Nice Lemon Cookies

Nice Lemon Cookies


I love the Italian custom of adding the word “bello” to describe a mundane action, object or food – thus, elevating “il quotidiano” – the everyday – to something special.  “Prendiamo un bel caffe” – Let’s have a nice coffee.  “Facciamo una bella passeggiata” – Let’s take a nice walk.  “Mangiamo un bel piatto di pasta” – Let’s eat a nice plate of pasta. “Facciamo un bel bicchiere” – Let’s share a nice glass of wine.

A classic cookie recipe from my mother’s extensive baking repertoire is one she calls “Nice Cookies.”  These chewy, buttery cookies are made entirely by hand and glazed with a tart lemon icing.  My mom taught me how to make her “Nice Cookies” last week and when I asked her how they got their name, she responded, “Ma guarda come sono belli!” – look how nice they are!

Nice Cookies (Biscotti al Limone)

Recipe by Majella Home Cooking ©

Makes 60 Cookies

For the cookies:

  • 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for working the dough)
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ¾ sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (1 orange should do)

For the glaze:

  • 1 ½  cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (use Meyer lemons if available)
  • 1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare 3 baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone liners. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large bowl.  Add the softened butter and work together with your hands until there are no clumps of butter remaining.  The texture should resemble coarse sand.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla and orange juice together until combined.  Pour the egg mixture into the well you made in the center of the butter and flour mixture.  First with a fork and then with your hands, work together to incorporate the ingredients.  The resulting dough will be very sticky so add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough comes together and no longer clings to the bowl.  Don’t overwork or the cookies will be tough.  Allow the cookie dough to rest for about 5 minutes.

Break off a piece of dough – about a scant tablespoon – and roll it into a rope about ½ inch in thickness.

Rolling the rope

Fold the rope in half and braid it together.

Rope Bring the two ends of the braid together to form a circular basket and gently press the ends together so they won’t some apart during baking.


Transfer each cookie onto the prepared baking sheet about two apart (I was able to fit 5 rows of 4 cookies on each baking sheet).

Bake the cookies for 18-22 minutes, until slightly golden on top.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.  Allow to thoroughly cool prior to glazing.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Whisk until smooth.

When the cookies have cooled, spoon about 1/2-teaspoon of glaze onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Store in a airtight container for freshness.


Buon appetito!

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11 Responses to Nice Lemon Cookies

  1. Katy Gorman March 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    Even maths at school can be ‘bello’ so I’m with you on that one Michelle! These look wonderful. badly timed for my post-Christmas / pre beach diet but hey ho. I shall file this away for later. Any chance of a decent Italian low-fat cookie recipe for Greer? I can only find US recipes which don’t work here as you know…can you try them out on your three?

    • Majella Home Cooking March 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

      Ahhhh….Katy, my friend. I’m not very good at the low-fat thing especially when we’re talking cookies! However, check out the lemon olive oil cake on my site – if you’d like, I can convert that for you into grams. Hope all is well! A presto!

  2. Lucy Le Donne March 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Hi! I like your receipe for lemon cookies but how much is 2 3/4 sticks of butter because I live in Italy and I can’t figure out the amount. Thank you so much. Lucy

    • Majella Home Cooking March 10, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

      Ciao Lucy. One stick of butter equals 113 grams so you’ll need about 310 grams of butter. Please let me know how they turn out!

  3. Laney (Ortensia Blu) March 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    You had me at lemon…but these look way more than bello…or even nice:)

  4. Ciao Chow Linda March 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Bello e buono. These cookies would be perfect with a cup of afternoon tea, or to load up in a basket for gift giving.

    • Majella Home Cooking March 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

      They were indeed my breakfast and afternoon snack today! And I agree, they’re a great hostess gift. Even though citrus is such a wintry flavor, these cookies feel like sunshine and brightness to me!

  5. Frank @Memorie di Angelina March 11, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    The word is overused, but this is one thing that really does deserve the name “belli”!

  6. Michael March 11, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    They look even piu belli on our kitchen table! The boys and I agreed — they were delicious!!

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