Cookies, Dessert

Occhi di Bue, Italian Sweet Treats

Nicoletta May 26, 2017

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Occhi di Bue, Italian Sweet Treats are delicious shortbread cookies filled either with jam or chocolate that you can find in every pasticceria, bakery, in Rome. They are my absolute favourite childhood treat. Occhi di Bue can be translated as “Bull’s (Ox) Eyes” and if you look closer, they kind of look like it.

Song of the day: the remake of “True colors” by Justine Timberlake and Anna Kendrick.

Occhi di Bue, Italian sweet treats

I am not sure if Occhi di Bue are popular in other Regions of Italy other than Rome, but I guess so. I can speak of Rome because there is where I was born and lived all my life until I met my husband and came to Canada in my 40’s. When I was a teenager, I would stop for an afternoon “pick me up” in one of the pasticcerie in the neighbourhood where I lived and it consisted, most of the times, in having an Occhio di Bue. Among all the sweets dazzling me, I would choose the same treat almost every time, but I would change the filling, opting one day for the jam (apricot), and another for the chocolate (Nutella). I would bite in that crumbly, buttery pastafrolla (shortbread), with icing sugar flying on my nose and clothes, sticking to my fingers, and when I reached the middle of the cookie and that soft pillowy rich sweet filling, I closed my eyes in pure delight.

 

 

Pasticcerie, bakeries, in Italy, are a very special place: a paradise of pasticcini (tea cookies), lingue di gattobrutti ma buoni, cannoli, tarts, petits fours, crostate, and cakes, with regional specialties to add to the choice. They are the place to go if you need a fancy cake for a birthday or any other special occasion; they are there if you need to bring a dessert to a dinner party, allowing you to mix and match a tray of sweets for your guests. And they are the place to go for an indulgent snack. I would stop after my ballet class, after studying at a friend’s house, during a passeggiata (walk) in the neighbourhood with my family or friends. Sometimes I would stop before going to school and Occhio di Bue would be the snack on my break. After all, my sweet tooth is a not a secret, lol. Some pasticcerie are also cafés, so you can stop for a cappuccino and a sweet treat for breakfast on your way to school or work (just a reminder that in Italy breakfast is a sweet affair). I would strongly recommend you check a pasticceria, well, maybe more than one, if you happen to be in Italy. Luckily for me, also in Edmonton, in the last couple of years, European-style bakeries and cafés are spreading widely. They are still my favourite place to go on a Saturday breakfast outing with my husband, or a stop for a snack or after dinner sweet treat.

Unfortunately, though, most of these Italian sweets are not on the menu of Canadian cafés, including these Occhi di Bue. Well, that gave me an opportunity to make them myself.

Occhi di Bue, Italian sweet treats

Occhi di Bue are simple and unpretentious: a buttery, crumbly, sweet pastafrolla, shortbread pastry, that sandwiches a generous amount of jam or Nutella. The cookies are quite large, I used a 3″ (7.5 cm) round biscuit cutter for the base and top outside diameter. Then, to make the centre hole on the top cookie I did not have a proper cutter, and as usual, beckon Loreto for some ideas. Loreto being quick on his feet came up with a solution, a shot glass measuring 1.5″ (4 cm) at the mouth. It worked out well. Hopefully, you’ll have all the combination cookie cutters or a solution orientated husband like mine, lol.

In Italy,  you can find the miniature version of these cookies, displayed among the pasticcini da the (tea cookies), and the bigger version I used to have as a snack and that I reproduced here. The end result was ten Occhi di Bue.

The jam plays an important role. It doesn’t have to be too runny, but thick enough to hold the cookies together, and not too sweet as the shortbread and the icing sugar are already sweet enough. Although apricot jam is the most common jam used in these cookies in Italy, my preference goes to the dark jams made with berries. I actually decided to finally make my own Occhi di Bue during our last trip to Salt Spring Island, after buying an amazing “Sour Cherry, Rhubarb & Rosemary Jam” from Salt Spring Kitchen Co. (not sponsored). Buying that jam was the last gentle push I needed to make my favourite childhood treats.

Since in our household we follow the motto “Waste not want not”, do not think that the cookie “holes” were thrown away. They were baked as well and they were eaten by the handful, like sweet chips. By the end of supper, the holes were gone.

The shortbread pastry is pretty easy but can be tricky to roll. The key factor, like in making pie/tart crust, is keeping it cold, and dusting consistently your work surface and rolling pin with flour, as this dough can be sticky. In my shortbread, I used a part of granulated sugar and a part of vanilla sugar (bought at The Silk Road Spice Merchant, not sponsored), which gave the cookies a lovely, fragrant vanilla flavour which marries well the butteriness of the cookies and the jam.

