Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Evil Italian Butter Cookies



I love the Evil Think Tank (ETT) as we have come to call it around here. It's the place where the chef goes with other chefs to think of the most evil thing possible to bake or cook...and then blog it. Only a very few have dared come visit my think tank. I've said for years that Food Network should have a show where chefs have to come together like this. Random teams...one purpose and they all have to agree. It would be crazy to see all those passionate personalities have to come to real terms. You know? At any rate...last week, I had a fun long distance ETT with a gal named Joanne Galatolo Nunziante. Now aside from her name sounding like a very expensive pair of shoes...I have come to enjoy our little chats on various baking subjects. Her painted decorative bread is taking on a genius level of practical application. Something she tells me she learned from my blog. So, when she wrote about a certain cookie, I was excited to delve into a full out think tank with her....over a long distance. In all honesty, I supplied a couple of recipes and she and her sister did a lot of leg work in the kitchen. I'm told that big sister Palma still calls her "JoDough". That's Joanne on the left, and Palma on the right.



Joanne wrote:
"Hi Stephanie,

I hope this is okay...I have a baking question. My sister and I have been on a long quest to find a recipe for certain Italian bakery cookies we used to get growing up in Brooklyn. They seem to call them butter cookies although they really don't taste buttery. The unique thing about them is their texture which is SANDY! They are generally piped through a star tip in round shapes and sometimes dipped in chocolate or with sprinkles.
We've tried a couple of recipes but they just don't have that sandy texture. Do you happen to know what they might use to achieve this texture? We are desperate. lol
Goin' nuts here. Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Thanks :)
In an effort to get my head wrapped around what she wanted exactly, I suggested a few nut cookie recipes, a couple cornmeal ones...wanting to be sure that we were on the same page.


Joanne Wrote back:
"My goodness...You are such a dear! I so appreciate your willingness to help :)
Your suggestions make perfect sense, although I don't think they lead to this particular cookie. I know they're not pignoli's which are chewy and almondy. Doesn't taste at all or have any evidence of nuts in them. They're generally very pale in color too. Cornmeal?...ummm...I dunno, maybe, but not a dense dough...more powdery I think. They don't taste polenta-y. lol Sheesh. I wish I could better explain the texture. They don't feel greasy...they're rather dry and crumbly like sand held together (they make alotta crumbzzz!), and I suspect some shortening is used rather than butter. Not a whole lotta distinct flavor, except maybe from some vanilla (makes you wonder why we even want them lol)
All the Italian pastry shops & bakeries make them in NY.
The thing that bugs me most I think is that you can pretty much find ANY recipe on the Internet, but these somehow are very elusive...almost like they're TOP SECRET! LOL Is there a resource for bakery recipes????
So...I sent her this recipe:

Butter Tea cookies
adapted from the CIA Professional Baking book:

6 oz butter
6 oz shortening
6 oz granulated sugar
3 oz powdered sugar
4.5 oz egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb cake flour
2 oz cornstarch

Creaming method. Pipe through a bag, quarter size cookies, bake 375 degrees 10 minutes.

Joanne wrote back:
"Hi Stephanie,

Here's the final recipe we came up with.
SAND COOKIES

1 1/2 cups flour (we used AP)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar *
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs
*(we also liked 3/4 c. conf sugar & 1/4 c. granulated which made them a slight bit sweeter)

Creaming method. Put through bag with large star tip. Bake @ 375 F for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown. Decorate with choc chips, sprinkles or leave plain and dip half in melted choc., etc.
Look at the picture she took!
The chocolate dipped ones are the ones I made:

I made the cookies too. One I made with my butter cookie recipe and one I made with her recipe. I have to say, the Sand cookies where so delicate and delicious. I'm so glad Joanne has been so good about including me in her quest...and lets face it, what's not to love about that? Thank you Joanne Galatolo Nunziante and Kudos to her big sister, Palma for the use of her kitchen and her perseverance in the development of the recipe. The quest for the sand cookie recipe was, after all, for Palma...It's her fave. I've never met them, but I count them as evil genius kindred spirits. Thank you ladies!


There you go. Make something evil, like a sand cookie dipped in dark chocolate. There's no sand in there...just pure evil goodness. Oh...and while you're at it, be sure to go to yesterday's post and sign up for the Upcoming Giveaway!

43 comments:

Georgiana said...

Hi, I know Joanne Nunziante, and she is an awesome baker. The cakes that she makes can compete with the Cake Boss, or any of the bakers on t.V. Her cookies and breads and whatever she makes is simply delicious. She will probably hit me when she sees this, but oh well. lol! She just has a natural gift for baking and cooking.

