Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

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This is an Italian cookie recipe. Translation: the recipe is very large!

These cookies make ANY day feel like a special occasion. Growing up Italian meant that we enjoyed these cookies as part of a large cookie tray for Christmas, other holidays, or family weddings.

I would say that a little bit of cookie dunking is allowed here once these cookies are ready, as these are great “dunkers” no matter what occasion is being celebrated!

I use our Grandmother Greco’s family recipe for these cookies, but I have made some changes to suit our family’s taste. We like the taste of real butter instead of vegetable oil, making it a bit more time consuming, as the dough is chilled to keep the shape perfect, but the extra time is worth it.

I also add orange zest, which really gives the cookie a little something extra. Additionally, I like to form the cookies into different shapes, rolling them into extra sesame seeds rather than using additional flour for rolling out the somewhat sticky dough. This yields a tender, buttery cookie that has a nice crisp texture. I usually make S-Shaped cookies, love knots, ( braided wreaths), and various twisted sticks. This makes for a nice variety on a plate.

This recipe makes between 9 -12 dozens of cookies, depending on what size and what shapes are made, but they keep for a few weeks at room temperature, and they also freeze very well. Make the whole recipe and they will last the whole holiday season – usually!

I have a few tips for saving time and insuring success when making big batches of our Italian cookies:

Tip #1: I bought 4 very large cooling racks, which take up my whole counter, allowing the batches to cool without having to worry about enough space.

Tip #2: I bought three very large cookie sheets that do not have edges so that the cookies can easily be pushed off the sheet without breakage. These are large enough to hold 2 or 3 dozen cookies, so less batches are baked in the long run. Using the 3rd cookie sheet makes it so I always have the extra cookie sheet ready with cookies from the fridge once I take one sheet out of the oven and move the bottom sheet to the top oven shelf.21-fullsheetcirclecookiesTip #3: I use two or three other large cookie sheets WITH sides to hold the cookies as I roll and form them. Once a sheet is full, I cover it with waxed paper and store them in the fridge until all of the cookies have been formed. Since the cookies are all ready to bake, if I run out of time, I can always continue to bake later that day or within a few days.19-emptysheetwaxedpaperTip #4: Put on some favorite music, and sit down to roll out the cookies. Think of it as relaxing therapy! They take a while to roll out and form into shapes, but sitting down makes the experience much less tiring. Sing along and enjoy the ambiance!

Tip #5: Make a test batch of cookies. Once the cookies are done, pour a cup of coffee and a make a plate of cookies for yourself, for the sake of quality control, of course.  Really, you want to make sure that the timing for the various shapes of cookies is just right! It is a welcome reward that guarantees perfection! Everyone’s oven bakes differently, so my times may not work for your oven. Make a test batch, enjoy it, and modify according to your oven’s temperature.

redplaidplateofcookiesandcup

The procedure and step by step photos come first, but the full recipe without photos is listed below all of the photos to make it easier to print. Hopefully, the detail that I provide gives even first timers a good visual for making picture perfect cookies without making it too complicated! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

cups butter (3 sticks) – room temperature

3 cups sugar

Zest of 2 or 3 oranges – room temperature

4 large eggs – room temperature

2/3 cup whole milk – room temperature

4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (yes, that really is TABLEspoons)

¼ -1/2  teaspoon salt ( I like the lesser amount of salt)

2 tablespoons baking powder

7 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (measure carefully – level measure

1 pound bag of white sesame seeds * sesame note below – I use Bob’s Red Mill brand

Procedure:

Get up early, and put the butter, oranges, milk, and eggs on the counter so that they all come to room temperature before starting the recipe.  Have a few cups of coffee and enjoy the morning sun!  The butter is soft enough when a finger pressed into the butter leaves an indentation.1-roomtemperature

