Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Best cookie ever. Don't read this if you love cookies. You've been warned.


Last weekend, a carb miracle occurred: I discovered my favorite cookies of all time, Pan di Stelle, at a local Italian grocery. They make me very happy, and that's partly due to the fact that I first tried them when I studied in Florence, Italy as a junior in college. The memories I associate with their taste are inextricably tied to that wondrous time in my life, although these cookies are absolutely delicious, period.

Created by Mulino Bianco (basically, the Italian version of Pepperidge Farm), their name translates to "bread of the stars" and that's not over-promising. They're made with cocoa and hazelnuts, with 11 tiny white iced stars on every cookie. They are simple, not too sweet and oh-so-chocolatey satisfying. Often, when I got home from school in the villa at Piazza Savonarola, my roommate and I would veg out in front of Italian game shows, do homework and down the cookies. The psychologist who we roomed with, Gioia, would make us a delicious pasta dinner and then Marianne and I headed out for the evening's adventure—a bar, a club, a coffee house.

In my twenties, my friend Betsy was my supplier; she'd bring back bags for me when she went to visit her boyfriend in Florence. After they broke up, I persuaded an Italian deli in Hoboken, NJ, to order them for me. Then we moved to the 'burbs, I had kids and I never bothered finding them again because there are approximately eleventy billion other things I have to do besides tracking down cookies I love.

It's funny, I never had the desire to order them online, which of course you can given that you can purchase everything on the Internet except new relatives. They were a treat I only bought at a store, sticking with the tradition of my Florentine days. Then I visited a grocer in our area for the first time. I'd heard they make good sandwiches, and I was craving a turkey sub. As I wandered through the store, I spotted the cookies and I'm pretty sure I let out an actual gasp. Pan di Stelle! Here!

There were three bags of them on the shelf. Exhibiting extraordinary self control, I only bought one. Exhibiting a complete lack of self control, I ate about half the bag when I got home. I sat at the kitchen table, reminiscing about my five months in Florence. Everything about Italy is incredible—the food, the art, the architecture, the clothes, the general sentiment that life is meant to be celebrated. Most stores still closed in the afternoon when I was there, so people could enjoy time with their families.

I had no accompanying sweet tooth guilt. Each cookie has 38 calories—not too bad. In fact, accounting for the fact that I haven't eaten these cookies for 12 years, and there are 20 cookies per bag, that's an average of .6 cookies per year I'd missed out on. So really, I wasn't gorging, just making up for lost carbs.

The packaging has a photo of a Pan di Stelle Mooncake. My hunch is I'd have to travel to Italy to find them. It seems like it could be worth it, although it might be a little tricky justifying that trip to Dave.

Max is allergic to nuts. Sabrina really liked the Stelle, so I did the mature thing: I hid them in the back of a kitchen cupboard. I'm slowly nibbling my way through the bag.

In the interest of full cookie disclosure, it should also be noted that I currently have dozens of boxes of Girl Scout cookies sitting on my dining room table, which is what happens when you run a G.S. troop. Samoas are my second favorite cookie in the whole wide world. Gulp.

So, what's your favorite cookie?



11 comments:

  1. Chocolate Chip. My mom was our troop's cookie mom so we had hundreds of cookies in our living room each year. My favorite girl scout cookie were the now discontinued All Abouts but Samoas are great too.

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  2. Ellen, I hide my favorite cookies slash foods from my family, too. So glad I'm not alone.

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  3. Walkers Shortbread. Four ingredients - flour, sugar and butter and salt. They're a Scottish company, but their proudcts aren't difficult to find in the US, especially around holidays. And they make them in such cute shapes too! I can make a pretty good shortbread cookie, but Walkers has me beat.

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    1. Oh, I've had those! They're so simply good. Really, I've never met a cookie I didn't like.

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  4. Pan di stelle!!! I live in Italy and I eat them everyday! Delicious. The moon cake was pretty disappointing though. But I love the chocolate cake from pan di stelle

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    1. Ciao, Ila! Eat a bunch for me! Thanks for the heads up that the moon cake is disappointing, now I will not need to take a trip to Italy to get it.

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  5. I am an Italian from Florence (not from Piazza Savonarola though, but from Santa Croce) presently living in NY and guess what…. my favorite ones are Insomnia cookies!!!!!!

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    1. Of course, because you are now living in the city that never sleeps!

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  6. Those cookies look delicious! Now I'll go recipe hunting...

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  7. Oh good God, Ellen, those cookies look heavenly! I love the concept of all those little stars - almost (ALMOST) makes them look too good to eat! I'm sure I'd have half a bag gone in a matter of hours myself...

    Thin mints were my favorite Girl Scout cookie for nearly forever, until I discovered the Tagalongs and the Do-Si-Dos. When it comes to peanut butter and chocolate, there is no self control! Well, maybe a little...very little. Yesterday I was in Wal-mart and they had Reese's Pieces in carrot-shaped plastic for $1.00 and I bought one. Not sure how I didn't cave and buy 2 or 3, but I am just praying I can hold that bugger until Easter Sunday! It's doubtful though. ;)

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Thanks for sharing!



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