Befanini cookies are traditional biscuits of northern Tuscany prepared during the Christmas season. They are cute, colorful, and delicious. With all those rainbow sugar crystals they make people just by looking at them.
We usually bake Befanini the day before Epiphany, or La Befana as we call it in Italy. Making these colored biscuits is like the last ray of light and joy before the cold grey winter and the upcoming return to normal life after the Christmas holidays.
The name Befanini comes from the Befana. She is the ugly old woman who flies into the dark skies on her broomstick on the night of January 5. Slightly more like Santa Claus, she brings children stockings filled with candy or coal.
Usually, La Befana fills a sock hung above the fireplace with her presents. In the past, during hard economic times, many poor families could not afford to buy toys and candies for their children. For this reason, they used to fill their Epiphany stockings with simple cookies like Befanini, nuts, and tangerines.
Befanini Cookies. Memories of my childhood
When I was a kid, my sisters and I used to help our mother make Befanini cookies. With the end of the Christmas vacation, this was the opportunity to preserve some of the sweetest moments we experienced together during Christmas for the next days when we had to go back to school. In those days, we used to have Befanini for breakfast with a mug of milk. We also had them as a morning snack once back to school the days after Epiphany day.
I know that is not so common to celebrate Epiphany abroad. It is a Christian feast day, sometimes known as Three King’s Day. But you can still prepare Befanini cookies for your kids. They will love them for their colors and flavor. And it is also an opportunity to share some aspects of the Italian tradition and lifestyle with your friends and relatives.
The recipe for Befanini Cookies
Searching online, you will find a lot of Befanini recipes. Every family has its special customization, handed down from one generation to another. But the basic ingredients are the same for every version: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and a pinch of salt.
Below is my mum’s Befanini cookies recipe. It is very easy to make, and you can involve your children in the preparation. In this case, maybe it is better to avoid the use of rum.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour 500 g
- 1,5 cup sugar 300 g
- 1/3 cup butter 150 g
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tbsp rum
- 3 Tbsp milk only if needed to softner the dough
- 1 grated rind of orange
- 1 yolk to brush the cookies
- rainbow sugar crystal
- Sift the flour in a bowl, and put in the center the soft butter cut into small pieces, the sugar, and eggs.
- Use your hands to knead. Add the orange rind, the baking powder, and the rum (avoid it if you are preparing them for kids). If needed, a little at a time add also the milk and knead until you obtain a smooth and homogeneous mixture.
- Create a ball of dough with your hands and cover it with the clingfilm. Let it rests in the refrigerator for half an hour.
- After this time roll out the dough with a thickness of about 5 - 7 mm / 0.20 - 0.27 inches and make the Befanini cookies with the appropriate molds. I chose classic stars, comet stars, hearts, little flowers, but you can do them any way you like. Depending on the size of molds, you should be able to make about 50 cookies.
- Cover a baking tray with baking paper and place the biscuits. Brush them with the yolk and cover them with colored sprinkles.
- Bake in the oven already hot and static at 180°C/350°F for 10/15 minutes.
Befanini cookies are only one of the cakes of the Christmas tradition of Tuscany. Have you ever heard about Panforte, Ricciarelli, and Panpepato? If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the post we dedicated to the Tuscan Christmas cakes.
Enjoy and let us know how you liked them!