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Sweet Italian Butter Cookies – Canestrelli

Canestrelli are delicious and crumbly biscuits dusted with powdered sugar. They are typical of the Liguria and Piedmont regions and come in many variations. We propose the most common version, the Ligurian canestrelli, small and very crumbly shortbread biscuits with a characteristic flower shape and a hole in the center. The Piedmontese version, on the other hand, uses hazelnut flour in the dough.

Canestrelli are made with very simple ingredients (flour, butter, powdered sugar, eggs), but their uniqueness lies in the use of hard-boiled egg yolk in the dough. Canestrelli are excellent for breakfast, for a snack, or any time of the day. Try making them at home, perhaps as Christmas biscuits, to give as gifts in cute little packages!

Canestrelli INGREDIENTS (for 100 biscuits)
– 300g flour
– 200g potato starch
– 300g butter
– 150g powdered sugar
– 1 lemon zest
– 6 hard-boiled egg yolks
– 1 vanilla bean

Canestrelli Calories
Difficulty: Medium
Preparation: 30 min
Cooking: 20 min
Yield: 100 pieces
Cost: Low
Note: plus about an hour in the fridge to cool

How to prepare Canestrelli:
1. Start by boiling the eggs to hard-boil them: it will take 8 minutes in boiling water. The yolks will be added to the dough to ensure the right crumbliness. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift the flour, potato starch and powdered sugar.
2. Then grate the unwaxed lemon zest and add the seeds of a vanilla bean. Add the cold butter in pieces and mix everything together with a beater.
3. When the eggs are hard-boiled, peel them and keep only the yolks that you can crush and pass through a sieve to make them creamier and homogeneous. Then add them to the rest of the dough.
4. Mix the ingredients briefly with a stand mixer, transfer the dough onto a floured surface and quickly compact it by hand to form a soft and smooth dough ball.
5. Flatten it slightly and wrap it in plastic wrap (or put it in an airtight container) and leave it in the fridge for about an hour.
6. After the necessary time, roll out the dough into a 1 cm thick disc and with a flower-shaped cookie cutter, 3 cm in diameter, cut out the biscuits (you can knead the scraps again). You will get 100 canestrelli.
7. Then make the typical hole in the center with a 1 cm diameter cookie cutter (there are molds on the market specifically for canestrelli that allow you to form the hole directly).
8. Bake a few canestrelli at a time, well spaced out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, in a preheated static oven at 170°C for 18 minutes (you can also try with the convection oven by cooking a first batch of a few biscuits at 150°C for 8-10 minutes): they should not darken.
9. Once cooked, take them out of the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack, and then dust them with powdered sugar. Serve the canestrelli as a tea cake or store them in small bags to give as a special gift.

Canestrelli, once cooled and dusted with powdered sugar, can be stored for up to two weeks if well sealed in airtight containers or put in a tin box.

Canestrelli dough is ideal for small pastry work. It is not suitable as a base for a cake because it is too crumbly and would not support the weight of the filling, but it is excellent for preparing small shells to be filled with fruit and pastry cream!