Posted by Grace Massa Langlois on Friday, 22nd July 2011

Last weekend my sisters, Connie and Anna, came over for a visit and a day of baking. What did we bake? Italian cookies - trays and trays of them.  How many are left? Not too many!  The Italian Cookie (well in my opinion more of an Italian Pastry) I’m sharing with you today is a very special one, Pesche DolciItalian Peach Cookies.

A photo of Italian Cookies, Pesche Dolci {Italian Peach Cookies} displayed in a row on a white rectangular dish.

These cookies are generally saved and baked for special occasions, Bridal Showers, Weddings and Religious Holidays.  They take a little more effort than your average batch of cookies but the end result is definitely worth the extra effort.

A close up photo of Italian Cookies, Mini Pesche Dolci, displayed in a martini glass.

Baking these cookies was a first for me.  Why you ask?  Well I’ve never been a fan of jam unless of course it’s a berry jam.  Traditionally (in our region) these peach cookies are filled with plum jam.  I love plums! – Dislike plum jam.

Plum jam?  Peach cookies?  What?  That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for years. I’ve been told the only reason this cookie is called a Peach is because it looks like a peach.

A photo of Italian Cookies, Pesche Dolci displayed on a white dish.

The fillings vary from region to region and family to family.  You’ll see the cookies filled with Nutella; various jam fillings, lemon fillings, and Crema Pasticcera.  (I love Crema Pasticcera!)

My inquisitive mind had me hunting for the history of the cookie.  I wanted to know why they referred to the cookie as a peach.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find much information.  Originally the colour of the cookie was achieved by dipping the cookie in a special Italian liqueur, Alchermes (“Bagna per Dolci” – A bath for sweets).

A photo of Italian Pastries, Pesche Dolci - Italian Peach Cookies decorated to resemble fresh peaches, displayed in white dishes and a martini glass.

I did find a bit of information regarding the Alchermes that I almost wish I hadn’t. Alchermes is scarlet red in colour.  A very special ingredient, “Kermes”, was added to the liqueur, which in turn provided not only the liqueur’s name but also the striking colour.

A photo of Italian Cookies, Pesche Dolci filled with Crema Pasticcera.

What is Kermes? – A small parasitic insect.  Hmm…No thanks!  In fact I am not the only one that feels that way, when people discovered the colour of Alchermes was achieved by adding the special ingredient the ever-popular Alchermes lost its appeal.  I did try to locate a bottle before finding this information but did not have any luck.  I think the liqueur may only be available in Italy.

I did notice that Italians continue to use the Alchermes but you will also find many recipes for the cookie in which the Alchermes has been substituted with Rum, Marsala and other spirits.  Food colouring is then added to the liqueur to achieve the colouring for the cookie.

A photo of an Italian Dessert - Italian cookies made to resemble fresh peaches.

I am assuming the cookie received its name because when the cookie is dipped in Alchermes the colour achieved is very similar to the natural colour of a peach.  And when the cookie is assembled and decorated it also looks like a peach.  I am very happy using White Vermouth and food colouring for my “bagna per dolci”.

A photo of Italian Cookies, Pesche Dolci {Italian Peach Cookies}.

I decided to make small peaches and larger peaches.  But I didn’t fill my small peaches with plum jam (the usual) I went for a peach jam flavoured mildly with rum instead. Combining the peach jam with a hint of rum was a good choice, very flavourful.  Please don’t let my dislike for plum jam put you off using it for a filling; the flavour and texture of the filling is a family favourite.

A photo of Italian Desserts, Pesche Dolci {Italian Peach Cookies} displayed randomly in paper dessert cups.

For the large cookies, in my opinion, there was only one choice – Crema Pasticcera. Let me tell you this – that first bite into “le pesche con la crema pasticcera” was to die for – insanely delicious!  I think I may have a new favourite Italian Cookie.  Move over Amaretti there’s a new cookie in town.

A photo of Italian Cookies, Pesche Dolce {Italian Peach Cookies}.

Filling the cookie with Crema Pasticcera changed the texture of the cookie, it was softer and the natural vanilla flavour combined with that creamy goodness was heaven on earth.

A photo of 3 Pesche Dolci {Italian Peach Cookies} stacked one on top of the other.

I do hope you’ll give these cookies a try especially if you’re looking for an extra special Italian treat. Coming soon…Bocconetti.