  1. Cream together room temperature butter, sugar, and orange zest until the color is light yellow and the mixture is smooth and fluffy. If using a stand mixer, use speed 4 for about 2 minutes, then scrape down bowl and do another 2 minutes. Increase to speed 6, and repeat this process for 1 minute at a time to get the mix smooth and fluffy. The mixture should not be gritty, just creamy – then it’s been beaten long enough.2-lightandfluffybatter
    1. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix briefly until each egg is incorporated.
    1. Pour the vanilla extract into the milk.
    1. Sift dry ingredients together, then alternate adding some dry mix and then milk into the mixing bowl, blending until flour mix is just incorporated. Do not over-beat. Use a low speed for at least the first several additions. Finish by hand for the last addition of flour so as not to over-beat.
    1. Dough will be sticky but don’t add more flour. Spread the dough into a flat layer in a cake pan so that it chills faster. Put the uncovered pan into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If keeping it in there overnight, cover loosely with waxed paper, otherwise, leave it uncovered.batterspreadinpan
    2. Cut the chilled dough into strips about an inch wide. Take one strip out of the fridge at a time BUT if it is hot and humid, just take out about 1/3 of a stick at a time. Dough gets sticky in humid weather.3-batteringlasspancutinstrips
    3. Sprinkle the counter with sesame seeds. Roll each (1/3 sized) section of the strip into a light layer of sesame seeds, making a thin rope shape. Add additional seeds to help with the stickiness as you roll. Don’t use extra flour or cookies won’t be as tender.6-howtorollouttheyield
    4. Cut the rope into pieces. See the various size suggestions listed below for each shape. It is easier to judge the size by looking at the photos. NOTE: Exact sizes don’t matter – it is all what you like. I list my sizes to provide as much detail as I can to have mine replicated. 5-howtorolloutcookie27-howtorolloutthecookie
  1.  Help with Forming the Cookies:S-ShapeCut the rolled rope into sections about 4 to 5 inches long. Form the shape into an S, and then push together, or roll each end in a curlicue shape if the piece is thin and longer. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet. Notice in the 4th S Shaped photo below, the S shapes can be different sizes and intricacy.8-SCookielenght 9-firstSShapedforming 10-Scookieonepartcurled 11-Scurvefinished13-curlshapedSFor the twisted sticks, the love knots, or the wreaths, cut the section 6 or 7 inches long.Twisted stick: Make a U-shape, then either fold one “leg” over the other, or pick up and twirl one around the other. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.14-twistedstartofloop15-twistedstartedoneover16-twistcompletedLove knot or wreath: First make the twisted stick, and then bend it around to attach the two ends together. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.17-roundtwistedcookiealmostclosed18-roundtwistedcookieraw22-circlebraidsamplecookieThese are some of the baked cookies to show what they look like with various twists and turns.24-plateofallshapes
    1. Form ALL of the cookies before starting to bake them. Line them up on a cookie sheet, and then put the sheet in the fridge again for at least 30 minutes to keep cookies from spreading in the oven. I almost always let cookies chill a few hours, or overnight, in the fridge, lightly covered with waxed paper. ***See dough note below.
    1. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375º, and transfer only enough cookies to fill the one cookie sheet. Keep the rest in the fridge until the next batch. If using the really large cookie sheets like mine, I can bake between 30 and 36 cookies at one time. The cookies do not spread very much if they are well chilled, so they can be placed a few inches apart.20--roundcookiesreadytobake
    1. Preheat oven to 375º and bake for a total of 7 or 8 minutes total. I usually bake each tray 4 minutes on middle oven shelf and then transfer the pan to a higher shelf for 3 or 4 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back.  I then add another tray to the middle shelf while the top shelf bakes. The color should be very light – like sugar cookies. ***See Time note below for more suggestions.

Transfer to wire rack immediately to cool if they are already pretty firm. The love knots, wreaths, and sticks may need a minute or two on the sheet to firm up a bit before transferring them, but if using the same cookie sheets that I use, just push the cookies onto the cooling rack. Cookies burn easily if they are left on the hot pan.23-pushoffcookiesheet

Use only COLD, UNGREASED cookie sheets. Rinse them off with cold water between batches to insure that they are cold and to clean for the next batch.

In this photo, notice that the color of the cookies is very light. Keeping the cookies cold and the cookie sheets cold is essential to consistent timing.plateofScookiesreallyprettylotsofplate

Baking Notes:

*How Many Sesame Seeds To Buy: This is not an exact measurement, but it is less expensive to buy the big bag of Bob’s Red Mill than to buy the little bottles in the baking aisle. The greater the humidity, the greater the amount of seeds needed to make the dough easier to shape and handle. I usually buy two big bags, just in case, but one bag usually does the trick. It saves a second trip to the store, and I use them in other recipes.

**The dough can stay in the fridge for 3 or 4 days without a problem.  I often keep the formed cookies in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning to take a break. Sometimes it takes me a few days to bake them all, and they always turn out just fine. Be sure to keep them covered with waxed paper in the fridge if they are to be in there overnight.

***Cooking time varies, depending on the size and shape of the cookie and different ovens. Keep the color very light – almost white – like sugar cookies, not golden brown. Make a test batch and write down the time that works for your setup. Always keep the cookies in the fridge until each cold cookie sheet is filled to achieve consistent results.

