Genovesi Cookies

December  9, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by © 2017 Jennifer May
  • Prep time 35 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • makes 24 cookies
Author Notes

Build out your holiday cookie box with these Sicilian delights. This is a recipe from my first book, “The Fearless Baker,” and I love these cookies—they are so special and they really are a beautiful shape and presentation to add to a cookie box. They have two main components: a custard filling, and a delicious short-textured semolina dough as the outer cookie dough. They are absolutely incredible and so, so delicious.
Excerpted from the Fearless Baker 2017 by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Photography © 2017 Jennifer MayErin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

The video companion here shows Erin using whole eggs in the cookie dough, which is incorrect. When baking, please follow the written recipe, which is correct! —Food52

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Genovesi Cookies
  • Custard Filling
  • 2 cups (454g) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (99g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (28g) cornstarch
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Cookie Dough
  • 1 1/2 cups (245g) semolina flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (181g) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2g) fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons (170g) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (60g) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • powdered sugar, for dusting the cookies
  1. Make the custard: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, ¼ cup (50 g) of the sugar, the lemon zest, scraped vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. While it heats, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining ¼ cup (50 g) sugar together in a small heat-safe bowl. Once they are well combined, whisk in the egg yolks. As soon as the milk comes to a simmer, add about ¼ of it to the sugar/cornstarch mixture while whisking constantly to “temper” the mixture. Return the mixture to the pot, whisking well to combine. Return the pot to medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (fat bubbles should break the surface of the custard), 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the custard to a heat-safe bowl, and cover the surface directly with plastic wrap. Remove the vanilla bean pod. Refrigerate until the mixture is completely chilled, at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
  2. Make the cookie dough: in a medium bowl, whisk the semolina, all purpose, sugar, and salt together to combine. Add the cold butter cubes and toss well until each is coated. Use a pastry cutter or your hands to cut the butter into the flour until it is almost entirely incorporated—the pieces of butter should be very small and barely visible. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and lemon zest. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the egg mixture to the well. Mix with a silicone spatula until the dough comes together—it shouldn’t be sticky. Divide the dough into two even pieces and form them into ½ inch thick disks. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.
  3. Heat the oven to 350°F with the oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of dough to ¼ inch thick. Use a 3 ¼ inch round cookie cutter to cut out cookie bases. Transfer them to one of the prepared baking sheets, staggering them slightly. Form the scrap dough into a disk, wrap tightly, and refrigerate while you work with the next piece of dough. Flour the work surface again, and repeat step 9 with the second piece of dough. This time, don’t transfer the pieces to the baking sheets, and leave them on your work surface instead. Form the scrap dough into a disk, wrap tightly, and refrigerate. Repeat this process, rolling out the re-chilled scrap dough once or twice to get about 48 pieces of dough total. Half of the pieces should be on the baking sheets, and half on the work surface.
  5. Transfer the chilled custard to a disposable pastry bag and cut a ½ inch opening from the tip. Pipe a scant 2 tablespoons of custard into the center of each cookie base, aiming to keep the mound of custard centered, and leaving at least ½ inch of dough uncovered all the way around the outside edge. Use your finger or a small brush to coat the uncovered edge lightly with water. Then gently transfer the other rounds of dough on top of the cookie, covering the custard. Assemble this like you would a ravioli—gently pressing out any air to make direct contact with the filling and dough on top. Press firmly around the outside edge. Use a 3 ¼ inch scalloped round cutter to cut away the excess dough, create a decorative edge, and seal the edges together.
  6. Bake the cookies, rotating the trays from front and back and top to bottom at the halfway mark. Bake until the edges are lightly golden brown, 17 to 20 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Miss_Karen
  • Emily Ziemski
    Emily Ziemski
  • miller.ian
  • Crinki
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

7 Reviews

Miss_Karen January 18, 2023
They are a bit labor intensive. The custard is DELICIOUS! I didn't have any semolina, so I just used AP flour as a substitute. I thought the video was helpful, but I could do without the whole Christmas Carol that creeps her out....TOTALLY left field there.😳
Two tablespoons as filling is impossible. Perhaps it's a typo and should be 2 teaspoons? Hmmm...
miller.ian December 15, 2022
Turned out great, however I don’t see how people are getting a full 24 cookies out of the recipe. Following the instructions I was only able to get half that amount rolled out.
Crinki December 10, 2022
These look great! I’m confused why they are called Genovesi (Genoa, northern Italy) and described as Sicilian. Would love to know more about their history.
agutierrez December 10, 2022
These are gorgeous! Can you clarify one thing- video shows you using two whole eggs in the cookie dough but the recipe calls for 2 egg yolks. I'm assuming it's the whole egg as they look like they turned out beautifully!
Cheesecurds December 11, 2022
Hi ya! The video actually shows her using only the egg yolks. Go to 4:36 and you’ll see her using only the yolks.
F52Recipes December 11, 2022
At 9:55 for the dough, she used 2 large whole eggs.
Emily Z. December 19, 2022
Great question! For this recipe, follow the written instructions; the video shows her using whole eggs, but just yolks are the correct ingredient. Happy baking!