These cookies are peachy in looks only. Lemon-infused cookies are sandwiched together with a lusciously smooth Italian pastry cream then dipped in a rosy liqueur and rolled in sugar until they resemble the voluptuous curves and pink blush of a ripe peach.
At least, that's the goal. Sometimes the cookies get cracked and lumpy in the baking process and you end up with rather misshapen peaches that still taste marvelous.
I suppose that in this way, Italian peach cookies resemble the peaches of nature. Sometimes the ugly fruit tastes every bit as good as its perfect counterpart.
This Italian peach cookies recipe may sound finicky, but it's really quite simple as long as you plan ahead.
It all starts with the Italian pastry cream which must chill a good two hours before it's ready to add to the cookies.
Tips for Making Pastry Cream
The cream is a rich, silky confection made with whole milk and heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla and thickened with egg yolks and a bit of flour. Cooked over the stove, it comes together beautifully without any lumps as long as you're faithful to stir, stir, stir the entire time.
You'll know it's ready when the milky mixture thickens into something resembling vanilla pudding and begins to pull away from the pan when you stir it. As soon as this happens, remove it from the heat, pour it into a heat-proof bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure to press the wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream so you don't get a hard layer when it cools.
How to Make Italian Peach Cookies
The dough for these cookies is simple but fragrant with lots of fresh lemon zest and vanilla.
The only fiddly bit is needing to cut in the softened butter with your fingers until it resembles coarse sand. Then you add the wet ingredients and spoonfuls of milk until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.
If the dough is too sticky to roll easily with your hands, just add some flour to your palms and they should come together well. Try to make the cookie balls of equal size so your final peach shape won't be too wonky.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until they're just starting to brown. Remove to baking racks to cool completely. If you work with them warm, the pastry cream will turn runny and you'll end up with a big mess.
When you're ready to assemble your Italian peach cookies recipe, make things easy for yourself by setting up an assembly line with cookies at the beginning, pastry cream next, followed by small bowls for the liqueur and sugar, and finally, a cooling rack.
Although these cookies are traditionally dipped in Alchermes Liqueur, a vivid red concoction infused with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and herbs, you can use any red liqueur. For mine, I used some of my homemade Nordic Berry liqueur, and it was delightful.
To create your cookies, simply scoop a small well in the base of each cookie, fill it with pastry cream and use the cream to sandwich the cookies into a round shape. Dip the whole thing into the liqueur then set it onto the cooling rack for 30 seconds before rolling it in the sugar. This will ensure a fine layer of sugar on the cookie instead of big lumps and patches. Repeat until all the cookies are finished. Place the rack in a cookie sheet and chill in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before serving.
In homage to their name, I like to serve these cookies with a peach tea such as our Sweet Georgia Peach black tea, Peach Bellini herbal tea, or Peaches n' Cream oolong tea.
Italian Peach Cookies Recipe
Ingredients for Dough:
- 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3-4 tablespoons milk
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 and 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup Alchermes Liqueur (or any red liqueur)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
Directions for Italian Pastry Cream:
Pour milk and cream into a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat until warm. Do not boil. Remove from heat.
Pour egg yolks and sugar into a heavy-bottomed pan and whisk together. Add flour and vanilla and whisk together. Place over low heat and slowly add milk mixture, whisking continuously.
Cook 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously until mixture thickens and begins to pull away from the pan. Remove from heat and pour into a shallow, heat-proof bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the surface of the cream, then refrigerate for 2 hours.
Directions for Cookies:
Preheat oven to 350F and line two cookie sheets with baking paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl add stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, and lemon zest. Add butter and mix in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Stir in egg and vanilla until well-mixed. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto work surface, shape into a log, and cut into 16 equal pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball and place it on a cookie sheet 1 inch apart.
Bake 15-20 minutes and remove to a cooling rack to cool for 10 minutes.
When cookies are cool enough to handle, cut a shallow well in the bottom of each cookie and fill it with cooled pastry cream. Press two cookies, bottoms together, to form a sphere. Repeat until all cookies are used.
Dip each cookie in liqueur then set on a cooling rack for 30 seconds to rest before rolling in sugar. Repeat until all cookies are coated. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.