Occhi di Bue, Italian sweet treatsOcchi di Bue, Italian sweet treatsOcchi di Bue, Italian sweet treats

They have the flavour of my childhood, taste like home and are as reassuring as a friend’s hug. First thing first you grab hold of an Occhio di Bue, its delicateness and innocence are felt right away. You bite in and there’s the snap of the shortbread followed by this light buttery cookie melting on your tongue. Then, the jam floats in like a breath of fresh air. Its brightness and hints of rosemary tantalise the taste buds convincing your palate to another bite. Whether with a glass of milk, a coffee or a nice afternoon tea, these Occhi di Bue are sure to become a favourite, leaving a lasting impression.

OCCHI DI BUE ITALIAN SWEET TREATS

They did not last long and this will give me the opportunity to make them again, this time with a chocolate filling  (Nutella or an organic chocolate spread).

Song of the day: the remake of “True colors” by Justine Timberlake and Anna Kendrick.

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Occhi di Bue, Italian sweet treats

Occhi di Bue, Italian Sweet Treats

  • Author: Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 57 minutes
  • Yield: 10 x 3" (7.5 cm) cookies 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Occhi di Bue, Bull’s (Ox) Eyes, are are delicious, traditional Italian shortbread cookies filled either with jam or chocolate that you can find in every pasticceria, bakery, in Rome. They are my absolute favourite childhood treat. 


Ingredients

  • 100 g butter, unsalted, cold, cubed
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 50 g vanilla sugar (or 100 g granulated sugar total)
  • 200 g flour type 00 or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • icing sugar for topping
  • jam for filling

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, add the flour and in the center, the sugars and cold cubed butter. Work fast the ingredients with a pastry cutter or with your hand, until you get a pebble-like texture.
  2. Add the egg and mix briefly.
  3. Empty the mixture on the work surface and work it fast until you get a smooth and homogeneous dough.
  4. Shape it in a ball, press it down to a flat rectangle, wrap it in plastic and set it in the fridge to rest for half an hour, at least.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180°C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  6. After that time, unwrap the dough, dust the working surface and the rolling pin with flour and start rolling the dough, turning it and adding flour as you stretch the dough if you feel it is sticking to the surface or the rolling pin.
  7. Roll the dough to about a 3-4 mm thickness.
  8. With the bigger biscuit cutter, cut the dough in as many rounds as you can, taking the leftover dough and reshaping and rolling. Remember that half of your rounds will be cut in the center.
  9. With the smaller biscuit cutter, cut a hole in center of half of the rounds.
  10. Place on the prepared baking sheets.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for about 12/15 minutes.
  12. Let them cool slightly to room temperature.
  13. Dust with the icing sugar only the cookies with the hole (which will be the top of your Occhi di Bue). Set aside.
  14. Place a teaspoon of jam of your choice in the center of the cookie bottoms without the hole (do not spread it throughout the cookie bottom, just keep it a little wider than the hole).
  15. Place the cookies with a hole on top of the cookies with the jam, gently squeeze and your Occhi di Bue are ready!

Notes

The total time includes the resting time in the fridge. The cookies keep for 2-3 days in a partially covered container, without losing their crunchiness.

Ricetta in Italiano:

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Occhi di Bue, Italian sweet treats

Occhi di Bue alla marmellata

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 57 minutes
  • Yield: 10 occhi di bue media grandezza 1x

Ingredients

  • 100 g Burro
  • 100 g Zucchero
  • 200 g Farina 00
  • 1 Uovo
  • Zucchero A Velo q.b.

Instructions

  1. In una ciotola grande, aggiungete la farina e nel centro, lo zucchero e il burro freddo, tagliato a dadini.
  2. Lavorate velocemente gli ingredienti con la mano, finché non otterrete una consistenza simile a dei ciottoli.
  3. Aggiungete l’uovo e mescolate brevemente.
  4. Svuotate l’impasto sulla superficie di lavoro (spianatoia) e lavorate velocemente fino a ottenere una pasta omogenea e uniforme.
  5. Formate una palla, avvolgetela in plastica e mettete in frigorifero a riposare per almeno mezz’ora.
  6. Preriscaldate il forno a 180° C e preparate 2 teglie con carta da forno o tappetino in silicone.
  7. Dopo i 30 minuti, spolverate di farina la superficie di lavoro e il mattarello e iniziate a stendere l’impasto, girandolo e aggiungendo la farina se vedete che tende ad attaccarsi.
  8. Stendete l’impasto a uno spessore di circa 3-4 mm.
  9. Con la formina più grande, tagliate l’impasto in tanti cerchi, utilizzando tutta la pasta. Ricordate che solo la metà dei cerchi sarà bucata al centro.
  10. Con la formina più piccola, praticate un foro nel centro di metà dei cerchi.
  11. Posizionate sulle teglie e cuocete nel forno preriscaldato per circa 12/15 minuti. Controllate che non si scuriscano troppo.
  12. Fate raffreddare leggermente a temperatura ambiente.
  13. Spolverate con lo zucchero a velo solo i biscotti con il foro (che sarà la parte superiore dei vostri Occhi di Bue).
  14. Mettete un cucchiaino di marmellata di vostra scelta al centro dei cerchi senza il foro (non spalmate su tutta la superficie).
  15. Premete delicatamente i biscotti con il foro sopra i biscotti con la marmellata.
  16. l vostri Occhi di Bue sono pronti!

