I usually bake a batch of four or five different cookies every December to share with friends. two years back our daughter was home so I baked a few though I didn’t send any because of the pandemic. Last year I thought I’d try a couple of cookies I hadn’t baked before. The first of these are Abracci or Italian Hug Cookies.
Abracci or Italian Hug Cookies are ring shaped buttery, crumbly half vanilla-half chocolate cookies. The word Abracci means “hug” in Italian. The quirky name probably comes from the two halves of the cookies that seemingly hug each other. These cookies are perfect for the season and provide some delicious hugs much needed in these times.
These cookies are very popular in Italy though I doubt many people actually make them at home. Abracci are amongst the different cookies made and sold under the Mulino Bianca brand by Barilla.
However, there’s nothing complicated about these cookies. You make two doughs, one vanilla and one chocolate. Roll out short cylinders of each dough and tuck together one light coloured end to a chocolate one forming a ring. Do not over mix the dough for lighter cookies, especially while mixing in the cocoa. Refrigerating the dough after shaping them but before baking produces a better cookie.
If shaping them into rings seem like too much work, you can shape them differently. Roll both doughs into small balls (about a tsp and a half each). Press together one vanilla and one chocolate ball together. Roll that into a smooth ball and lightly flatten with the tines of a fork. You’ll have a “white and black” cookie.
This cookie is typically not as sweet as most cookies, which makes it a more grown-up kind of cookie. You can marginally increase the amount of sugar if you prefer a sweeter cookie. Abracci can also be flavoured with lime zest. I added orange zest to mine. Abracci or Italian Hug Cookies are perfect with milk, coffee or tea.
Abracci or Italian Hug Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/16 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 175 gm unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 1/3 cup cream I used 25% fat
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp cream
- Mix together the flour salt and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. In this recipe, the butter-sugar-egg mixture is made and then divided into two equal portions. One is flavoured vanilla and the other chocolate with cocoa.
- Start by creaming the butter, sugar and vanilla till soft and fluffy. Beat in the egg till well incorporated. Also mix in the honey, vanilla, 1/3 cup cream and orange zest. Add the flour mixture and knead into a slightly soft smooth dough.
- Divide the mixture into two equal portions. Knead in the cocoa powder and the 2tbsp cream into one portion till uniformly brown, a little soft and smooth. You will now have two balls of dough, one cream and one chocolate. Line baking sheets with parchment.
- Start with the cream coloured vanilla dough. Pinch off roughly one-inch balls and roll each into a 1 cm thick and 6 cm long rope. Curve each into a half moon and place on the prepared baking sheets. Do the same with the chocolate dough. Attach each half-moon shape to one cream coloured half-moon and pinch the ends together to form a ring. This will create a half vanilla and half chocolate “hug”.
- Refrigerate the shaped dough for 30 min to ensure the perfect shape when baking. Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 12-15 minutes, or until the white dough starts turning lightly golden in colour. Let them cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Then cool them on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. These cookies keep for about a week to 10 days.