One of my favourite Italian desserts is simple, elegant, and endlessly adaptable: cookies and sweet wine. In Italy I’ve seen this dish served with every manner of cookie, from amaretti to lady fingers to biscotti, and sweet wines as various as Vin Santo, Recioto, and Pantelleria. You could easily take the dish outside the realm of Italian cuisine and try something like ginger snaps and sweet applejack. A particularly memorable experience was being served s-shaped Buranelli cookies with a glass of sweet Zibbibo in a small restaurant in Venice on a wet, chilly September afternoon.
Buranelli are from the Venetian island of Burano. The dough is a bit like shortbread (more sweet and less buttery than my preferred Scottish-style shortbread) enriched with egg yolk and flavoured with lemon zest and vanilla.
There are two classic shapes, the bussola (“compass”) and the esse (“s”). The compass is just a strip of dough curled into a perfect circle. For some reason the s-shapes are made backwards to how the letter is normally written. It’s a simple, versatile dough that could be made into any shape, including the classics of Scottish shortbread like fingers and petticoat tails.
- 125 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 110 g white sugar
- 80 g egg yolk (4 large egg yolks)
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 + 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- 250 g all-purpose flour
- Combine butter, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream ingredients thoroughly, roughly 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes.
- Combine the yolks, zest, and vanilla. Add to the creamed mixture and paddle until well mixed.
- Slowly add the flour while the mixer runs on its lowest setting. Stop mixing as soon as the flour is incorporated.
- At this point the dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for later use, but note that the dough is much easier to work with when it is at room temperature.
- Divide the dough into 20 equal portions. Roll each portion into desired shape.
- Line portions on a heavy bake sheet lined with parchment or a silicon mat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Bake in a 375°F oven until the edges and bottoms are just starting to brown.