Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
Cookies without Nuts
Mary's Italian Lemon Tarallucci cookies
Mary's Tarallucci Lemon Cookies (using flour, sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, milk and lemon zest; glazed)
Originated from: Southern Italy
Occasion: Any time & special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

Printer Friendly Version


For dough*
2 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour (preferably the brand, "Red Rose")
2/3 cups sugar
2 "extra large" eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably the brand, "Magic" baking powder)
1/4 cup vegetable oil, preferably canola oil
1/8 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons zest) mixed in with 1 tablespoon table sugar

For lemon glaze
1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

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

* Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line baking pans with parchment paper.

Grate lemon zest. Mix with sugar. Put aside.

Using an electric blender, beat eggs.

Add sugar and mix well (Do not cream mixture.)

Add milk. Mix well.

Add oil. Mix well.

Add vanilla extract.

Add 1 cup flour. Mix well.

Add baking powder and mix well.

Add the remaining flour. Mix well. The resulting dough should be quite soft.

Using a spatula, fold in lemon zest. Put aside (The dough does not need to rest as it needs to be sticky for it to work well.)

Sprinkle some flour on a large wooden board.

Place the soft dough on the wooden board dusted with flour.

Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour (Not too much as the dough should remain sticky).

Using the palms of your hands pat down the dough so that it is about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut a strip of dough about 4 inches long and about 1/2 inch thick.

With the strip of dough, using the palms of your hands, make a taralli style log -- about 6 inches long, and 1/4 inch thick (The dough is supposed to be sticky, so avoid using any extra flour at this time.).

Form the tarallucci right onto the baking pan (which has been lined with parchment paper) by swirling the log around itself -- the bottom being larger than the top (looks like a coiled snake). Allow the tip of the tarallucci-log to stick out. N.B. Unbaked, the cookies appear to be swirled twice, but once they're baked, the swirls are much less visible (See photo).

Keep processing the dough (placing the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart) until all of it is used up.

Bake in the upper half of the oven (This will help prevent the bottom of the cookies from burning) until the tarallucci are a golden color -- between 16 to 22 minutes.

Cool (about 1/2 hour).

Meanwhile make the glaze by blending the icing sugar with the freshly-squeezed lemon juice (The more icing sugar one uses, the thicker the glaze; as the shape of this cookie should be visible, a thin lemon glaze is preferable to a thick one.).

Brush the tops of the (cooled) cookies with the glaze.

Allow the cookies to air dry for about 3 hours.

Place the cookies in a large clear plastic bag and tie with a twist (The cookies shouldn't rub against each other, or the glaze will be damaged.).

Keep in the fridge until ready to serve (Best is fresh when it comes to home-made cookies).

Serve the cookies on a decorative platter at room temperature.


Tarallucci cookies are very difficult to make. If one doesn't like making cookies one should definitely avoid making this style of cookie. The ingredients used are simple enough, and while the directions don't look all that complicated, getting the right texture of the dough is next to impossible, unless of course, one is a really good baker. I have had the pleasure of eating many tarallucci cookies that were quite fine, but those who baked them must have had a lot of experience doing them. If one is a good baker I suggest using Mrs. Angela Giulione's recipe which is available on this website (Italy Revisited/Cookies without Nuts), rather than this one. Her recipe, in the hands of an experienced Italian baker, produces lovely tarallucci cookies, but as I'm not a particularly good baker, I didn't have success using it. I tried other tarallucci recipes and I encountered problems of all kinds -- either the dough was too soft, or too hard. If the dough is too soft, the twirls disappear in the oven; if the dough is too hard, the twirls remain, but the texture of the cookies is all wrong. I tried a number of variations (more of this and less of that etc.) and every time something wasn't quite right. Either the dough was too soft, in which case, the cookies drop while baking, losing their characteristic swirl shape, or the dough was too hard, in which case the swirl shape was retained, but the cookies were more like sweet taralli than lemon cookies. The proportions I came up with seemed to work -- the cookies retained their shape, and they tasted O.K. (Those who tried them, liked them.). The texture of the cookies was a bit harder than I would have liked it to have been, but I couldn't make the dough softer without losing the swirls. Even though I know that one can get a softer cookie texture by using "lard" rather than "vegetable oil" I went with vegetable oil because it makes the dough easier to handle. Possibly, I should have simply given up trying to make nice-looking and good-tasting tarallucci cookies and enjoyed other people's efforts. But I like the occasional challenge. So I went with it. It was kind of fun. The cookies I came up pleased me, not because they tasted better than anyone else's, but rather because they were easy to do. Well, relatively easy. Personal comments and photo: Mary Melfi.

Back to main list