It’s great to have a few recipes in your repertoire that will make small batches of treats when you are looking for a little nibble. These biscuits are delicately lemony, buttery and not too sweet. They are a sumptuous small bite that will go well with a small coffee, tea, or a digestive. They are called “S” biscuits or Bussola in Italian and are a traditional Venetian cookie. When I was in Venice a few years ago I didn’t encounter any, being more focused the architecture. I was there as a student to catch the Architecture Biennale for a few days.
Venice is a city with so many layers and many visitors have strong reactions to the city. The waves of tourists washing up on shore from the mega cruise ships add another layer. People say the food is bad there, but I didn’t find it to be so. I stuck with simple meals like a slice of eggplant pizza from a hole in the wall counter, warmed up in the pizza oven for a few minutes so as to be searingly hot to hold in your hands. A cup of hot mulled wine on the street corner at night to ward off the damp air. A bag of tiny satsumas bought at the market just around the corner from the Rialto Bridge. It is amazing what you can find if you just open your eyes.
Originally Bussola were made around Easter. I’m guessing that they are and Easter cookie because they contain egg yolks and butter which were banned during Lent. Now these cookies are made year round and not just in Italy. Bussola by the way translates to “compass” in English; and if you are missing Venice just make these cookies and they will point you in a good direction. You can easily double or triple the recipe if you have a large family but I like having a small batch of cookies.
Makes 10 – 14
75 g softened unsalted best quality butter
60 g sugar
zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
125 g Italian 00 flour (or pastry flour) for best results
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 – 3 tbsp milk as needed
For the Decoration (non-traditional):
Optional 1: lemon glaze: mix 3 heaping tablespoons of icing sugar with lemon juice until it reaches a drizzling consistency. Wait until the biscuits have cooled before applying.
Option 2: pearl sugar. Apply to the unbaked biscuits.
In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla extract, salt and mix well. Add the flour and stir well to distribute and combine. At this point the mixture will be dry and crumbly. Add the milk slowly to make a stiff and slightly sticky dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to rest the dough and firm it up.
When chilled, roll the dough into snakes about 15 cm long and then shape into “s” shapes. If the dough is too sticky to work with then use a bit of additional flour to help roll them out. Bake at 325F on a parchment lined sheet for 10 – 15 minutes until slightly golden. Cool on the baking sheet.