Notes

Il tempo totale include la mezz’ora della pasta in frigorifero.

Occhi di Bue, Italian sweet treats

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24 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply Milena | Craft Beering May 26, 2017 at 10:38 am

    These are absolutely decadent. You had such a charmed life eating delectable treats like these from the source! Love learning about how people really enjoy life in Rome from you Nicoletta. Have a great weekend, looking forward to more delicious awesomeness from you guys next week!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta May 27, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      I had indeed. Rome is a beautiful city and I miss it very much 🙂 . These cookies are amazing, anyway, part of Rome’s charm 🙂 . Thank you so much!

  • Avatar
    Reply Alexandra | Occasionally Eggs May 28, 2017 at 1:34 am

    What beautiful pictures! That jam has me inspired to try to make a batch at home (I’ll freeze some rhubarb so it’s there when the cherries are) but these cookies would be great with any number of fillings. I really like how simple they are so you can experiment with what’s inside.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta May 28, 2017 at 7:30 am

      That jam has an amazing flavor, so glad you were inspired to make it. The cookies are simple and great with any filling, you’re absolutely right. Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Avatar
    Reply Gloria Duggan September 11, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    These are so cute. They would look perfect on the holiday cookies tray (OMG….that is going to happen so soon too). I LOVE Italian food, so I know I would devour these. Looking forward to meeting you at the conference next month!!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you, Gloria! I agree, they would look perfect on the holiday cookie tray! We are getting so excited about the upcoming conference! Cannot wait to meet you in person!

  • Avatar
    Reply Abby September 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    These cookies are gorgeous! I love fancy treats that look complicated, but have a simple ingredients list.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Yes, Abby, they look more complicated than they actually are 😉 . Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Avatar
    Reply Analida Braeger September 11, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I love a tasty shortbread cookie with a nice hot cup of tea! These look so lovely, I need to make some for Christmas to share with my family. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 12, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you! These cookies are so good with tea and would be lovely shared at Christmas.

  • Avatar
    Reply neuroticbaker September 14, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    How pretty! I would make them with jam and chocolate.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 15, 2017 at 7:41 am

      Thank you! They are indeed pretty 😉 ! Yummy, with chocolate!

  • Avatar
    Reply Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen September 15, 2017 at 8:00 am

    These are gorgeous! One of my favorite treats 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 15, 2017 at 8:13 am

      So glad you love them as well and know about them!! Thank you so much!

  • Avatar
    Reply Sasha @ Eat Love Eat September 15, 2017 at 10:29 am

    These look and sound absolutely beautiful, Nicoletta! I could definitely eat one or two of these 🙂 the nutella version sounds especially wonderful!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      Thank you, Sasha, they’re not small cookies, but I am with, I could eat one or two 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply Marisa Franca @ All Our Way September 15, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    You’re adorable cookies are making my mouth water. I love the color and you could probably switch it if you wanted. Green and red at Christmas. I certainly wish I had one or two with my afternoon coffee.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Grazie, Marisa! My mouth waters every time I see them 😉 . You could certainly make them with Christmas colors 😉 .

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago September 16, 2017 at 6:33 am

    These are lovely cookies! They will be perfect for upcoming holiday cookie exchanges!!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 20, 2017 at 7:36 am

      Thank you! They are pretty and also so delicious to eat 😊!

  • Avatar
    Reply jodiemo September 19, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    These. Look. Amazing. I can imagine all kinds of fillings for cookies like these and I bet they would be delicious! Thanks for sharing!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 20, 2017 at 7:37 am

      Thanks, Jodie! Yes, they would work with many different fillings and all would be scrumptious!

  • Avatar
    Reply Lauren Greco December 12, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Hi, I just made your recipe and they taste absolutely lovely. However, I only ended up with 8 cookies. How many cookies is this dough supposed to make?

    Thanks,
    Lauren

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 12, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Hi! So happy you made them! I’m so in love with these cookies! I made 10 with the dough, as I said it in the recipe, and they were 7.5 cm in diameter. Maybe yours are just a tiny bigger? Or thicker? Which jam did you put inside? Or chocolate? 😉 . Thank you for your feedback!

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