Monday, December 17, 2012

Recipe for Succ-Essi! Mi Amore: Venetian Essi Cookies

This blog post is brought to you by the letter 'S'.....that's Essi in Italiano.

My office is having a cookie exchange tomorrow, and in addition to my standard contribution-- Pizzelles (My Italian grandmother Nelda's recipe):

...I decided to try a new recipe.  The Essi Cookie!

It was 12 years ago that my love affair began with Essi, a real tough cookie with a long history!  Girl goes to Italy. Girl lays eyes on Essi. Girl falls madly in love with Essi at first bite.  Girl brings back Essi to the US.  Girl keeps Essi in a special cookie stash.  When Girl reaches for another Essi, she sees Essi is no longer there.  Girl is heart-broken!

Since the Essi cookie is a very special cookie that is indigenous to the island of Burano (just outside of Venice), I'm betting that not too many folks are aware of its charms.  My grandmother's pizzelle cookies are always a crowd-pleaser with my officemates, but I really wanted to knock their socks off and impress them with this exotic Italian biscotti delicacy!

I researched around the interwebs looking for recipes, and remarkably found a few!  Heck!  Even Martha Stewart has one...although she labels it the very anglo-fied 'Venetian Butter Cookies'.  I did stumble upon a recipe that sounded perfect, and from a gal whose last name ended in a vowel...a good sign!  So I picked Mary Melfi's recipe for Essi cookies from Italy Revisited, and off I went!

I followed the recipe pretty much to the 'T' is it 'S' in this case?  There were a few manipulations I made in the ingredients and technique, but here's my version of the recipe:

Note, I made my 'Essi' cookies at about 2" wide by 3" high and was able to get about 36 cookies out of these ingredients below:

  • 6 egg yolks (reserve 2 egg whites for the wash)
  • 3 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted butter (Mary's recipe called for 1/2 cup..but I added more to make the dough a little softer)
  • Juice of one small Lemon
  • Grated Lemon Rind of Small Lemon mixed with 2 tablespoons of Sugar (Mary's recipe called for Lemon zest, I ended up grating the lemon rind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Eggwhite Wash for tops of cookies:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Mix well

Instructions and technique:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream the egg yolks & sugar with a mixer.

Slowly add the butter, flour, lemon juice, sugar lemon zest mixture, vanilla extract, baking powder, and salt.  Work into a cookie dough.  When I first made this, as I said, I followed the recipe's ingredients and used 1/2 cup of melted butter.  The dough was way too stiff, so I added 1/4 cup more of melted butter and it softened the dough perfectly.

Shape the dough into 3 balls and wrap them in clear plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Start with one of the dough balls and cut it into about 9- 12 sections.  Take each section and roll it into a ball that will be about the size of a walnut or a little bigger.  Roll each of these balls out into 'snakes' at about 3-4" long.

Take your dough snakes...or as my gal Kitty Lydia G calls them 'hot dogs'....and form them into 'S' shapes.

It's ok if the dough breaks just a little.  That's just the nature of it.  I also smoosh the Essi's down, just a little bit, to flatten them- but not like a pancake.  You still want these cookies to have a puffy shape.

Place on a cookie sheet that's been buttered up.  Or if you have those fancy silicon baking mats to line it could use that, too.

Apply your Eggwhite Wash mixture with a brush to the tops of the cookies and sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top.

Bake in the oven at 350 degree for about 11-12 minutes.  Once the Essi's have puffed up and their edges have turned've hit the jackpot!

Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.  Repeat all the steps above with the remaining balls of dough wrapped in plastic.

And voila.....Essi Cookies!   For my first attempt, I think I definitely 'Hit it with my best shot'!  Take that, Essi!
(nom, nom, nom!)

The cookie texture will be hard and is perfect to dunk into coffee, tea, vino santo....even Limoncello!

Buona Fortuna in the Cucina, ya'll!

Brava, Brava!


  1. Brava!! Brava! Indeed!!! Hehe... Hot dogs!! Love ya gal!

  2. Hi...I've been looking for a recipe for these cookies for a quite a while...found one and it wasn't quite right...I'll try this one but was wondering how much flour and is it corn flour? Thanks!

    1. Diana- thank you for your comment. Wow, I can't believe I left off the flour, one of the key ingredients. I used all-purpose white flour- 3 cups - for this recipe.
      Good luck and tell me how they turn out for you!! best, Stephanie