Italy Sesinelli - A Family Cookie Recipe

Maria Iacobelli is a passionate baker and when I asked her for a treasured cookie recipe for the holidays, it was only a matter of which one she would bake us. She decided it should be Sesinelli, truly a family recipe. Sesinelli are like soft biscotti, “ for people who want to keep their teeth,” Maria said with a wink. It is a family recipe brought from Vicalvi, Italy, to Canada by her late aunt Anna (Iacobelli) Fazio. “You can mix up the liquors but in honor of La Befana one of them must be Strega.” Strega—Italian for witch—is an Italian herbal liqueur that gets its yellow color from saffron. In Italian folklore, La Befana is an old lady (also known as the Christmas witch) who brings gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5).
Photography By Jenn Duncan | November 30, 2016

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Line baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.

Mix all ingredients except the flour in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon to stir after adding each ingredient. The mixture will be very wet.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in flour 1 cup at a time. Keep adding the flour until mixture becomes a dough. It should be slightly sticky but easy to work with.

Dust a workspace with flour and divide the dough into 16 pieces. Form each piece into a roll as long as your baking sheet and about 2 inches wide. Place roll onto the lined sheet, and press down to 1-inch thickness.

Bake at 350° for 20–25 minutes.

Place on wire rack to cook. Using a serrated knife, cut cooled Sesinelli crosswise into approximately ½-inch-wide slices.

Dipping (optional)

For dipping, melt the chocolate in a metal bowl placed over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate and place on a clean parchment-lined baking sheet to set. You can also use a pastry brush.

Tip: Dunk these in sweet wine like Vin Santo, or in espresso!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound jar honey (bold-tasting)
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 16 ounces good-quality sweet wine
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 pound hazelnuts: roasted, skin removed and chopped
  • 1 pound almonds: roasted, skin removed and chopped
  • 1 good pinch cinnamon
  • 16 ounces liqueur (mix of Strega, Crème de Cacao and Frangelico)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla (liquid or powder)
  • 4–6 ounces ground espresso
  • 8–10 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (optional)
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