intricately twisted round and round to form a wagon wheel. Onto this round wheel is pressed flat pieces of dough (which would almost look like hubcaps). The baked cookies are crisp and hard - you can break pieces off for dipping in coffee or wine. I know this sounds unusual, but it is the only way I can describe the cookie.
The cookies are delicious with coffee, but also very good with vin santo or other sweet wine after a meal. I have had them many times - used to be able to buy them at a bakery (Tre Maria) in Toronto, but they are no longer available there - very labour intensive. Any help would be appreciated. thanks.

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  1. the website of Mary Ann Esposito is a beautifdul website with recipes from her TV show on PBS and a page of hundreds of Italian Cookies of all kinds.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Fleur

      Susamielli: These are traditional Neapolitan Christmas cookies, and are S-shaped. For two possible reasons: First, in the past they were called sesamielli, and covered with sesame seeds. Second, they were (and are) called Sapienze, because they were made by nuns of the Monastero della Sapienza.
      2 1/2 cups (250 g) flour
      9 ounces (250 grams, or about a cup) good honey
      1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
      1/4 pound (100 g) chopped almonds
      Diced candied orange peel, melon peel, and citron
      A mixture of ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
      A pinch of bicarbonate
      Combine the almonds, citron, orange peel, and melon peel with the flour, and then heat the honey over a gentle flame.

      Meanwhile, make a mound of the flour and scoop a well into it, and preheat your oven to 340 F (170 C).

      As soon as the honey has heated and become liquid stir it into the flour, together with a pinch of bicarbonate and a teaspoon of the mixed spices, and work the dough until it is smooth and uniform.

      Roll the dough out into a 3/4-inch (2 cm) thick snake. Cut it into sections about 8 inches long and shape them into an S shape, pressing on them gently to flatten them slightly, and arrange them on a greased and floured cookie sheet. Bake then 15-20 minutes. Cool them on a rack, and they're done.

      Several Notes:
      Susamielli are dipping cookies, and come out quite hard -- a Neapolitan site says a prova di denti, which roughly translates as impervious to teeth. You'll want to dip them in either a sweet dessert wine, coffee, or a caffelatte.
      Sapienze, the Susamielli made by the nuns of the Convento della Sapienza, are dotted with whole almonds.
      Susamielli taste wonderful but eating them takes work, and because of this Neapolitans will call a serious, standoffish person who has a hard time socializing a Susamiello.

      1. re: Fleur

        REGARDING:I am looking for a recipe for an Italian (from Sicily, I think) Christmas cookie recipe--- I am searaching for a receipe of the following ingredients which makes a Walnut Crescent Cookie, all I know it has Buttered Flavored Crisco, Yeast, Cake Flour and walnuts. I don't know what else goes in there. It was from a family of Sicillian descent, but in searching the Internet, I found similar ingredients from Middle Eastern & Hungry but since either one or more of the ingredients were missing, I am not sure they will come out the same and also, I found the preparation of the walnut filling to be different, some used a stove top preparation and others just added some type of shortening to condense the walnuts.
        I know how to make the crescents, but using a glass once the dough is rolled out, laying the nut filling in the center and just barely bringing up the dough to meet in the middle so that the ends are exposed of the walnut filling. Thank you...

        1. re: Diamonds07407

          Thank you all for your responses: However, this is not a hard biscotti like cookie. After baking, this cookie is very light, airy/flaky with the walnut filling placed inside the circle, pulling the left over to the center, the right over to the center, wetting the dough to seal and then gently pulling each end to form a crescent.
          I can't believe this recipe is 'to die for' and they won't give it up, will take it to their grave. they cant be the ONLY family who makes it.

      2. I wonder if your little cookie might be a biscotti. They seem like they fit your descriptions. Here is a cinnamon sugar biscotti recipe. Have a look at it. If it is not it, I will ask around. It is the intricate twisting that has me stumped.

        2 cups all purpose flour
        2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
        1 teaspoon baking powder
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
        6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
        2 large eggs
        1 large egg yolk
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract

        Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add 1 egg; beat well. Add egg yolk; beat well. Mix in vanilla, then dry ingredients.

        Transfer dough to work surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into 9-inch-long, 1 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer logs to baking sheets. Beat remaining egg in small bowl. Brush logs with egg. Bake until golden and firm to touch (dough will spread), about 50 minutes. Cool on baking sheets. Maintain oven temperature.

