Cocoa cookies. And the Italian ritual of the merenda

I’m thinking about the smell of the cocoa cookies I made yesterday as I sit on a bench in the gardens where I used to play as a child.

It’s a sunny morning in late April, the air is fresh but not cold, and I decide to wait here for the time to go to my appointment.

I take from my bag my notebook and start to write the thoughts you’ll find in this post.

Visit Emilia-Romagna

When time was clocked by good habits.

The cookies and gardens of my childhood remind me of a time punctuated by good habits, like merenda.

When I was a little girl, children had merenda.
The little ones even took their afternoon nap after lunch.

Not me. I couldn’t bear to take an afternoon nap, and I used to sneak out of bed.

Even in kindergarten. I attended for only one year and, to my horror, discovered that in the summer we had to take naps. As soon as the teachers pulled back the curtains and thought we were all asleep, I would quietly walk out into the yard through the big French doors.

I used to hide in the garden, finding refuge in the big hedge where we children had dug tunnels. But as soon as the curtains opened again, I knew it was merenda time, and I would run to make sure I didn’t miss it.

I hated naps but loved snacks.

I used to have merenda at my house, at friends’ houses, at kindergarten, and then at school mid-morning. I still snack to this day.

What is Italian merenda? It is an Italian food tradition and I found a perfect definition of it on the blog Travel In Tuscan:

“The word has Latin origin and it means “something to deserve it”. It’s nothing more than a light afternoon snack, usually prepared with ingredients commonly available at home, but it has a special place in the Italian food tradition”.

It can be sweet or savory. Once it was served with homemade soft drinks.

The food for the merenda was strictly homemade.

Cookies, Italian ciambella, stuffed sandwiches, little pizzas, bread-butter-jelly, bread-butter-sugar, fresh fruit. There were also homemade fruit juices, lemonade, or iced tea depending on the season. Not all at once that it wasn’t a binge.

When Grandma called, I left my toys behind and ran into the kitchen, where food was on the table. If I was playing alone, I consumed my snack in no hurry. But when a friend was there, I remember the rush and the urgency to get back to our games as little girls.

Merenda meant always sitting at the table, eating and drinking from dishes and glass cups.

Bologna's recipes

Cocoa cookies with chestnut flour
What do you think of the Italian merenda?

You can cook something for your kids, grandkids or yourself.
You can eat it in the office or on the kitchen table at home.

Merenda is a timeless pleasure, suitable for all ages.
It satisfies the spirit and is a good habit for the body.

If the merenda coincides with a children’s party or tea with friends, you can have fun cooking more preparations, sweet and savory, some homemade drinks, and set a beautiful table.

Remember to cook with love, and don’t forget to place a fresh flower or branch of fragrant aromatics in a vase.

Is there anything more enjoyable than making cookies at home?

Cookies are a ritual that makes me feel good.

I lay out ingredients, balance, and a large bowl on the kitchen table.
I mix the dry ingredients first, then add the liquids.

Depending on the consistency, I roll out the dough with a rolling pin or pour by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. When the oven is hot, the anticipation of the scent that heralds the success of a new, little pantry miracle begins.

I move the warm cookies from the baking sheet to the wire rack with a spatula.

Sometimes I don’t have the patience to wait and eat a cookie while it’s still warm. But patience is not a virtue of mine.

This morning, as I sat in the gardens of San Domenico in Imola, the smell was a memory. Now that I’m at my studio table transcribing what I wrote in my notebook, the aroma is a certainty.

I usually cook traditional recipes I have been eating since I was a child or discover in the research path I have undertaken for a few years. Sometimes, my vocation in recipe development comes out, and I let my hands go.

Please, wait a moment, doesn’t mean I randomly mix ingredients and post the recipe.

Developing a recipe, for me, means starting with pen and paper.
I sit down and, based on my experience, write down the ingredients and quantities of the recipe I have in mind.

Then I take the paper, go into the kitchen and start cooking, correcting the quantities if I need. Finally, I put a date on it. Then I cook it.

Sometimes I cook the same thing several times before reaching the desired result. Not this time. And on the other hand, these are simple cookies.

Cocoa Cookie Recipe Tips.

Pour the milk a little at a time. And if it is necessary to have a soft dough, add more milk.

Chestnut flour doesn’t always absorb liquids in the same way.

Note on flours. You can replace chestnut flour with spelt flour and 0 flour with whole wheat or type 1 flour. Even more so, be careful with milk.
Each flour absorbs liquids differently.

These cookies, or rather big cookies, are fragrant and fluffy.
Perfect for dipping in milk or cappuccino. For merenda and breakfast.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me

If you are looking for a traditional cookie from Emilia-Romagna with the fragrance of the Apennines, I recommend the zuccherini montanari: simple and genuine (HERE is the recipe).

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Cocoa cookies with chestnut flour recipe

Cocoa cookies with chestnut flour recipe

for 8-10 cookies
List of the Ingredients

100g of chestnut flour
100g of 0 flour
20 g of bitter cocoa
5g of baking powder
80g of brown sugar
1 egg
40 ml of olive oil
about 150 ml of milk
10 g of chocolate chips
a pinch of salt


In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients, keeping only the chocolate chips aside.

Add the egg, oil, and milk.

Stir and then add the chocolate chips.

Mix again.

The mixture should be smooth and soft, not liquid.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and grease the base and fingertips.

Pour a generous spoonful of the mixture onto the baking sheet using your fingers.

Arrange the cookies well apart because they will grow during baking.

I used a tablespoon and a half of dough per cookie, resulting in 8 big cookies.

Bake in a preheated oven, 180C degrees, for about 15 minutes.

Do the toothpick test: cookies are ready when it comes out dry.

Let cool, and if you want, dust with powdered sugar.

Cocoa cookies recipe

Italian homemade cookies


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