What is Epiphany in Italy?
Who is La Befana?
Next year, I think we’ll actually start celebrating it properly, it true Italian form, just as if we lived in Italy. 2020 marks the 100 year anniversary when my grandfather immigrated to the U.S. for a better life for my dad and his siblings. Getting to visit their village a few years ago reminded me of just how brave he was and just how much I am proud to be of Italian heritage.
Italian Befanini Cookies
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
4 eggs (save one for glazing)
1 pinch salt
1 splash of rum or Alchermes, optional
1/4 – 1 cup of milk, add 1 tbsp at a time
1 lemon, zested
Colored sprinkles, as needed
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a wide bowl and make a ‘well’ in the centre. Crack 3 of the eggs (save one for glazing) into the middle, along with the liqueur, if using, and lemon zest. With a fork, begin beating from the centre outwards, incorporating the dry ingredients slowly into the eggs until you have a thick dough. Add one tablespoon of milk at a time until the dough is soft, but not sticky. I needed almost a cup, but I’ve seen some recipes that only needed a few tablespoons. You can always add, but you can’t take away. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
Cut the dough in half and keep one half wrapped and chilled until you finish the first half. Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 inch (5 mm). Use various shapes of cookie cutter to cut out fun shapes and place them on a lined cookie tray.
Crack the reserved egg and beat in a bowl. With a pastry brush, glaze the tops of the cookies with the egg wash and decorate with colored sprinkles.
Bake at 170ºC/340ºF for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and lightly golden on top. Let cool completely and serve or store in an airtight container.
A Fun New Family Tradition
The Italian befanini cookies are simply fun! They are super simple to make and I loved their soft lemony texture and all of the colorful sprinkles. When I make these again, I will definitely use the little colored sprinkles rather than the jimmys. I think they would look cleaner – more like the Italian Easter cookies I made.
Overall, I’m so glad I researched Italian traditions around Three Kings Day or the Epiphany, whichever you’ve heard. It was fun to learn something new and find another way to connect with my roots. Plus, we got tasty cookies out of it!