Sicilian Clove-Spiced Cookies recipe

Sicilian Clove-Spiced Cookies recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Biscuits and cookies
  • Cookies

When these cookies are baking, there will be a wonderful aroma emanating from your oven. They are the perfect cookies for Christmas and as food gifts.

5 people made this

IngredientsMakes: 30 cookies

  • 450g icing sugar
  • 310g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:15min ›Extra time:8hr resting › Ready in:8hr35min

  1. Sieve together the sugar, flour, baking powder and cloves. Make a well in the sugar mixture and pour the eggs into the well. Work the eggs into the mixture, first with a fork, then with your hands, until you have a smooth dough.
  2. Line a baking tray with foil. Roll dough into 2.5cm balls and place on the prepared baking tray, 5cm apart. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rest overnight. Cookies will spread.
  3. Preheat an oven to 180 C / Gas 4.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove cookies from tray immediately as they come out of the oven or they will stick. Cool completely on a wire rack.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(5)

Reviews in English (5)

by Tony

Just made a batch tonight! They taste EXACTLY like I remember...We weren't patient enough for them to cool...they were GONE before they became hard. LoL~ We added a light white glazing of confectioners sugar and lemon juice for a slightly different twist. THANK YOU for posting this recipe!-23 Oct 2009

by Julia

These came extremely hard. I may have done something wrong, but I am not sure what since I followed the recipe exactly.-16 May 2011

Sicilian Sesame Cookies: Biscotti Regina

A Sicilian classic! The various names for these cookies run the gamut from the elegant Biscotti Regina,“Queen’s cookie”, to the comical Strunzi di Sciocca, “Chicken’s Shit” to the slightly irreverent Strunzi d’Ancilu, “Angel’s shit”.

The outer sesame seed crunch goes oh-so-well with the satisfying moist lemony center. A fool-proof recipe that produces pastry-shop perfect cookies every time. You can make these cookies with butter, lard or olive oil. If you use lard, they’ll be crunchier, while butter or oil will give them a softer center. These cookies last wonderfully in the pantry for up to 6 weeks in an airtight container, like tupperware.

Be sure to toast the sesame seeds in a skillet until a dark golden color before adding them to the cookies because the sesame seeds don’t actually darken much while baking in the oven.

Mustazzoli-Sicilian Spice Cookies

Mustazzoli, mustazzoli, or mostaccioli are cookies, not to be confused with mostaccioli pasta. These cookies are traditionally served at Christmas time throughout southern Italy. The cookie has Arabic origins and dates to ancient Roman times where mustaceum cakes were made using grape must. The first step in winemaking is pressing the grapes with skin and all, the byproduct (grape juice) is referred to as must. Vino cotto (cooked wine), a molasses like syrup, is made from boiling down the grape must until it is thick. It’s a natural sweetener that has been around before sugar was introduced to the Mediterranean region. It is also called grape molasses. Sicilians use either vino cotto or honey to make these cookies. Grape molasses is available in Middle Eastern grocery or specialty food stores, or you can order it online. Some people also use unsulphured molasses as a substitute for vino cotto. It’s ok to use but the flavor tends to overpower the spices so I don’t recommend it.

There are infinite versions of this recipe, depending on the town or region. These are like German pfeffernusse cookies in that they contain black pepper and spices. My family rolls the cookies in sesame seeds before baking. But since I’m a chocoholic I prefer to cover them with a chocolate glaze.


Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

For the Cookie Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 tablespoons minced candied orange peel (optional)
1/3 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)
3/4 cup grape molasses or honey
1 egg, beaten

For the Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup warm water

MAKE THE DOUGH: In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, zest, spices, and salt. Rub in shortening using the palms of your hands. Stir in orange peel and almonds. Using your hands, mix in molasses and egg until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

BAKE THE COOKIES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease with shortening.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, roll dough into a 1-inch diameter rope.

Using a rolling pin, lightly roll it along the top of the dough to flatten into a 1/2-inch thick strip.

Make 1 1/2-inch wide diagonal cuts along the strip of dough to form diamond shapes.

Place cookies 1-inch apart on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake for approximately 18 to 20 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned on the bottom and along the edges. Remove cookies and place on cooling rack. Let cookies cool to room temperature.