A photo of 6 Pesche {Italian Peach Cookies} filled with Crema Pasticcera displayed on a white dish.

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Posted in Baking & Pastry, Baking Mise en Place, Basics, Biscotti, Cookies, Custards, Creams & Mousses, Dolci alla Frutta, Eggs, Fillings, Frostings & Dessert Sauces, Fruit Desserts, Pasticcini, Pastries, Pastry Doughs & Batter, Recipes, Ricette di Base

Comments (62)

62 Responses to “Pesche Dolci {Italian Peach Cookies}”

  1. Lolly's Sweet Treats Says:

    Wow- beautiful! What an appropriate cookie for this time of year.

  2. Adora's Box Says:

    How absolutely gorgeous those look. They do look like peaches, glamorous peaches. The recipe sounds delicious, too.

  3. Kelly Says:

    I’m in love with these!!! So adorable and I bet incredibly delicious, great job! :)

  4. Alexis Says:

    omgoodness I would love to try them with the crema filling!!! Delicious! These are Ricardo’s favourite cookies on the Italian Cookie Tray :) I called them “burger cookies” when we first started dating – the first time I saw them, I thought they looked like mini burgers (when held horizantally and the filling was peeking through the edges).

  5. Lauren at Keep It Sweet Says:

    What beautiful cookes! Thank you for sharing that interesting history with us. I think I’d also prefer the peach jam to the plum.

  6. Evan Thomas Says:

    I had to do a doubletake. These look incredible.

  7. janet@fromcupcakestocaviar Says:

    These are awesome looking!! I would love to try them.

  8. marla Says:

    Leave it to you and your sisters to make these beautiful cookies. Gorgeous & I bet very tasty :)

  9. marcellina Says:

    Your pesche dolci are absolutely gorgeous! I blogged about them some time ago using nutella and crema pasticcera as the filling. I use cherry brandy instead of alchermes. Your recipe is slightly different so I will try yours. You have decorated them so beautifully!!! How long do you think they would keep?

  10. Lilly Says:

    OMG these are jaw droppers! They are beautiful! No wonder they are made for special occasions. I want to try these so bad…but it looks very complicating. So I will wait for a special occasion to make these. Tomorrow would be good =)

  11. Grace Says:

    Marcellina I would like to try adding the nutella next time, did you fill with both or did you do some with nutella and some with crema? Marcellina I decided to try freezing them with the crema and to my astonishment they are just as tasty after thawing in the fridge, I couldn’t believe it. I know my sister freezes the ones with jam all the time and they taste just like if she baked them that day. I made the crema after my sisters left and I filled. I wanted them to try it but knew I wouldn’t be seeing them until this weekend and I wanted the cookies to keep, it was a very nice surprise when they tasted just as good as when I filled them the day they were baked. I would like test and see how long the crema will keep in the freezer. I indulged in one today, 5 days later and the crema is still holding up fine. I spoke with my sister today and mentioned I placed them in the fridge and she too thought it wouldn’t work and was just as surprised as I was. If it works it will be nice for weddings and showers, being able to prepare ahead of time would be wonderful rather than filling day of the event. Funny you should mention the decorating. I had quite the time with the food colouring. I started with a gel paste food colouring and it did not work, for some reason it would not dissolve in the liquor, odd don’t you think? I prefer gel paste and very rarely do I have the liquid on hand, I had to run out for colouring that day.

  12. Grace Says:

    Thanks Marla, it was a great day.

  13. Grace Says:

    Thank you Evan, they were fun to make.

