While my husband and I were traveling in Europe a few summers ago we had the most amazing dinner at a little restaurant in Venice, Al Paradiso. The place was tucked away in a dark side street, and you wouldn’t even know it was there unless you went looking for it. We sat outside and enjoyed homemade pasta and house-made wine. At the end of the meal our server brought us each a small cookie in the shape of an “S”. They had a slight crunch and a hint of lemon. I fell in love.
The next day I sought them out at a local bakery and bought a few bags, but they didn’t last long. I searched far and wide for a recipe and was happy to finally find one from Martha Stewart. I made them once last year as part of one of my Project Food Blog Challenges, but that post barely talked about the cookies, and they definitely deserve a post all of their own.
I can’t find much information on these cookies, except that they are popular in parts of Italy and other parts of Europe, especially around holidays like Easter and Christmas. My internet digging turned up that the “S” shape could be because they are also known as Susamielli cookies and covered in sesame seeds and Sapienze cookies, named for the nuns of Monastero della Sapienze who make them.
Personally, I think the “S” is for scrumptious, because that’s what they are. They’re very simple and perfect alongside coffee or tea, but I also enjoy them all by themselves.
When I first learned of the Food Blogger Cookie swap hosted by Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen a few months ago, I signed up without hesitation. I liked the idea of sending and receiving cookies from fellow food bloggers around the country. And because I didn’t want my gift to be just another batch of chocolate chip cookies, these Venice Butter Cookies immediately came to mind.
I sent a dozen each off to Kate of Kate’s Ideas, and Jewel of Eat. Drink. Shop. Love., and Christina of Sweet Lavender Bake Shop. And I received delicious cookies from Tanvi of The Hathi Cooks and Deanna of Silly Goose Farm (not sure what happened to the third dozen). It was so fun coming home to find their packages on my doorstep, which were obviously baked and sent with love.
If you want to participate in the cookie swap next year, you can receive upcoming information by submitting your email address here.
Venice Butter Cookies (Citrus Butter Cookies)
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 2 dozen cookies
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (141 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 (270 grams) sugar
1 tablespoons citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
6 large egg yolks
3 cups (372 grams) all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the zest, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined.
Add the egg yolks one at time, mixing after each. Add the flour one cup at a time, mixing after each until just combined.
Roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball, then roll the ball into a long rope shape about 6 inches long. Shape into an “S” shape and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake 12-15 minutes, or until cookies just begin to turn golden on the edges. Do not over bake. Cool on a wire rack.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days.