Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.
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Great Grandma Francesca Cardile’s Cookies

These elegant, lightly sweet cookies are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

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Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

Keeping family traditions alive through food is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. And one of the best parts of marrying into an Italian family is learning their traditional holiday recipes. I’m doing my best to take copious notes and keep these family favorites going for the next generation.

My husband gets together with his dad and uncle to make his paternal grandma’s Turdilli & Chinudille for Christmas for many years now, but he hadn’t ever made the cookies that his maternal grandmother always made until fairly recently.

His mom’s cousin Lorraine came over to show us how to make these beauties. She said that his grandma might not have put the orange juice in when she made them, but we really liked the flavor that it added. We found out that this recipe actually came from his great grandmother, who was from Calabria, Italy.

I was so excited to finally get to sit in and help make a batch of these traditional Italian Christmas cookies, as well as documenting the process. The shaping of the cookies is one of the most interesting parts, and it takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it.

Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

These cookies are light and fluffy and not overly sweet. They go perfectly with a hot cup of tea. The orange flavor is really nice. The recipe makes a lot of cookies (and this is apparently half the size of the batch she used to make!). The tricky part is shaping them, but you can really make them any shape that you want to, as long as they’re all a consistent size.

Our son was a toddler when we got together to make these, and he absolutely loved them (they’re great for teething!). I’m so glad I got to be part of this tradition, and now it’s something that we can pass down to our son and enjoy for years to come.

I forgot to note exactly how many cookies this recipe made, but I’ll keep a tally next time and update the recipe here. I’m including some photos to use as visual cues to help you in your Italian Christmas cookie baking adventures.

This is what the consistency of the dough should look like:

Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

My husband learning how to roll out the cookies:

Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

You have to twist and twirl the dough:

Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

The final shape:

Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

Finishing them off with an egg wash:

Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

Looking for more dessert recipes? Check out some of our family favorites:

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Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

Great Grandma Francesca Cardile’s Cookies


Description

These elegant, lightly sweet cookies are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.


Ingredients

Cookie dough:

  • 9 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 1/2 cups Crisco
  • 9 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Egg wash:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • splash of milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Instructions

  1. Put the flour, cinnamon and baking powder in a large bowl and mix together with a fork. Add the zest of the orange and stir to combine. Mix in Crisco with a fork or your fingers until the consistency resembles coarse sand.
  2. In another large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer, adding one egg and a sprinkle of sugar at a time, until all 9 eggs and 2 cups of sugar are combined. Beat in the juice of the orange and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs, beating until it is all combined. Great Grandma Francesca did the entire thing by hand, but we like to use an electric mixer until the dough gets too thick, and then we switch to a wooden spoon to finish incorporating the ingredients. The finished dough should resemble pizza dough. If it’s too sticky, you can add more flour.
  3. To shape the cookies, put a light sprinkle of flour on the countertop. Grab a handful of dough and knead it on the counter a couple of times to get it nice and smooth. Break off a walnut-sized piece of dough and roll it between your palm and the countertop until it forms a smooth ball. Roll that ball into a log, about 8 inches long. Bring the ends of the log up next to each other to form a “U” shape, grab the bottom of the “U” with your other hand, and twist it a few times until the dough forms a tight spiral. Place the spiral on the counter and wrap it around your finger to form a circle. Pull the top end over the bottom and pinch it underneath slightly to close. Place onto a cookie sheet.
  4. Beat the egg wash ingredients together in a small bowl, and brush lightly over each cookie. Bake at 350°F until the cookies have puffed up and are nice and golden brown on top, about 10-15 minutes.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Francesca Cardile by Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen – Ashley Covelli

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Great Grandma Francesca Cardile's Cookies are an elegant, lightly sweet dessert that are a Calabrese tradition, passed down through the generations and enjoyed annually at Christmas and Easter.

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21 Comments

  • Joanne

    I wonder how anyone ever had the patience to make all those cookies! My grandmother used to make a similarly crazy amount. Definitely need to try these and see how they compare to my family’s!

  • Ashley

    I think a lot of Italian families have similar cookies, with their own twists. It was really cool being a part of something that brings my husband so many fond memories. And my toddler absolutely adores them!

  • Janet

    I came over from Hoosier Homemade today so I am a newbie to your blog but I had to say the cookbook is a precious item. To have the recipes and the handwriting is priceless let alone all the stains. Lovely, just lovely!!

    • Ashley

      Yes! I totally agree. It belongs to my husband’s mother’s cousin, so she will probably pass it along to her kids, but I made sure to take photos of a lot of the recipes so I have them to try out. Thanks so much for stopping by, Janet! 🙂

  • Homemade & Yummy

    Don’t you just love those old recipe books. I have my mom’s too….but most of the time I still have to figure out how to make the recipe. She never really wrote down directions. Traditional recipes bring back wonderful memories.

  • Melville Nicoletta

    Also for us, that is what is all about, keeping the tradition alive, while creating new memories. These cookies are so good, we tasted some from Loreto’s God mother who is from Calabria 🙂 ! Great job!

  • Analida's Ethnic Spoon

    I love the old recipe book in your photos as we have one we are preserving as well with online recipes we publish. Bringing the family together with food is so important a tradition. Merry Christmas to you and your family Ashley!

  • Dishes Delish

    Your recipe book looks like one of mine!! So fun to have an old handwritten book! I love cookies that aren’t too sweet and these look perfect. Simply perfect!

  • Helene Dsouza

    Oh those are pretty cookies! You guys got a hand for this. I am usually super messy. First time I see those cookies too, and I love learning about Italian cookie traditions. I have to admit we don’t really know much about Italian cookies in Austria and Germany, because we have so much choice of local cookies. However, I am going to share this recipe with my mum now, maybe she can introduce these at the upcoming gardening club in the village there. 🙂

  • Amélie van der Aa

    I love how these cookies were shared generation after generation, This is so precious, and so is the old and browned cookbook in the picture! And these cookies look so pretty too!

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