Castagnelle | Best Italian Christmas Cookies Recipe Questa ricetta è disponibile anche in italiano.
Christmas is all about tradition, am I right?
One of the traditions I grew up with was making sure to bake this cookies with my family for the holidays.
Let me introduce you to “Castagnelle”: accidentally vegan crunchy spiced almond cookies typical from the Italian region I grew up in, Puglia.
Castagnelle are THE Christmas cookie that is baked throughout the month of December in bakeries and Apulian families.
Of course every family has their own tricks and recipe: some may use coffee instead of water, some claim cocoa powder is not used in the authentic recip, some prefer them soft, others like them crunchy… and so on!
You know how Italian people are about their foods, and of course people from south Italy are not exception!
The recipe I’m presenting you today is the version that both my family and I like the most: it has my own little twist, as usual.
What are the ingredients for Castagnelle?
Unlikely most classic cookies, Castagnelle dough don’t need any butter or eggs. That’s why I mentioned the cookies being accidentally vegan!
Indeed, these easy and humble Christmas cookies only need a bunch of ingredients:
Almonds are of course the main ingredient of these and acually most cookies from the part of Italy I am from.
Ideed, us Italians love our almonds, but who doesn’t?
Rich on manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and vitamins E and B2, these nuts are a good source of fibers and proteins, a real boost to our health!
For this recipe we need to slightly toast the almonds before we can roughly chop them. This step will allow almonds to release their gorgeous nutty flavour.
Next step: chopping!
We can use both a food processer and pulse a few times or a good chef knife.
Next step is to sieve the flour and cocoa powder in a bowl, then add: sugar, orange and lemon zest and finally the spices.
The spices I personally adore in these Christmas cookies are:
- White Pepper
It is also common to use ground cloves: if you fancy feel free to add a pinch to the mixture for an extra kick of flavour.
The two “uncommon” ingredients I use for this recipe are: white pepper and orange zest.
I really find them both to be a great addition to the final flavour, a real kick of fragrance and taste.
Last ingredient we are using to bind everything together is simple water.
For an even more flavourful kick some use coffee instead of water, but I decided to keep my recipe kids friendly 🙂
Now we will only need to work the dough until it comes together.
Once our cookie dough has come together we will only need to shape the cookies and bake them shortly in the oven.
As well as the ingredients, also the shape of these cookies is pretty humble and simple.
To make Castagnelle into their traditional shape we need to:
1. Grab some of the dough and roll it into a sausage on a flour dusted surface
2. Flat the sausage shaped dough to 4-5 mm thick and cut it into diamonds with a sharp knife.
Keep shaping the Castagnelle until all the dough is finished, then arrange the cookies on a baking tray ready to be finished in the oven.
Bake in preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) for 20 minutes or until the cookies are still slighly soft.
Be warned: your house will smell just AMAZING during this step.
Allow to cool on a cooling rack, then store in airtight containers.
- can be stored in an airtight container up to 2-3 weeks.
- make a perfect homemade Christmas gift
- are addicting, but it’s Christmas, so we are allowed to indulge!
Do you want to make this recipe soon? Then PIN the following image for later!
Castagnelle | The Best Italian Christmas Cookies Recipe
200 gr Almonds (Blanched)
200 gr Flour
160 gr Sugar
130 gr Water
20 gr Cocoa Powder
1 tbsp Orange Extract (or Zest)
1 Lemon (Zest)
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp White Pepper
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1. Toast the almonds in a pan or for 10 minutes in a 180°C (350°F) preheated oven. Allow the almonds to cool down completely.
2. Roughly chop the almonds in a food processor or with a knife.
3. In a bowl sieve flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Add sugar, lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla and white pepper and mix well.
4. Add almonds and water.
5. Work the dough until it comes together.
6. Roll segments of dough into sausages, flat each sausage to a 4-5mm thickness and cut the cookies into diamonds with a sharp knife.
7. Arrange onto a tray covered with baking paper or silicon matt and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Note: Cookies need to be still a bit soft when baked. They will firm up once they’ve cooled down onto a cooling rack.