Storage: Store in an airtight container to keep them softer, or layer them up in a glass cookie jar. Use waxed paper in between the layers of cookies. I like to use a pinking scissors to cut the waxed paper into pretty shapes.cookiejarThese cookies stay in a glass cookie jar for about 2 weeks at room temperature. They become a bit more firm after the first week, but are enjoyable with the change in texture as well! These jars are not air tight, so moisture doesn’t build up in the jar as long as cookies are thoroughly cooled before putting them in the jars. Keep the cookies away from direct sunlight or heat vents.

Freeze cookies in any airtight container, with waxed paper in between each layer. When thawing them, take the lid off the container to let the moisture evaporate and keep the cookies crisper.

Here is the recipe without the photos and extra tips

Italian Sesame Cookies by HappyHoursTech

Ingredients:

cups butter (3 sticks) – room temperature

3 cups sugar

Zest of 2 or 3 oranges – room temperature

4 large eggs – room temperature

2/3 cup whole milk – room temperature

4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (yes, that really is TABLEspoons)

¼ -1/2  teaspoon salt ( I like the lesser amount of salt)

2 tablespoons baking powder

7 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (measure carefully – level measure

1 pound bag of white sesame seeds * sesame note below – I use Bob’s Red Mill brand

Procedure:

1.  Cream together room temperature butter, sugar, and orange zest until the color is light yellow and the mixture is smooth and fluffy. If using a stand mixer, use speed 4 for about 2 minutes, then scrape down bowl and do another 2 minutes. Increase to speed 6, and repeat this process for 1 minute at a time to get the mix smooth and fluffy. The mixture should not be gritty, just creamy – then it’s been beaten long enough.

2.  Add eggs, one at a time, and mix briefly until each egg is incorporated.

3.  Pour the vanilla extract into the milk.

4.  Sift dry ingredients together, then alternate adding some dry mix and milk into the mixing bowl, blending until flour mix is just incorporated. Do not over-beat. Use a low speed for at least the first several additions. Finish by hand for the last addition of flour so as not to over-beat.

5.  Dough will be sticky but don’t add more flour. Spread the dough into a flat layer in a cake pan so that it chills faster. Put the uncovered pan into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If keeping it in there overnight, cover loosely with waxed paper.

6.  Cut the chilled dough into strips about an inch wide. Take one strip out of the fridge at a time BUT if it is hot and humid, just take out about 1/3 of a stick at a time. Dough gets sticky in humid weather.

7.  Sprinkle the counter with sesame seeds. Roll each (1/3 sized) section of the strip into a light layer of sesame seeds, making a thin rope shape. Add additional seeds to help with the stickiness as you roll. Don’t use extra flour or cookies won’t be as tender.

8.  Cut the rope into pieces. See the various size suggestions listed below for each shape.

Help with Forming the Cookies:

S-ShapeCut the rolled rope into sections about 4 to 5 inches long. Form the shape into an S, and then push together, or roll each end in a curlicue shape if the piece is thin and longer. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet

For the twisted sticks, the love knots, or the wreaths, cut the section 6 or 7 inches long.

Twisted stick: Make a U-shape, then either fold one “leg” over the other, or pick up and twirl one around the other. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.

Love knot or wreath: First make the twisted stick, and then bend it around to attach the two ends together. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.

Baking Procedure:

  1. Form ALL of the cookies before starting to bake them. Line them up on a cookie sheet, and then put the sheet in the fridge again for at least 30 minutes to keep them from spreading in the oven. I almost always let them sit a few hours, or overnight, in the fridge, lightly covered with waxed paper. ***See dough note below
  1. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375º, and transfer only enough cookies to fill the one cookie sheet. Keep the rest in the fridge until the next batch. If using the really large cookie sheets like mine, I can bake between 30 and 36 cookies at one time. The cookies do not spread very much if they are well chilled, so they can be placed a few inches apart.
  2. Preheat oven to 375º and bake for a total of 7 or 8 minutes total. I usually bake each tray 4 minutes on middle oven shelf and then transfer the pan to a higher shelf for 3 or 4 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back.  Then I add another tray to the middle shelf while the top shelf bakes.
  3. Transfer to wire rack immediately to cool if they are already pretty firm. The love knots, wreaths, and sticks may need a minute or two on the sheet to firm up a bit before transferring them, but if using the same cookie sheets that I use, just push the cookies onto the cooling rack.

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  1. #1 by paulettemotzko on December 15, 2014 - 4:27 AM

    Reblogged this on Las Vegas Cool & Easy Cooking.

    Liked by 1 person

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