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Cookies without Nuts
traditional Molisani lemon cookies
Mary's Traditional Molisana Pasticcini Lemon Cookies (using lard, flavored with lemon zest; topped with egg white and sugar)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time & special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (Her aunt's recipe)

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For batter*
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lard, melted and cooled (e.g. Tenderflake)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon [1 tablespoon zest] mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg white, beaten
about 1/4 cup table sugar

Equipment needed
2 extra-large "Dollar Shop" aluminum baking pans (12 X 18 X 1 1/4-inches)
Parchment paper
1 1/2-inch round-shaped cookie cutter

*Makes about 2 dozen cookies


Preheat oven to 350 F. degrees.

Place the oven rack in the middle or top half of the oven (Not the one closest to the burner, but the second to last). The tops of the cookies cook faster than the bottoms, so it is imperative to avoid direct heat.

Line a large aluminum baking pan with parchment paper (Cheap aluminum baking pans available in Dollar Shops seem to work better than the more expensive cookie sheets sold in kitchen specialty shops. Aluminum doesn't conduct heat all that well, and strangely enough is a good thing, as it helps the cookie bottoms from getting burnt.).

Beat eggs.

Add sugar, lightly beat them together until frothy, but not creamy (about 2 minutes using an electric beater).

Add 1/2 cup lard which has been melted and cooled.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt together.

Add to egg mixture.

Using electric beater, beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes (The resulting dough is very soft -- has the look of a "drop" cookie batter.). Keep aside.

In a separate bowl using your fingertips, mix the finely grated lemon zest with 2 tablespoons sugar (Takes about 2 to 3 minutes to get the zest and the sugar to blend together).

Using a spatula, mix the sugared lemon zest with the cookie batter.

Lightly flour a wooden pastry board.

Remove the batter from the mixing bowl and place it on the floured wooden pastry board.

Dust the top of the batter with flour.

Dust your hands with flour, and form the batter into 2 dough balls.

Wrap one of the dough balls in plastic wrap, and keep in fridge while the first batch of cookies is processed.

Using a floured rolling pin or the palms of your hand, flatten the dough ball to about 1/4 inch thick.

Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds.

Place the rounds on the baking pan lined with parchment paper, making sure that there is about 2 inches of space between the cookies as they will expand in the oven (An large baking pan, 18 inches X 12 inches, will have space for a dozen cookies).

Scraps of left-over dough can be formed into a ball, flattened out and cut into rounds.

Brush the tops of the lemon cookies with beaten egg white.

Sprinkle some table sugar on them.

Bake the first batch of cookies in a preheated 350 F. degrees oven until the cookies are done and are a nice golden color -- about 12 to 15 minutes (Not stacking the oven racks with 2 baking pans will ensure even heat and this will avoid under cooking and/or over cooking of the cookies).

Remove from oven and cool.

Take out the 2nd dough ball from the fridge, and repeat all the steps.

Place the cooled cookies in clear plastic bags, tie with a twist, and keep in fridge.

Best served fresh.


In the 1960s when I was growing up in Montreal, my late aunt, Zia Teresa, used to make this style of lemon cookie. I loved them then, and I still love them. But as I wasn't then old enough to take note of the exact proportions my aunt used to make her cookies, I can't be 100 percent sure this recipe duplicates what she did. My cousins and I have different recollections of these cookies because my aunt, like most home cooks, changed the recipe over the years. When I was a little girl she made the cookies round-shaped (My cousins remember that their mother used a small glass for measurement!), and then, later on, because her husband liked to dunk the cookies in his coffee, presented them as ladyfingers. In many ways these cookies are kind of round-shaped ladyfingers. While my cousins did manage to write down the recipe my late aunt used, that recipe was for the cookies she made in the 1980s -- one I wasn't as fond of. I tried to duplicate the cookies I ate as a little girl, and I think I more or less succeeded with the recipe in this entry.... This style of cookie was, and still is, made in Molise and other areas of Southern Italy. Sometimes it is presented as a round-shaped cookie, sometimes as an oval-shaped one, and sometimes, it is presented in the classic ladyfinger shape. Generally, the cookies are rather thin and light in texture, and not thick like the famous French Madeleine small cakes. As to the name of the cookies, well that's up for debate. I believe my aunt called them "pas'tic." That's possibly Molisani dialect for the word, "pasticcio," (singular) and "pasticci" (plural). The word, "pasticcini," means a small-sized pasticcio; so in dialect it would also be "pas'sticc' or "pa'sticc'." In actual fact the Italian word, "pasticcio," does not necessarily mean a lemon cookie, it simply is the generic word used to describe any kind of cookie, small tart or sweet. The Italian word, pasticcini" I believe is a generic term which describes any kind of a small tart, cake or cookie. That said, my aunts' daughters are not so sure that their mother called them "pas'tic." They think she called them biscotti. Memories related to food are emotionally charged, best not to argue who is right or wrong. All I know for sure is that these traditional Molisani lemon cookies are worth a try. They're easy to do. And they're incredibly cheap. They don't look all that decorative, but what they lack in looks, they make up in flavor. Content over form. One can think of them as "Ladyfingers for the Everyday." Or, Ladyfingers-On-the-Go. Unlike the other famous Molisani lemon cookie that often go by the name, "Biscotti con Limone," that come with a thick lemon glaze these particular cookies are wonderfully and joyfully simple. Moist but not creamy, sweet but not syrupy. The right cookie for those who like their (kitchen) lives uncomplicated..... Personal comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

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