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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 (her grandmother's recipe)

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For (sweet taralli) dough: [Makes 3 large cookies]

3 cups flour*
6 large eggs
6 tablespoons olive oil *
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Magic baking powder

For decoration:

2 egg yolks for brushing
3 cooked hard-boiled small-sized eggs in their shells
Raisins, multi-colored sprinkles etc.

* Measurement is approximate


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

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 other traditional shapes.

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 have silicon baking mats over them). *

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until it is golden (if it turns brown it will taste burnt).

Serve at room temperature.

**For best results use aluminum cookie sheets that are sold in "Dollar Shops" and then place silicon baking mats on top of them. 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!).


Prior to World War II Easter cakes called "zita" [Molisani dialect for bride] or "puppata" [Molisani dialect for doll] were given to young girls as gifts on Easter Sunday; boys were given "carosello" cookies. These cookies were actually supposed to be eaten on Easter Monday when families got together and went on picnics, known as "la Pasquetta." In the Molise region Easter cookies were made with different types of dough -- some cooks used pasticcio dough, others used sweet taralli dough. Because of the size of this cookie this style of sweet is often called "Easter Cake." Like a cake it's not meant to be eaten at one sitting -- unless of course they are dozens of people who will share it. Photo: Mary Melfi.

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