La Befana’s Stars
I think it is fun to have another cookie to bake after the rush of Christmas. These cookies symbolize the story of La Befana (pronounced La Bay-fah-nah), who travels around Italy on the Feast of the Epiphany, which falls on January 6 and celebrates the visit of the three Magi to the Christ Child. I like to bake these on the eve of Epiphany and eat them the next day, when I take the Christmas tree down. Rich, rolled sugar cookies spiked with a bit of anisette, they are superb with a cup of hot chocolate. The traditional shape of these cookies is a star, to signify the Star of Bethlehem and La Befana’s quest for the baby Jesus. I think most kids will agree with my belief that multicolored sprinkles are absolutely necessary; the glaze brushed on top of the cookies helps the sprinkles adhere and gives the cookies a pretty sheen.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Dietary Considerationhalal, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian
Mealdinner, snack, tea
Taste and Texturebuttery, crisp, rich, sweet
Type of Dishcookie, dessert
- 3 ½ cups unbleached flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups (3 sticks/12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons anisette
- Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Multicolored sprinkles
To make the cookies: In a medium bowl, whisk the four, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamy and light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition, followed by the vanilla extract, anisette, and orange zest. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed to form a stiff dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until it is firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces; work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces refrigerated. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using a floured 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into stars. Place the cookies ½ inch apart on the baking sheets. Gather the scraps together and repeat rolling and cutting until you have used all the scraps; it may be necessary to refrigerate the scraps until they are firm enough to roll again.
To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the cream. Using a small pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the cookies with a bit of glaze and decorate them with the sprinkles.
Bake the cookies until they are lightly golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets, then gently remove them with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, for up to 4 days.
2007 Gina DePalma