        Mix 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl to blend. Using serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch-wide diagonal slices. Place biscotti, cut side down, on baking sheets. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon sugar over each biscotti. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on racks.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Wanda Fuca

          Re-read the description, it's more like some kind of Christmas wreath sculpted from cookie dough. You couldn't make that out of biscotti dough since it's not mallable between the first and second baking.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Is there a reason a log or disk cannot be manipulated before the first bake? Nope. There is NO LAW saying that. If it were me and I was trying to duplicate something I loved I would give it a go. I would play with the dough and the oven temperatures to see what I could do with it. I think I would call it getting creative.

            1. re: Wanda Fuca

              This sort of cookie sculpture requires a dense, slightly sticky dough that you can mold like clay. The biscotti recipes I've used make dough that's too soft for that kind of handling--I thought that's what you meant by "the intricate twisting has me stumped."

          2. re: Wanda Fuca

            Could this possibly be an Italian Love Knot?

            Here is the website with the recipe:


            1. re: jaynev68

              My aunts made this recipe with anise extract in the glaze. It was the source of a favorite childhood joke:
              What are these cookies?
              They're knot cookies.
              If they're not cookies, then what are they?
              Sorry- I got carried away! But try the anise.

              1. re: eimac

                I think what you are referring to are Engenetta. They are hard cookies -- very crumbly -- with a glaze on top with little candy dots sprinkled on. They were my mother's favorite, and I haven't made them in years, though I did find a version in a bakery on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. It is an unusual cookie recipe because it contains so much baking powder and you actually have to knead the dough. The cookie is somewhat hard but also crumbly. You could make any shape you want with it. Here is the recipe I got many years ago from one of my mother's ancient cousins:


                4 cups flour
                1/4 lb. butter
                6 tsp of baking powder
                orange or anise flavor
                1 cup of sugar.

                Mix sugar & eggs. Cream in melted butter. Add flour and balance of ingredients. Knead until dough is pliable. Roll into ropes and make ropes into crossed circles. Bake at 325 degrees until lightly browned. Ice with a mixture of confectioner's sugar and wither lemon or orange juice. Sprinkle with colored dots.

                1. re: roxlet

                  I noticed that eggs are needed for this cookie -no mention of how many eggs.

                  1. re: ginflego

                    Oops, sorry for that, but I am in Cairo and the recipe is in NY, so the number of eggs will have to wait until mid-December!

                    1. re: roxlet

                      i think these are like my Nonna would love to make these for Christmas....wondering how many eggs are needed....cant wait to hear from you...Thank you

                      1. re: jerilynn

                        I just looked through my old recipe file, and I cannot find that recipe anywhere. I will continue looking, but I am not sure where else it would be. I will be very, very upset if I cannot find it. Off the top of my head, I would say that since it is a dry-ish dough (not like a chocolate chip cookie, for example), I would say 3 eggs would probably be the right number. The chocolate chip cookie recipe I use calls for 2 eggs for 2 1/4 cups of flour, and you could never roll it into ropes, so I think 2 eggs would probably be the right number.

            2. re: Wanda Fuca

              FWIW, Wanda, what you (and almost everybody in the States) know as biscotti are, I believe, called cantucci (or cantuccini) in Italy. Biscotti is a very generic term that could refer to lots of cookies.

            3. If it's a Sicilian cookie, I'd be very surprised if it had butter in it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bropaul

                Hi, my family is from Caserta around Naples and Calabria (father's side) Mother's side - up North a little more. This Italian Love Knot (Tarilli) Recipe is from my grandmother on my father's side. It is very simple and bropaul is correct, she didn't use any butter-maybe a little wine. I lost her exact recipe but found this one and it is very close. Of course we double and triple it. 1/4 cup olive oil
                4 cups flour
                6 eggs (make a well and add slowly)
                1/8 teaspoon baking powder
                little wine , little milk
                Let rise a little while.
                Take a piece of dough, roll like a pencil, make a loose knot. Bake til bottom is brown 350. Dough should stick to hands a little (put flour on hands)
                For the frosting
                Milk and Powdered Sugar and glaze.
                They are simple and delicious with coffee.

              2. thanks for the information. I might try your recipe for cinnamon sugar biscotti and then attempt to form the dough into my crazy cookie shapes. wish me luck!

                1 Reply
                1. re: tartetatin

                  Good luck! A true chowhound... if it works can you post it? I might give it a whirl.

                2. The original comment has been removed