MAKE THE GLAZE: Place cooling rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. The glaze will drip onto the paper making clean-up easier. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, and water, in a small saucepan. Set pan over low heat and cook for 4 minutes, stirring every so often. Transfer to a small bowl.

GLAZE THE COOKIES: While the glaze is warm, carefully dip the top of the cookie into the glaze and place right-side up on baking rack. Let cookies dry until glaze hardens, about 2 hours.

Sicilian Christmas Cookies

The cookie on the left is a cucidato , a traditional Sicilian Christmas cookie with a fig and dried/candied fruit filling enclosed in pasta frolla, the Italian sweet pastry dough. The one on the right is an X cookie, made from the same dough and filling and popular in pastry shops in Calabria and Sicily. The recipe makes quite a few cookies, and making some of each type is a little less labor intensive than making all cucidati.


These are a bit of a project to make, but are worth every minute of it. The filling may be prepared, covered, and refrigerated up to a week in advance, and the dough a couple of days before you form the cookies. The process of assembly is the most time-consuming part, though it goes quickly if you divide up the work among several people. Once baked, they keep well for a couple of weeks at a cool room temperature or they may be frozen.

4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

2 teaspoons baking powder

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 16 pieces

One 12-ounce package Calimyrna figs, stemmed and diced

1/4 cup dark or golden raisins

1/4 cup candied orange peel, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Egg wash: 1 large egg well beaten with a pinch of salt

Multicolored nonpareils for finishing

3 cookie sheets or jellyroll pans covered with parchment or foil

  1. To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 3 or 4 time to mix. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until it is finely mixed into the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball.
  2. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Form the dough into a fat cylinder and wrap it in plastic. Chill until you intend to prepare the cookies, up to 3 or 4 days.
  3. For the filling, combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well to mix. Scrape the filling into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse repeatedly until the filling is finely chopped and holding together, but not ground or pureed. Scrape the filling into a bowl, cover and reserve it. It keeps refrigerated for a week.
  4. To make the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator to a floured surface. Gently knead the dough to soften it until malleable. Roll the dough into a cylinder 15 inches long and cut it into 15 1-inch slices. Set them aside. Repeat with the filling, using a bit more flour on the surface.
  6. To form the cookies, clean the work surface and flour it lightly. Roll one of the pieces of dough under the palms of your hands until it is about 8 inches long. Flour under the dough again and use the palm of your hand to flatten it until it is about 3 inches wide – if you use a rolling pin for this, flour the top of the dough and don’t roll over the long edges or it will distort them. Slide a thin metal spatula under the strip of dough to make sure it isn’t stuck.
  7. Flour another part of the work surface and roll one of the pieces of filling under the palms of your hands until it is 8 inches long. If you do this behind the strip of dough, you can roll it right onto the dough without having to lift it. Center the filling on the dough and lightly egg wash the exposed edges of dough, using a brush. Draw the dough around the filling to enclose it and make a long cylinder. Roll the cylinder under the palms of your hands to lengthen it to about 12 inches, being careful not to point the ends while rolling.
  8. Use a paring knife to cut the cylinder into four 3-inch lengths.
  9. Seam side down, flatten each cookie slightly and slash the top diagonally in 4 or 5 places. Form the cookie into an arc so that the slashes open. Egg wash lightly, then sprinkle with the nonpareils. Arrange the cookies on one of the prepared pans and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
  10. Bake the cookies until they are golden and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, switch the pan from the lower rack to the upper on and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time. If your oven gives strong bottom heat, bake the pan on the lower rack stacked on another pan. Bake the remaining pan of cookies on the middle rack.
  11. Cool the cookies on the pans on racks.
  12. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

After step 8, make a 1-inch cut inward from each end of the cookie and gently pull the slashed areas open on each end to form an “X.” Bake and cool as above and dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Biscotti Reginella

If you have a stand mixer (KitchenAid PRO 500 Series 5-Quart Mixers) use the flat paddle to mix this up. You can also mix this up with your hands, but that will take a little longer. Combine in a large bowl the flour, sugar, and baking powder.

