Befanini cookies are traditional biscuits of northern Tuscany baked during Christmas time. They are lovely, colored, and delicious. With all those rainbow sugar crystals they make you happy only by looking at them.
We usually prepare Befanini the day before Epiphany, or La Befana as we call it in Italy. Make these colored biscuits is like the last ray of light and joy before the upcoming return to normal life after the Christmas holidays.
The name Befanini comes from the Befana. She is the old ugly lady that the night of the 5th January flies into the dark skies on her broomstick. A bit more like Santa, she brings stockings full of candies or charcoal to the kids.
Usually, La Befana fills a stocking hung above the fireplace with her presents. In the past, during economically tough, many poor families could not afford to buy toys and candies for their children. So, they used to fill Epiphany stockings with simple cookies like Befanini, walnuts, and tangerines.
Read more about the tradition of La Befana here.
Befanini Cookies. Memories of my childhood
When I was a kid, my sisters and I used to help our mother to prepare Befanini cookies. With the end of the holidays, this was the opportunity to hold some of the sweetest moments we had together during Christmas for the following days when we had to go back to school. Those days, we used to have Befanini for breakfast with a mug of milk. We also had them as a morning snack once back at 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 the colors and taste. And it is also the opportunity to share some aspects of the Italian tradition and lifestyle with your friends and relatives.
The recipe for Befanini Cookies
Searching online, you find a lot of Befanini recipes. Every family has its special customization, handed down from one generation to another. But basic ingredients are the same for every version: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, a pinch of salt.
Below is my mum’s Befanini recipe. It is very easy to make, and you can engage your children in the preparation. In this case, maybe it is better to avoid the use of rum.
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 are a glutton for cakes, don’t miss the post we dedicated to the Tuscan Christmas cakes.
Enjoy the making and let us know if you liked them!
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- 4 cup 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.