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Cookies without Nuts
Zita Easter cakes
Zita Easter Cakes or Puppata Easter Cakes (Doll-shaped Molisani large-sized cookies, without yeast, with pasticcio dough)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Easter
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (Zia Rosina's recipe)

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For Pasticcino Dough [Makes 3 large cookies]

4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour *
1/2 cup melted lard (e.g., Tenderflake)*
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (mixed with 1 tablespoon of sugar)

For Decoration

3 cooked "small" sized hard-boiled eggs in their shells
2 beaten egg yolks for brushing
Raisins (eyes), multi-colored sprinkles, and/or grated chocolate a

* Measurement is approximate


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix ingredients and work into a cookie dough. If the dough is too soft add more flour, if it's too hard add more lard.

Wrap the dough in clear plastic and let it rest for an hour or so.

On a floured board, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Note that if the dough is too thin it will burn and break easily. If it's too thick it might not cook right -- so the thickness of the cookie dough is very important.

Cut out a cookie in the shape of a doll (about 7 to 9 inches high). (If one can't get a commercial doll-shaped cookie cutter in this size, one can draw a doll on cardboard and then use it as a cookie cutter).

Place a hard-boiled egg on the doll's stomach. Extend her arms and let them wrap around the egg.

Make another doll or use the dough left to make cookies in the shape of a basket, donkey or star.

Brush the top of each cookie made with egg yolk (including the hard boiled egg).

Decorate the cookies.

Place the cookies on cookie sheets that have been greased (or are lined with silicon baking mats).

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cookies are golden (if they turn brown they will taste burnt).*

Serve at room temperature.

**For best results use aluminum cookie sheets that are sold in "Dollar Shops" [e.g. "Titan Foil"] and then line them with silicon baking mats (Demarle's "Silpat" is the best, but professional Bakewares' thick red-colored ones sold at Canadian Tire are O.K. too, at least they are when they are new). In any case these cheaper aluminum cookie sheets do not conduct heat as well as the more expensive cookie sheets available in specialty shops which surprisingly is a good thing. In aluminum cookware the bottoms of the cookies don't cook faster than the tops, resulting in more evenly-cooked cookies (No burnt cookie bottoms!).


These "puppata" or doll-shaped cookies were also known as "zita" (brides) in the Molise region. In the town of Casacalenda (Molise) the doll-shaped cookies were generally decorated with silver sprinkles, though not necessarily. Most cooks decorated the cookies prior to them being baked (rather than using a glaze and then decorating them). The doll-shaped cookies were given as gifts on Easter Sunday to young girls, but they were actually supposed to be eaten on Easter Monday when families went to the countryside and there had picnics. In Casacalenda young boys were given braided and coiled Easter logs as gifts [See recipe in "Holiday Breads"]. Cooks with artistic abilities also made cookies in the shapes of baskets, donkeys and stars for the Easter holidays. All the Easter cookies, regardless of their shapes, came with hard-boiled eggs which were still in their shells and decorated with sprinkles. Some cooks in Casacalenda made the "puppata" cookies with pasticcio dough others used sweet taralli dough [See recipe]. Photo: Mary Melfi.

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