Cut in the butter until it’s incorporated into the flour mixture. Beat the milk, eggs and salt together. Add the liquid to the flour and mix until the dough comes together. Do not over mix.

The dough should be soft but hold together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours.

Cut the dough into four pieces. On a lightly floured board roll each piece into a log about the thickness of your thumb and 18 inches long. Cut the log into 3 inch pieces. You should get 6 pieces per log. Brush each piece with milk and roll in the sesame seeds to coat.

Place each cookie on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree over for 10 minuets, then reduce the heat to 300 and bake another 10-15 minuets, or until golden brown. Rotate the cookie sheet half way through so they brown evenly.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minuets before placing them on a rack to finish cooling. Once completely cooled you can store these cookies in an air tight container for at least two weeks. They freeze well for future guests.

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I am madly and passionately in love with Italy, its food, history, language and people. It thrills me to share my immense passion for Italy and its incredible food in stories and recipes here with all of you. Read more.

Love how easy these are to make! Perfect alongside my morning coffee!

I bet these are a lot of fun to make I’ll have to give these a try!

These sound like the perfect snack or dessert! I will have to make these with my kids!

Making these asap! Love the S shape of them!

These sound delicious! Dangerously good…

These were sooo very good. However, I need a recipe for Chocolate Chip Orange S Cookies. Do you have one.

Thank you, Patty! We could make some for Christmas!I will email you to see which ones exactly you are looking for!

I would like the recipie for Chico chip orange S cookies also. Marlene [email protected]

HI Marlene-we are working on it! Will keep you posted! XX

These are incredibly tasty cookies and very easy to make.
I tried with 1/2″ dough instead of 1″. The dough practically doubles when baked.
They yield a lot less than 40 cookies, more like 15.
Thank you!!

Thank you for writing me and I am very happy you enjoyed the recipe! It’s a lot of flour to get only 15 cookies so I’m curious how long your strands were. Happy holidays and happy baking to you!

Easy to make and rolls to shape. Added a scant of salt to the recipe. Also excellent recipe made with gluten free 1 to 1 Bob Mills flour.

Hi Rose-Happy you enjoyed this beloved recipe! Great to know you had a nice result with the GF flour!! Happy Baking! XX

Hi Lora – I can’t wait to try these cookies. I have a quick question – the ingredients include extra sugar for a topping. Did you mean to sprinkle some sugar after the egg wash?
Many thanks-

Hi Jo, Yes! If you would like to sprinkle a little on after egg wash, it’s up to you! Either way the cookie is delightful! Happy Baking!! XX

Thanks Lora! The cookies turned out great – they are the perfect for “dunking”. Ciambella is next – thanks again!

Hi Jo-Thank you! I’m happy you liked the recipe!! We love to dunk them. Happy Baking! XX

Thank you for the recipe. Just made these for my parents. My father is from Sicily and he loves them! I actually dusted them with sugar and ground Sicilian pistachios – brought them home with me from my last visit in Oct 2019. Truly delicious

Hi there!
I haven’t tried the recipe but am Sicilian and do have and use my families recipe often. They are so good!
There are a few differences in our recipes. First is mine includes sambuca. Next is that we use butter instead of vegetable oil. I don’t recall Sicily being a vegetable oil society. Is there a specific region your recipe originates?
Thanks for sharing!

Hi Leo-Sure, you could find a recipe where the baker likes the addition of Sambuca (not a flavor that children enjoy, so, not included in my recipe). This particular recipe is used with vegetable oil. Bake whatever Sicilian cookie you would like (with butter!). Happy Baking!

Hi Lora, I just made your S cookies & I am very pleased with the results.Very delicious.
I tried others but I like how your recipe came all together. Following your instructions I got 28 cookies. I found 5″ strand too puffy so I made them 8″ long. Perfect.
Thank you & wishing you all the joy in your cooking.
Un caro saluto da London, Ontario.

Ciao Maria-Thank you for letting me know that you made them 8″ long and that you enjoyed the recipe. I truly appreciate you taking the time to say hello e ti auguro un carissimo saluto…un abbraccio XX Lora

We call these ‘pupidi,’ not sure of the spelling. We get together with family and make these and Cuccidati before Christmas. So good, my stash of pupidi is already gone and I only have 3 cuccidati left. Always next year.

