Canestrelli: the recipe and the role of sugars in cookies

A while ago, I tried some “healthy” cookies that I bought in a pastry shop. They were made with whole wheat flour and honey. The taste was decent, but the texture terrible: hard as a brick. I thought that maybe they didn’t contain any baking powder, but the list of ingredients proved me wrong: backing powder was there. Moreover, the shortcrust pastry I usually make doesn’t contain any baking powder and, despite that, it is nice and friable. Maybe it was because of the low content of fats? Who knows. I soon stopped breaking my neck on that riddle. The thought of those cookies started to fade, until this week.

I just go on Bressanini’s blog to learn about the last publish post. What a coincidence! The article talks about the role of sugars in baking products (in particular in cookies, ah!). By reading the article, the memory of those “healthy” cookies soon becomes more vivid into my mind. Soon, a few things become clear to me...

In some older post, I wrote about the strength of the flours and the role of gluten. I explained how the gluten net determines the elasticity of the dough and how preparations as shortcrust pastry require weak flours. You should now, however, that the strength of the flour is not the only factor affecting the texture of a product. Also sugars play an important role, by limiting the formation of gluten net and allowing to achieve a more friable cookie. Dario explained very well how it is impossible to get rid of sugars without sacrificing taste and texture. Sugars play an important role, by limiting the formation of gluten net and allowing achieving a friable cookie.

The famous “healthy” cookies contained honey, in place of regular table sugar. This could work, as honey contains simple sugars as glucose and fructose that might give similar results to sucrose, in terms of texture. But I am afraid that my baker wasn’t too generous with the amount of honey, obtaining hard and very little sweet cookies.  

Given that I am craving for cookies (the good ones!), what is better than canestrelli to understand the importance of flours and sugars in baking products?

The recipe is from Sara’s blog that, mea culpa, I haven’t been reading in a while :P Qualcosa di rosso was one of the first food blog I started to read in the far 2006. It is a blog full of recipes, travels and stories. A reassuring place, for people in love with traditional food that Sara proposes with creativity and innovation.  

This cookies are not healthy at all. However, I believe that, if you decide to indulge yourself, you should do it properly! :) As usual, I weakened my all purpose flour with some corn starch. In this way, we limit the gluten amount and we obtain a friable, sandy cookie.


Canestrelli from Liguria (doses for about 15 cookies)

(from the blog Qualcosa di Rosso)

  • 144 g of all purpose flour
  • 26 g of corn starch
  • 100 g of soft butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 50 g of sugar
  • Icing sugar to sprinkle

Work the butter with the sugar. Add the flours and the yolk. Knead quickly and do not overwork the dough. Wrap the pastry with a film paper and place it in the fridge for about 30 min.

Spread the dough (max 0.5 cm thickness) and cut the cookies. Place them on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven at 150 ˚C for 15 min. The cookies should stay pale and do not turn golden-brown. Remove them from the oven, let them cool down and sprinkle some icing sugar on the top of them.