Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
Cookies without Nuts
Essi or buranei or
Essi or Buranei ("S" Shaped Cookies, with egg yolks, butter and lemon zest)
Originated from: Veneto and Friuli, Italy
Occasion: Easter
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

Printer Friendly Version


For cookie dough [Makes about 28 cookies]

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter*
3 cups flour*
Juice of 1 small lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon mixed with 2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For brushing the tops of the cookies

2 egg whites **
1/4 cup sugar

*Measurement is approximate

** Egg yolks can also be used for brushing the tops of the cookies, but as one has lots of egg whites left over, they might as well be used


Preheat oven to 325 F degrees.

Cream the egg yolks and sugar.

Slowly add the remaining ingredients and work into a cookie dough, keeping in mind that these cookies are supposed to be "hard" and good for dunking (Add more flour if the dough is too soft, add more butter if it's too hard.).

Shape the dough into three balls, wrap in clear plastic, and then let the dough rest for half an hour.

Meanwhile draw the shape of an "S" -- approximately 6 inches long by 2 inches wide [I used a store-bought "S" cookie as a guide] on cardboard. Cut out the "S" and have it ready to use as a home-made cookie cutter.

Roll out the rested dough [one wrapped dough ball at a time] to about 1/4 inch thick and use your home-made cookie cutter to cut out the cookies (If the dough breaks up after making a few cookies, shape the dough into ball and then roll it out again).

Expect to make about 28 cookies.

Place the "essi" cookies on cookie sheets that have either been greased or have been lined with silicon baking mats.*

Brush the cookies with egg white and then sprinkle a bit of sugar over them.

Bake the cookies in a 325 degree oven for about 14 minutes or until the cookies are golden.

*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. Personally I found 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 "essi" cookies used to be made in the Veneto and Friuli region only during the Easter holidays. Nowadays, they are made throughout the year. Most "essi" recipes contain many eggs or more specifically, egg yolks. As the egg is an international symbol or rebirth and resurrection it is not surprising that cookies that rely heavily on eggs are made during the Easter holidays. As "essi" cookies have been made in and around Venice for centuries, it is to be expected that there are many variations on their recipe. Some recipes include Marsala, others Grappa. Some recipes flavor the cookies with anise extract, others with vanilla. Most recipes include lemon zest. Supposedly, the same dough that is used to make "essi" cookies can also be used to make "bussolai" cookies which are shaped like a ring. However, I tried to make ring-shaped or donut-shaped cookies with this "essi" dough and was unable to do so (The cookie dough crumbled!). In any case, in Montreal these traditional Venetian Easter cookies are only available in the shops in the "S" shape. In fact, Venetian "S" shaped cookies are very popular throughout North America. Most shops (Italian or otherwise) carry them. Frankly, I thought the store-bought cookies were O.K. until I made my own and then found that while the store-bought ones look better than the home-made ones (The cookie in the right hand corner of the photo attached to this entry is store-bought, the ones on the left are home-made), they didn't taste as good as the ones made from scratch. Also, the store-bought cookies contain "artificial" flavorings as well as "corn syrup" -- neither of which are good for you. Home-made "S" shaped cookies are rather easy to do and don't cost all that much. So if you want nut-free cookies, this might be the right recipe for you to try. Just be aware that these cookies' texture is rather hard -- the cookies are meant to be "dunked" in milk or coffee. Photo: Mary Melfi.

Back to main list