Thank you, Stan! I found out through a little research that pupiddi are made in Palermo. I wonder if that could be how the S cookies took on that name from the part of Sicily where your family if from, or it could even be same name used for a different cookie (since names and even ingredients can change town to town in regions).

Here is what I read: “Pupiddi nanau are made by mixing flour and honey and then working the dough and spreading it in plaster molds with sulfur or saffron inside. Sometimes the honey is replaced by sugar. Toasted almonds, candied citrus, orange peels and red wine are added. The dough can also be scented with jasmine, roses, cinnamon or cloves. They are cooked until they have a golden color. In a mixture of Greek and Christian tradition, these sweets are made to look like Saints Cosma and Damiano. They are consumed during the autumnal equinox and the festival dedicated to these saints on the 28th of September. Pupiddi nanau are part of an ancient tradition of eating sweets that symbolize saints and divinity, accompanied by prayers and signs of the cross, in a way that allows a person to enter into harmony with divinity and to receive protection. The two saints are depicted standing under arches with an angel above them. They have bare legs and sandals on their feet.

The plaster molds which are used to produce these sweets have almost completely disappeared. Only one pastry shop in Palermo has them, but there is almost no interest from the locals in this traditional production.”

Italian Fig Cookies: A Little History

Some culinary experts say that the modern Italian fig cookies actually come from way back to the time of the Roman Empire, and that the recipe is an offshoot from the Roman pastry called panificatus . Another story is that one of this pastry’s many names, particularly buccellati , come from the Latin buccellatum , which some say means “bites.”

Whichever of them may be true, one thing is for sure, these special fig cookies have been part of Italian weddings, Christmases, and other special occasions for many Italian households for centuries.

Italian fig cookies, which many may think are like Fig Newtons (they’re not!), come in so many names. In some areas, they call them cuccidati or cucidati . In other areas they are called cuddureddi while in others still they are called buccellati .

For many in the United States, they are also called x-cookies, courtesy of the iconic Julia Child and pastry chef Nick Malgieri. All these cookies are derivatives of the Sicilian fig cookies but they just come in different sizes and shapes.

Sicilian Sesame Cookies

It is a feud that spans generations, a feud that has persisted through the outbreak and conclusion of two world wars, that has defied the changes ushered in by the rise and fall of a cultural revolution, a feud whose bitter battle lines will likely continue on into the foreseeable future. This is a feud that has, in essence, divided my family into two camps separated by a single, hopelessly irreconcilable issue.

The subject of this feud? Sweet vs Savory Cookies, and Sweet vs Savory desserts in general.

The sentiment behind those who prefer sweet desserts is probably best exemplified in the words of my brother who remarked recently “Damn it, a dessert should taste like a dessert,” or in the forever frustrated sentiment of my son, who regularly asks “Why the hell does this cookie taste like a biscuit?” For both, when given the choice between a crisp biscotti and a tub of brightly colored, stingingly sweet buttercream, they would choose the latter. For better or worse, their teeth are firmly set within the confections of the New World, something that will forever be at odds with their shared Old World, Mediterranean heritage.

As you might have guessed from my tongue-in-cheek appraisal of their preference, I am proudly and forever in the opposing camp. For me, an ‘everyday’ dessert should possess a bit of accessibility, not only in how it effects the palate but also in terms of its ‘power.’ For example, pluck a biscotti out of a jar, and it isn’t going to ‘dominate’ your palate or appetite in the way a slice of cake would. Instead, it can accompany your afternoon coffee, or give you a ‘touch of sweet’ after breakfast, or even just serve as a ‘wine snack’ late at night before bed. Again, the key is subtly and ‘accessibility.’

Today, we’re preparing one of the quintessential ‘dunkers’ that I grew up with, a Sicilian staple among cookies. Just ‘barely’ sweet, pleasantly crisp, and perfect for black coffee, these are an Old World, Sicilian-style cookie to the core – and are delightful to make.

To start things off, we begin by spreading sesame seeds, single layer, over the base of a large cast iron frying pan, and then toasting the seeds until golden. We want a light toasting, not a thorough roasting.

