These delicate, lemony biscuits are a hint that winter is over and Easter is on its way. They are deceptively robust so they actually are the perfect dipping biscuit to accompany tea, coffee or even hot chocolate. Dipped in chocolate, Esse biscuits transform into a decadent standalone treat.
Esse biscuits are traditionally made at home for Christmas and Easter and are dipped in sweet wine (vin santo) or even dry white wine. Today, these popular biscuits can be found in pastry shops. In Burano, an island in the Venetian lagoon, the Esse di Burano biscuits were traditionally made by the fishwives for their husbands to take to sea as they are long-lasting. My children love to make them and invariably they want the letter of their own name instead of the S.
I wish you all a very happy Easter with your loved ones. If you need Easter feast ideas – try savoury Easter bread filled with salumi, grilled asparagus, asparagus with prosciutto, Easter cheese bread, bruschetta with asparagus, bruschetta with fava/broad beans and pecorino, cannelloni, lasagne, risotto with peas, spring vegetable risotto, pasta with peas, roast lamb (abbacchio), lamb and artichokes, grilled lamb chops, braised artichokes, spring vegetable stew, prosciutto with peas, raisin and rosemary sweet rolls and Easter ricotta pie.
Esse (lemon and vanilla shortbread biscuits) – Veneto
Esse biscuits may also add 15 grams of baking powder (1 tablespoon) to the mixture with the flour, can also be flavoured with aniseed liqueur or rum and can served sprinkled with icing sugar. There is also a Jewish variation, bisse degli ebrei, which substitute olive oil for the butter. For illustrated step-by-step instructions, click here.
150 grams icing sugar
150 grams butter, room temperature
1/2 unwaxed lemon, rinsed and zested
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
2 large eggs, room temperature
300 grams 00 flour
Optional: tempered chocolate for dipping
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Beat together the sugar, butter, lemon zest and vanilla until fluffy and has lightened in colour. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between. Add the flour and mix to combine. Be careful not to overmix after adding the flour as you don’t want gluten strands to form and toughen the biscuit. Place the mixture into a piping bag with a large, fluted tip and place the refrigerator to firm up a bit.
Cover baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe out the biscuits into “S” shapes on the parchment. Bake for 20 minutes.