Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Italians eat cookies for breakfast (and that’s ok by me)

Cookies: part of your Italian’s complete breakfast

Sounds like the title of a song: “Italians eat cookies for breakfast (and that’s okay by me)”. The “refrain” is an add-on, for it was not okay by me a mere decade ago.

Here is a story of integration – and a great recipe for cookies from Nonna Dina (below).

Brought up with the North American concept of a balanced breakfast, which generally included some kind of cereal, milk, and fruit, I was horrified to see a whole country start their day in the wrong way – with a sweet of some sort dunked in milky coffee. While cereal takes up an increasingly large space in the supermarket, a decade ago it was still considered American-food (right about down there at the level of cat-food; actually cat food might be prepared at home and include pastina, making it superior). Welcomed into the home of my in-laws, I saw my future husband eat dry cookies (dunked in caffe latte) for breakfast for the first time and said “non é una colazione” (that’s not breakfast).

Now, I’m okay with it. Check out the beautiful plate of home-made cookies smothered in Nutella and jam that he prepared for himself this morning! Who said Nutella cannot be breakfast of champions? We’re adults now. We’ll get our fruit later. If the cookies are good – and have few ingredients – I figure it’s just fine. Normally T’s diet consists of bagged cookies from the coop but yesterday I made his grandmother’s breakfast cookies, the recipe for which is below.

Meanwhile, there’s another part to the story. The Italian diagnosis of my breakfast. When I first traveled to Italy, I brought my own cereal. Now, I do the inverse; I brought Italian “Vitalis” granola with me to Canada last time! So, a decade ago when I lived in Chicago and spent long summers living at my in-laws, my father in law observed that my breakfast was probably hurting my stomach. Tea; then bowl of granola with milk, followed by a big glass of orange juice. “We used to add citrus to milk – to make it curdle! You’re making ricotta in your stomach.” He was right. I quit the orange juice. (In case you’re wondering, my father in law eats Special K in an a bowl with milk and the coffee poured in there too for good measure.)

Nonna Dina’s Italian breakfast cookies recipe

Here is what I got from Nonna Dina in Taranto when I complimented her on the delicious cookies that she makes for breakfast-consumption, and that I find great day-round. This makes about 80 cookies so I usually half the ingredients, although they do disappear at a shocking rate.

1 kilo 00 flour
300 grams white sugar
3 eggs
250 grams butter (unsalted)
2 baggies of lievito vanigliato (which is about 2 tsp baking powder)
1 orange, juiced (add the juice, not the orange ;-) )

Combine butter and flour, add egg. Combine flour and baking powder. [OPTION: I substituted 50 grams of flour for equal amount of Semola di grano duro which made them yummy and soft). Add dry to wet (slowly). Put in fridge for a bit. Roll into balls and then half moons. Bake at 180F (350C) for 10 minutes until the edges just turn light brown.

Then, eat for breakfast. Only if you want to.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.