Italian Epiphany - Befanini

It is interesting to discover the various traditions of the Christmas season from around the world. My interest in Italian culture increased this year since my daughter spent a semester abroad in Florence. The Italians have the tradition of La Befana, the old woman. In folklore, Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of Epiphany (Jan. 6th) to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. The name Befana is derived from the word epifania, the Italian name for Epiphany (Greek). One traditional treat made for Epiphany in Italy, particularly Tuscany region, is a sugar cookie called Befanini.

Befanini - Italian Epiphany Sugar Cookie

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½  cups sugar
  • 6 ounces butter (softened)
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 3 eggs plus 1 for the egg wash
  • Zest of half lemon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoon of Sambuca or Rum
  • multicolored sprinkles

In mixing bowl, combine the flour and the sugar.  Add the softened butter and mix.  Add the eggs and continue mixing.  Now add the lemon zest, the baking powder, the salt and the liqueur.  Mix on medium speed adding the milk as necessary to make a smooth dough.  

Transfer the dough to floured pastry board and knead to form a ball.  Wrap the dough and refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven at 350 degree.  Add flour to working surface and around your rolling pin. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters in different shapes to cut your cookies.  Stars are especially appropriate for Epiphany.

Place on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Make an egg wash with one egg and a bit of milk. Brush the cookies with the egg wash mixture and add sprinkles.

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 until nice gold color.  Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.  Makes about 5 dozen.
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