  14. Lydia Says:

    Nothing can beat these cookies for presentation. They are beautiful — gorgeous on a dessert table. Had them at an Italian wedding two years ago. Was determined to learn how to make them. Surfed the internet for a week. Read recipe after recipe and tried 7 and finally arrived at my favorite “peachesrevisited.” After all those tries, love to pass along some tips. To ensure balls are uniform so that they fit together perfectly when sandwiched, take two sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 bond paper. Trace circles leaving 1 inch apart for cookies to spread. I use the base of a mini tupper ware container to do this — 1 1/4 circle. 9 circles per sheet. Place these two sheets on a large baking tray. Top with parchment paper. Place the round balls of dough on the circles. Lightly tap, yes lightly — do not flatten as cookies shouldn’t be flat when sandwiched together — must be round like a peach. To form balls: Use a small cookie scoup to scoup balls of dough. Seems to go faster if you scoup out a whole bunch of balls of dough. Dump them on a parchment paper. Cover them with a damp cloth to prevent dough from drying. Form round balls. Place the round balls of dough on the traced circles and tap balls of dough till the perfectly fit the circles. To hollow centers: I use a melon baller, the larger end. Works perfectly; however timing is important. The cookies should be slightly warm, not hot or not cold when you scoup. Filling: Ganache, some cookie crumbs, toasted chopped hazelnuts — NOT NUTELLA — TOO SWEET. Alternatively, jam or pastry cream. To color: Mix red and yellow for a perfect orangey/peachy color. I use liquid color mixed in vodka. I paint the peaches with a wide pastry brush. Rosetta of MyCalabria demonstrated these cookies on the Martha Stewart Christmas Show — not sure if the video is still available. Have seen these made up like pears, and always wondered how they shaped them! These are the most beautiful cookies in the world and when filled with Ganache they aren’t sweet at all. Got to try your recipe Grace.

  15. Chef Dennis Says:

    Grace
    those cookies are simply magnificent! You need to have your own Italian cooking show!

    Cheers
    Dennis

  16. Joy Says:

    These are very cute.

  17. Julia Says:

    I know I say this every time, but I think this is my new favorite dessert of yours! Beautiful, just beautiful! Great job, as usual!

  18. Grace Says:

    You are so sweet Dennis – that would be so much fun!

  19. bobpony Says:

    Beautiful cookies! I’ve got to ask though, what is ‘white martini’? I’ve been googling and can’t quite figure out what you’re using here. Thx!

  20. Grace Says:

    Okay feeling a little foolish on this end, I keep all my liquor in the cold room in the basement and whenever I’m baking and preparing my mise en place it’s the one thing I always forget to prepare. Inevitably I am calling out to the kids to get me the different types of liqueur and alcohol. “It’s not here Mom” “yes it is, if you look on the bottle you will see White Martini” – I always refer to the vermouth as white martini because that’s what you can see in big lock letters on the bottle – can’t believe I wrote that not once but twice. Martini is a brand name for an Italian company that produces “White Vermouth”.

  21. Heidi @ Food Doodles Says:

    Those are sooo cute! I love them!

  22. Liz Says:

    Gorgeous cookies! They really do look like peaches…and I like that you’ve provided two yummy filling options~

  23. ando Says:

    question, how do you take your pictures with a black background? is that just a special place u take them or is it edited to look like a pure black background?

  24. Grace Says:

    My sister was nice enough to sew me a sweep. I picked up the fabric from a local fabric store (made sure it wasn’t a shiny fabric) and she stitched it up and she attached velcro to one side which makes it very easy for me to attach to my light box. I’m having a hard time switching back to other sweeps because I love the look of the black drop.

  25. Kathy - Panini Happy Says:

    These are so beautiful, Grace!

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  27. Elyse @The Cultural Dish Says:

    These are gorgeous! Beautiful job.. I’ve never had these so I’ll have to try out both fillings!

  28. Ilke Says:

    Lovely peach cookies ..which dont have any peach :) They look great but I would skip the “special agent” as well!

  29. Julia @ DimpleArts Says:

    These are absolutely fabulous!

  30. mrfoodicle Says:

    Absolutely Delightful. The concept, the presentation -everything. Especially like the sugar on the outside to make the Pesche “fuzzie”.

    Cheers,
    Mr Foodicle.

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  32. Bob Jeiger Says:

    Wow, it’s delicious, I’m hungry now !

  33. corina Says:

    OMG! They look beautifull!

  34. Grace Says:

    Thank you Corina

  35. sonya Says:

    hello, i was wonderings if these cookies freeze well.

  36. Grace Says:

    Hi Sonya

    The cookies with the jam filling freeze very well up to a few months. I was concerned about freezing the cookies with the crema pasticcera but I was pleasantly surprised, I’ve had a batch in the freezer since I made these and I enjoyed one the other day and it was delicious, the crema held up very well. I freeze in an airtight container a few layers deep with baking paper in between the layers and I transfer to the fridge to thaw. p.s. so sorry for the late reply I’ve been hit with quite a bit of spam and I didn’t see your comment amongst all of the junk mail.

  37. cooking rookie Says:

    such happy colorful cookies! Love them :-). I am certainly keeping this recipe. Thanks for sharing, Grace!