Remove them from the pan and set them in a shallow bowl and set aside. Then, in a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and baking powder, and then set that bowl aside as well.

Then, beat together the eggs in a small bowl and stir in melted butter, vanilla, and then add that to the flour mixture. Stir that together until it is fully combined.

Now, on a clean, lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is smooth, and then divide the dough into sections as picture below. Then, section by section, roll them into ropes about half an inch thick, and then cut them into two-inch cookies.

Finally, dip each cookie in chilled water, and then roll them in the toasted seeds and set them on a non-stick baking pan or a pan lined with parchment, and bake for about thirty minutes.

Italian Cookie Recipes

W ant to know the secret in making the best Italian cookie recipes? NOTHING! It's not that tough - because there is no big secret! All you need is some basic fresh ingredients. And of course, the ability to not only read - but follow the step by step instructions.

We use the several basic ingredients over and over. Once you realize how simple it is you will NEVER want to purchase an Italian-pretender-cookie from a franchised bakery or market again!

W hat do you need to make true Italian cookies?

W e use almond flavoring more than vanilla flavoring. And the big one that may seem foreign - anise extract or anise flavoring. (Anise is the flavoring that is similar to licorice - you may know it best in the traditional Italian biscotti.)

A ll of these main ingredients can be found your *normal* supermarket and picked up in your regular shopping trip! Good news, huh? No specialty shopping required!

B elow is a photo gallery of all the Italian Cookie Recipes I have on my site. If you hover over the pictures you will see a description.

I have many drop cookie recipe (you know where you literally drop the cookie dough on the cookie sheet). These are the Italian cookie recipes take no time to refrigerate or press into a molded shape. Just plop, drop, and clean up. These are great to do with kids.

T hen there is a set of cookie bar recipes. These are the one that are pressed into a pan - like brownies. They aren't dropped. And you don't get to shape them into circles or stars. You just press them up to the edge of the pan.

N ext to last of the type of cookie recipes I have are rolled cookie recipes. This is where the dough is refrigerated and then cut. BUT several call for the dough to be rolled in balls and either stay in balls or flatten with a glass. In other words, they aren't a drop cookie recipe and they aren't like like brownies (cookie bar recipes).

A nd then last, Easy To Make Cookies. These cookies are quick, easy and the ingredients can be found in a *normal* supermarket. These are the cookie recipes that shouldn't take more than 60 minutes from start to finish (and that includes clean up!) It's for those who gotta make cookies NOW!

Making These Savoiardi Cookies

These cookies bring back memories of my father’s hometown in Sicily and are a traditional Italian breakfast cookie. It’s a cookie that I almost forgot about eating in Sicily until my father passed away. When we went to Sicily in 2013 to bury our father in his hometown, these Italian lady fingers were what comforted me every morning with my caffe latte.

As we would walk around town on the cold January mornings that week while we were there, we would always pass by a bakery or two. Most days it was to replenish our breakfast cookies. Once or twice a day it was to buy fresh bread to have with lunch and dinner.

This is part of my Sicilian food memories and part of my Project Sicilia, where I hope to share a recipe every month alongside a memory of my dad and his beloved island on the Mediterranean. An Italian Cake and grief is the post where I wrote a little about my dad and Sicily. So much time has passed and so many things have happened.

Sift the confectioner sugar and mix with the almond flour (I use a whisk) in a large bowl. Add the zest from the I/2 orange and 1/2 lemon along with the three drops of pure vanilla extract. Slightly beat the three egg whites and add these to the mixture.

I use my stand mixer on low speed to make sure all the ingredients are mixed. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag (the tip I used with my pastry bag was a large closed star). Put the bag with the dough inside into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Line your cookie sheet pan with parchment paper and pipe out about 2-inch circles and close it in the middle. You want a beautiful mound. Cut the Maraschino cherries in half and put one on each cookie. Put the whole pan into the refrigerator for at least overnight. If you do not do this step, the cookie will not hold their shape when they are baked and will be flat.

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F then take the cookies from the refrigerator and right into the oven. I baked mine about 15-17 minutes before I turned the broiler on to finish browning the outside of the cookies for about 2 minutes. Broiling will give them a crispy outside and soft inside. Place on a rack to cool after taking them out of the oven.