If you pop into any baptism or communion lunch, you will find these traditional Italian cookies called pesches (meaning peaches) on most dessert tables! They are delectable little cakes filled with a yummy pastry cream.
My cousins and I learned how to make these with my aunt a few years back (you can see the post and recipe here) and then, later, I decided to invite my friend Jenny over to make these with me because she’s been making them for years (you can check out her blog about all things Italian here!). While Jenny and I were baking, we started talking about how we could change this recipe up. Changing the recipes from peaches to lemons seemed easy enough (we actually talked about even shaping them into little lemons!). So, not being able to get this thought out of my mind, I decided to try my hand at this. The recipe, which is basically the same as the peach version with a few substitutions, turned out to be a winner!
Made with limoncello instead of the Italian liqueur that is reddish orange in colour, and filled with lemon cream, these will make you pucker and smile all in the same minute!
- If you are short on time, you can always sub in some good quality lemon curd for the lemon cream.
- You can also freeze the baked and hollowed out cookies if you don’t want to fill them right away.
- And finally, those crumbs from the insides of the cookies can be mixed with frosting of your choice to make epic cake balls!! Waste not, want not!!
Also, when you buy these cookies at Italian bakeries, they often have little leaves on them to look like peaches (or in this case, lemons) that have just been plucked from a tree. You can use whatever you like (some people even use fake/paper leaves) but, mint is always a good choice!
So, if you have lost your “zest” for life, just whip up a batch to bring back the lemony sunshine!
Italian Lemon Curd Filled Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup mild oil like canola
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder or 1 pkg Lievito Bertolini
- pinch salt
- 1 lemon, half zested and half peeled
- 2 cups milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tbsp for coating
- 4 tsp cornstarch
- 2/3 cup limoncello liqeuer, divided
- 2 drops yellow food colouring
- small edible leaves
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and 4 eggs until light; add in the oil and ½ cup milk and mix again.
- In a medium bowl, combine 4 cups flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest; add slowly to the egg mixture and mix well. Using a lightly mounded tablespoon of dough, roll the dough between your palms to make a smooth round ball (the dough will be sticky so you may have to rinse your hands after every 12 balls - and keeping your hands a bit moist is helpful!), about the size of a walnut. Repeat process, taking care to make sure all the balls are fairly uniform in size. Place balls on prepared baking sheets spacing about 1 inch apart; flatten tops slightly with damp fingertips.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden; cool.
- In a small pot on the stove, heat 2 cups milk over medium heat.
- In a small dish, beat egg yolks and ½ cup sugar until combined. Slowly add about 2 tablespoons of warm (not hot) milk and stir again; add cornstarch and stir again.
- Add a bit more warm milk and mix vigorously; add this mixture back into the pan and cook while stirring. Keep stirring until mixture thickens; remove from heat. Strain into a small bowl through a sieve (this is optional, but if you're new to custard making, this will keep all lumps out of your mix); tuck the lemon peel into the custard and top with a piece of waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming.
- Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the insides of the cookies and set aside the cookie crumbs; place hollowed out cookies on a tray.
- Moisten the insides of each cookie with a bit of the liqueur.
- In a shallow dish, mix the rest of the limoncello with the food colouring until it turns yellow in colour; put granulated sugar in another bowl.
- Spoon about a teaspoon full of custard into each half and then sandwich 2 halves together. Dip into the coloured liquor to coat all sides and roll in the granulated sugar; place on a tray.
- If you wrap the cookies with plastic wrap and wait a day, the cookies will get softer.
- Add leaves if you are using them, just before you are ready to serve them.