Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ciao Bella: The Delights of Delectable Venice; "Mi Scusi Cameriere, There's a Cookie in My Cappuccino!"

One of my favorite places is Venice, Italy. Over the years I've heard some acquaintances complain about the 'city of bridges:' "It smells bad in the summer," "There's sewage and garbage floating in the canals,"  "There are no cars, you have to walk everywhere." I can honestly say I've never had any of these experiences except for walking everywhere though that might be the thing I like the most!
My husband, myself and some friends have been there three times and each time seems more magical than the last. The food, the music, the Churches, the canals are stuff of dreams and I think about returning to the city often.

The undisputed center of Venice is the Piazza San Marco. There, in the shadow of the great St. Marks and the Triumphal Quadriga (or Horses of St Mark's) set into the facade of the Basilica, are several grand cafes. In the evening, Venetians and tourists (ok, probably mostly tourists) flock to the indoor and outdoor tables to absorb the fabulous music, sip the coffee, and enjoy each other's company....and did I forget to mention, savor the pastries? I've included some websites of some of the most popular of the San Marco establishments for you to salivate over!



Last week, I came across a recipe for Venetian Butter cookies in a July 2000 Martha Stewart Living magazine. Continuing my Easter cookie quest, these 'S' shaped treats seemed like an interesting candidate for a tryout especially if they created a sense of the Italian city. As I usually do, I looked to see if there was a historical significance to them but finding nothing I decided the purpose was just to enjoy the sweet scent that wafted through the house as they were baking, as I did. These cookies are made for dunking in your caffè latte..... It's not a suggestion but a command!

Venetian Butter Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large egg yolks
3 cups all-purpose flour

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. Beat on medium until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, lemon zest, and salt, combining. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, Reduce speed to low, and add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating until fully combined.
  • Roll a walnut-size piece of dough into a ball, then roll out into a rope about 3 inches long and 1/4 inch in diameter. Shape into a decorative S. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake until firm, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Note: My cookies were only slightly 'S shaped (see photo) but in think they should have formed a tighter letter. My batter was a bit dry and I might have added more softened butter to get a more moist consistency. No matter, they were delicious. These cookies are sweet but not overly, so when they were cooled, I sprinkled them with powdered sugar.

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