Chef Tess said...

Georgiana, I have seen her cake pictures! They are amazing. Yes...I have to agree. She is a baking kindred spirit if ever I met one. I'm glad you agree.

Mama Peck said...

Does she have a blog site? I love to see pix of decorated breads. That's high on my list of things to try when life settles down again this summer.

Chef Tess said...

Not that I know if, but I'll find out. Last I heard she didn't have a blog.

stgermain said...

Hi, I just found your website and can't wait to try the many wonderful recipes.

I had one question on the Sand Cookies -
does anyone know what differences occur if using shortening and butter vs just butter in the recipe? Is there a texture change, or do they not retain their shape? Thank you for any help.

Chef Tess said...

I've noticed the texture is a bit more firm if you use straight butter. The shortening does make for a more shortcake type dough.

daizeebell said...

Since you were able to find the "sand cookies" I was wondering if you have ever heard of an Italian cake that is a bit course, very moist. We got it in a little Italian Bakery in Eagle Rock Calif. It had a chocolate pudding filling for one layer and a lemon or vanilla filling for the other. I think it had rum in it. It was to die for. Every birthday in my family we had this cake.

Sarah said...

Hello! I have been looking for this recipe for 10 years! Thank you thank you thank you! I made them last night but, they melted in the oven and the piping is not evident any longer! Still tastey, but not as pretty- any tips?

Chef Tess said...

Make sure oven is pre-heated as if the temperature isn't high enough they will melt before they set up. Also, check your measurements on the sugar and flour really well. If there's too much sugar it will spread more and if there's not enough flour it will do the same. They should be exact measures. Let me know how that goes.

Ta said...

I'm so excited to try this recipe! I've been looking for it for a long time! I was just wondering if I need to spray my cookie sheet or not?

Chef Tess said...

If you don't use parchment paper, I would spray the pan.

pjcim said...

Hello Chef Tess,
Well, I just baked a batch of the Sand Cookies & used the recipe to a "T". So now my question is, would U a reason that the cookies did not hold the exact same shape after they were piped out. I must say that the batter consistancy was awesome to work with in the pastry bag. I baked them for 11 min. using the convection air. Could there maybe an adjustment that I need to do in the ingredients? Hubby loved the cookies. I guess you might say that I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I like to have the cookie come out perfect. Thanx for any imput!

Chef Tess said...

Try using 1/4 cup more flour. You may be at a higher altitude then we tested the cookies. You may also need to mix a few minutes longer. Sorry it took so long to get back. It's just me...no staff...and a wife and mom plus full time job. I'm sorry I missed getting back. I probably posted and got distracted. God bless!

pjcim said...

Thank you so very much Chef Tess. I will give that extra 1/4 cup of flour to the batter. I had folded the flour in cuz I have heard the too much beating the flour will make the cookies stuffer. So I will continue to use the Kitchen Aid stand mixer to blend the batter more. Thanks 4 all Ur help. ;)

Karen C said...

Hi Chef Tess, thankyou so much for this recipe, I have made these cookies, many times I do add food coloring to them to change them up a bit w colored sprinkles they r beautiful on Easter and Christmas..I love the fact people have no idea what they r called.. Perfect name( Evil )only True bakers will want this recipe.You r truely awesome. love from Karen C. Boston

Chef Tess said...

Karen...Thank you! True bakers love a good cookie throw down. I'm so glad you found me. Xoxo!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if I could use a cookie press for these rather than a bag with the star tip. I'd like to make some using my grandmother's press. Thanks for your help!

Chef Tess said...

Yes. A cookie press should work fine.

Jen said...

Thank you! The cookies look amazing. I look forward to trying out the recipe :-)

fran c said...

Hi I am looking forward to trying these. I have been on a quest every year to find those italian bakery finger jam filled sandwiched cookies that are half dipped in chocolate. They too have that same dryer coarser texture. My only question is should these have some type of leavener? thanks....

Chef Tess said...

These are just like a shortbread cookie. No leavening needed. Great questions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef Tess, I'm so happy to find this recipe finally! I used the Sandy recipe, and experienced exactly the same problems mentioned upthread. The cookies did not hold their form and spread quickly, and I'm hoping for a much thicker cookie; these were like disks. The bottoms browned much too quickly and the tops not at all. I used parchment paper for fear they would spread even more on a greased cookie sheet. On the positive side - THE BEST plain cookies I have ever made texture and flavor wise, and exactly what I wanted! Was your remedy to add more flour?

Chef Tess said...

