Befanini, often called Befana, are typical biscuits in the Lucca area and there is a typical version from Barga too, which has a different filling and decoration. There isn’t an official recipe because it has been handed down from one generation to another, so the version we are giving you here is just one of the most common versions. The tradition says that befanini should be prepared on Epiphany Day, but you can buy them in shops from 8 December and many families prepare these biscuits earlier, to give them as Christmas gifts, as they are a natural present made with love.
There are multiple versions of befanini: for example, the Lucca version, which is characterized by its colourful sprinkles on the top, is popular. Barga’s version, instead, is recognizable for its marzipan filling and its decoration that has to be handmade with special pincers to make every biscuit unique.
Let’s now pass from theory to practice and see one of the many versions.
The ingredients to prepare the pastry are:
- 1kg flour
- 700g sugar
- 250g butter (in some cases lard is used instead, or a mix of lard and butter)
- 6 eggs (1 and a half egg whites are put aside for the marzipan)
To prepare the marzipan you’ll need:
- 300g chopped almonds
- 280g sugar
- 1 and a half egg whites
- Orange and lemon zest
- Liqueur: you can use alchermes, Sassolino, rum, cognac or a mix of them
Now let’s see the procedure: mix the butter at room temperature with the other ingredients, adding them gradually to obtain a smooth dough.
To prepare the marzipan, mix all the ingredients together to get a not too soft dough. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough and create different shapes; then, use the pincers on the external part and decorate the centre with marzipan; conclude the decoration with leaves created with the remaining dough and bake at 180°. Once taken out, sprinkle with icing sugar.
Bon appetit and happy holidays!
— Written and translated by Margherita Paolinelli