My family has made these cookies every single Christmas for as long as I can remember. We’ve never tweaked the recipe, besides doubling or tripling it, because it’s already literally perfect as is. It’s from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, which is apparently something my mother has had forever and ever. I’ve never known anyone else who makes these, but my family was known for them and all my friends always remembered them and expected to get to have some from our house at Christmastime. I don’t even know if they’re technically considered a Christmas cookie or if we just happened to always make them at Christmas.
Honestly, even though I’m half Italian, it was my (non-Italian) mom who instigated making these and who was always in charge of mixing the dough and rolling it into balls. Then me and my sister would sit at the counter and one of us would be in charge of dipping the little logs into the egg and the other into the sesame seeds. I think it’s just a coincidence that they are called Italian, and my mom found the recipe once and the rest was history– they weren’t actually a recipe passed down from the Italian side of the family. Still, it seems like a nice nod to my Italian heritage to make these every year. And plus they’re just fun and yummy. This was the first year I ever made them all by myself and I can’t wait til my little one is able to help me with them next time.
This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies and is very quick and easy, with only the egg and sesame coating part taking any time at all, so they’re great to make for a crowd. They’re a great addition to Christmas cookie baking because they are not actually very sweet. First of all, you feel like you can eat a bunch because they’re not that rich. There’s not an abundance of sugar and there’s no chocolate or even eggs, so they feel almost more like biscuits than cookies. But they’re just crisp (although almost fluffy on the inside) and special enough that they totally hold their own on the cookie platter. Added bonus is that the non cookie lovers or people who don’t love sweets tend to enjoy them a lot too. They go great with milk but also coffee or hot chocolate. And Santa always loved them at my house growing up 😉
:Italian Sesame Cookies:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs (2 for dough, 1 reserved for dipping later)
1 3/4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons stoneground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sesame seeds (I sometimes need a little more than that)
Preheat oven to 425. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until very light and fluffy. Beat in two of the eggs very well.
Mix together the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds and stir into the creamed mixture gradually.
With your hands, shape the dough into rolls about two inches long and three quarters inch in diameter.
Beat remaining egg and set up a plate with the sesame seeds poured on it. Dip dough logs in egg and roll in sesame seeds. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 12 minutes or until brown. Cool on a rack.