You may need to increase the flour depending on the altitude. Try using 1/4 cup more flour. You may be at a higher altitude then we tested the cookies. Pre-heat oven.

Chef Tess said...

BTW this recipe has been tested and tried by several hundred people. Lots of wonderful comments and great results via email. You may need to chill the dough if you have a problem. Thank you. I work very hard to provide the best recipes I can. It test them extensively. God bless and Merry Christmas.

karenb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chef Tess said...

The original butter cookie recipe I posted is by weight from the CIA's baking book. If you want a weight measured recipe.

Courtney montgomery said...

Hello i just found this great recipe & i was wondering if i could use all butter instead of butter&shortening?

Chef Tess said...

Yes, you can use straight butter.

Courtney montgomery said...

Thank you i made your recipe on christmas eve &the cookies didn't hold their shape i used 1/4 extra flour & they still melted.are there anymore suggestions to make the cookies hold their shape i have been looking for this recipe for quite a while.

Chef Tess said...

Increase of the cornstarch has been helpful on this as well. I've leaned closer to 3/4 cup cornstarch and that was just about right for keeping the shape a little more tight.

Courtney montgomery said...

Thank you i will give that a try:-) the cookies had a great flavor.i love that i finally found this recipe.

Sweet Tooth Fairies said...

THANK YOU.....THANK YOU....THANK YOU! I have been searching for this recipe ever since Venture went out of business. I loved these cookies and can't wait to make them. I heading to the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

I'm excited to try this recipe. I've tried many and none have been the real deal, 'sand' bakery butter cookie. Do you have a recipe for the chocolate coating?

Anonymous said...

That chocolate dip looks perfectly thick--do you have that recipe, too? Thanks! I'm going to make these for christmas :)

Tanya Flowers said...

Just found this recipe.can't wait to try it. I grew up on these cookies and since moving to Florida have had trouble finding them. Thanks for all the suggestions regarding tweaking. Just in time for Easter.

Patricia Ritter said...

THESE are the elusive cookies that I have been trying to make for years! I found this recipe yesterday, and decided I needed to test them today. And, YES!!!!! The Italian bakery cookies of my youth! A definite and permanent addition to my cookie tray! I followed the recipe exactly, with the addition of 1/4 tsp of salt. (I think a tiny bit of salt just adds a nice little foil to the sweetness of a cookie). Just for laughs, I placed the second pan of piped cookie dough in the refrigerator while the first pan was baking. The cookies on the second pan held their shape just a little better. For my next batch, I will try increasing the flour for a thicker cookie, and for the third batch, I will try the combination of confectioner's and granulated sugar. I dipped half of the baked cookies in melted Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate: 6 ounces was enough for half the cookies. I will eventually make many variations: Princess oil (YUM!) as the flavoring instead of vanilla, sandwich cookies held together with chocolate and/or jam. Hmmm...how about a browned butter/brown sugar version for a caramel-y variation?!?!? Thank you!!!!!

Anonymous said...

My family is Italian but we live in Arizona. (from NY) We usually have our family in NY bring these cookies out to us or we bring them home when we visit NY. I love to bake and my family loves the Italian cookies I make but they said I MUST find the recipe for the dipped butter type cookies from the great bakeries in NY!! So glad I found your web page. Im going to try your "sand" recipe! I hope they come out like the cookies we love!! Any special tips would be appreciated.
I would prefer to make the longer cookies (like an long oval) that are filled with raspberry preserves then you dip one end in chocolate. Do you just pipe this shape out with the large star tip or just a round will work???
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The recipe my grandma used had semolina flour in it which gave it a slightly gritty texture. I have been looking for it for years! I definitely have to try these cookies.

Carmine said...

What a funny happening, me too looking for a recipe that makes a cookie like my Mother did back in Brooklyn. Will try it using the first Sand cookie recipe. Teching baking to my Grandson as a form of entertaining him. He made his first batch of oatmeal cookies. this will be for next Mondays baking class.
Ciao

Anonymous said...

Thank you all, especially Tess and tJoanne and Palma,
The sand cookie were so tasty and had a nice texture. yes folks they did spread all over the place but the grandson ate them up like it was his favorite choclate. Now if I can figure out how my Mother Felice made them with such beautiful shapes I can pass on a tradition to my children. Wish I had the sense to ask my Mother how to make those "Brooklyn Sand Cookies"
Carmine the California guy

Erin M. said...

Thank you for the recipe!! So excited to try it!!

Erin M. said...

This might be a dumb question, but do you decorate with sprinkles or sanding sugar before baking?

Galaxy Girl said...

Hi,

How many cookies does this receipe make?

Thanks.