Little Sugar Cookies (Befanini)

Little Italian sugar cookies perfect for new year baking.


Happy new year! We spent the first day of 2020 eating morning buns from the Bovine Bakery and walking up to Divide Meadow in the Point Reyes National Seashore, the kind of thing that always seemed like a dream when we were living overseas but which now is deliciously ordinary (well — “ordinary” when your kids are six and three. But we survived and even had a wonderful lunch at Stellina afterward.). After a happily busy holiday season it was wonderful to get out in the damp sea air and climb fallen trees and throw sticks into rain-swollen streams.

Now it’s back to the routine of school and faster mornings; I do miss the slow rise to get coffee and make breakfast and leaving pajamas on as long as we pleased (a perk of working from home) but we make up for it in the afternoons. After school there is a lot of play, a lot of books, and the occasional tea party. For the first day back after the break I made a batch of befanini cookies, which I can describe best as soft, butter-free, lightly sweet Italian sugar cookies. I rolled out the dough and the girls cut out shapes and decorated them with sprinkles before baking.

This recipe comes by way of the food writer Emiko Davies, although there are others online, some that do call for butter and I may try one of those eventually. What I like about these cookies is that the dough is a bit sturdier than some of the sugar cookies we made for our cookie boxes, and doesn’t feel quite as sticky (I love sugar cookies but rather loathe the cutting-out). I will note that the cookies are best eaten the day they are made, although you could probably stretch it to another day.

Does the world need more cookies after we’ve just gotten through the season of eating copious amounts? Probably not but who am I to say? Anyway they make a lovely project for when it’s too chilly or rainy to venture outside for long and surely would make a nice mid-winter gift for teachers or neighbors. I like that they’re not too sweet and, freshly baked, are a beautifully pillowy cookie that’s hard to resist. We decorated them simply with sprinkles but you could also do a simple colored sugar icing.

Is it too soon to mention I’m ready for spring? I won’t — but please know I’m thinking about it already, if only so I can make some of the enticing recipes on Davies’ site, including this one for an “Easter Colomba”. Also I have a lot of flower seeds I’m eager to plant and a small vegetable garden to attempt. And we’ll definitely drag the picnic table under the apple trees this year and eat lunches out there … yes, I’m definitely ready. Only a few more months to go!

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