Recipe by Chris Armstrong, Community Manager and Pastry Chef at La Mano
Befanini are Italian cutout cookies. As the fable goes, La Befana (Italian Santa) met three wise men, following a star, in search of an extraordinary baby. They invited her to come along. The witch said no as she was in the middle of cleaning but after being left to finish her work she begins to wonder if the right decision would have been to go. La Befana then collects up cakes and cookies as gifts and heads off, following the brightest star.
In one version of the story, Befana never finds the baby but gives her gifts and baking to the children she finds along the way. In another version of the story she does find the baby Jesus and presents him with her gifts. He in return gifts her with “motherhood” of every child in Italy.
It is said that if you leave a glass of wine out when she comes to visit, La Befana will sweep the floor before she leaves your house, getting rid of the challenges of the old year.
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
⅓ cup butter, softened
2 tbsp milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
Small multicolored sprinkles (go wild, have some fun!)
1 egg yolk, whisked with
1 teaspoon warm water or milk
Mix the eggs and sugar until frothy and light yellow in colour. Add the butter, flour, milk, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, vanilla, and rum (if using). Mix by hand until a smooth soft dough forms. Let stand for 45 minutes in the refrigerator or until pliable yet cold.
Preheat oven to 350F. Roll the dough on a floured board with a well-floured rolling pin to about ½ cm thick and cut into various shapes using cookie cutters. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush them with the egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle with sugar sprinkles.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Keep a careful eye as they must not get too dark! After 10 minutes out of the oven, move the cookies to a wire rack until completely cool. Store in a wax-lined baking tin for up to 10 days.