  38. Elaine DeFranco Says:

    Hi Grace, I just love your photography. I also love the recipes. I first made the peach cookies 43 years ago with 2 cousins in preparation for my wedding sweet table. I’ve only made them about a dozen times since, just for family weddings. My old recipe was rather vague, no real measurements especially for the flour, everything was done according to how it felt. Now I can leave a proper recipe (yours) for my daughter, granddaughters etc. I’ve just made a batch for my niece’s 50th birthday this week-end. I used a 2 tsp. scoop for measurement and my cookies baked in 15 minutes. I’ve filled, and put them together but haven’t done the dipping yet, which is why I’m writing. Have you refrigerated them after completion? and have you ever made a batch and frozen them?

  39. Grace Says:

    Thank you so much Elaine. I completely understand the vagueness of recipes. I’ve been working away with my sisters trying to get all the recipes perfected and in written form. Most of our recipes leave the flour out, “whatever it takes” is usually what is written. Or for every egg use two tablespoons of sugar etc. I felt the same as you wanting to hand down the recipes. I think our generation will easily try to perfect the recipes but I’m not so sure our children would take the time but if they have a recipe I think the traditions will continue. We freeze the jam filled cookies all the time, for months at a time and they freeze beautifully. I did try freezing the custard filled cookies and they were fine for a few weeks but only yesterday I removed the last of them from the freezer and placed them in the fridge to thaw, they didn’t hold up well after the first few weeks. They were quite soft and wet. I think in the future if I want to make the cream filled I will make the cookies and freeze them before filling leaving me only to fill and colour when I want to enjoy. All the best Elaine.

  40. Elaine DeFranco Says:

    Hi Grace, Elaine again. Further to my earlier e-mail, I only used the scoop for the first few cookies just to get an idea of the size to roll into balls. The dough is quite sticky so a scoop doesn’t work. Also for coloring, I tried dipping but got some colour on my fingers and found this messing the cookies, so I used my cake decorating brushes and actually painted the cookies, thus avoiding the line. It was easier, not as messy and I thought they looked quite real, so did guests at a birthday party today. I would state for anyone trying this for the first time, it is rather labour intensive for one person, so best to solicit someone’s help, at least one more person. I also froze some and they were fine. In the past we also made smaller ones and colored them red and purple to resemble plums.

  41. Grace Says:

    Yes the scoop is difficult to work with. Did you notice my tip about oiling your hands? Oiling your hands, although messy, makes it much easier to roll the dough. Elaine I can’t believe you had the patience to paint each cookie, I tip my hat to you! I will have to try the plums. I noticed one my visitors used my amaretti cookies and sandwiched them together and coloured them to resemble pomegranates, they looked fantastic, I want to make some of those too.

  42. Grace Says:

    Hi Elaine I just noticed my return comment never published. Yes I find the scoop is too difficult to work with. Did you notice my tip about oiling you hands. I find oiling my hands makes it much easier to roll the dough, a little messy but it helps. I can’t wait to try the plums I bet they look amazing. I can’t believe you painted every cookie Elaine, I tip my hat to you! One of my visitors used a cross between my amaretti cookies and the pesche method and they used the amaretti and sandwiched the cookies with a filling and then coloured them to resemble pomegranates, they looked amazing. I can’t wait to try them. Here’s the link if you’re curious – http://www.sugarflowerscreations.com/ If you put this link in the search bar it will list the post and you can access the translator, I think the site is in the Greek language. And you are so right about getting a few people together to make the cookies, turn on the music, chat and have fun. I usually make them with my sisters and my Mom.

  43. Elaine Says:

    Hi Grace, yes I oiled my hands and this does help. Can you tell me what peach jam you used? I tried the new President’s Choice Peach but found it really thick and not much flavour. I make my own spiced peach jam but didn’t have any on hand, I’ll make some for the next batch of cookies. For the plums I use plum jam, usually bought at a European market, and I find it has good flavour and isn’t too thick. Next I’m going to try your chocolate ones. Love your site. I’ve told all the sister’s, sister-in-laws, nieces and the girl’s at Golda’s Kitchen about it.

  44. Grace Says:

    Hi Elaine I usually can my own jams and jelly too but unfortunately this year with the book I didn’t have the time. I’m lucky because I have a small specialized market about a block from my house and they sell homemade jam and jellies and for this particular batch I purchased the jam there. It doesn’t have a name brand. I love Golda’s, I get to the store every once in a while. Unfortunately I’m at my sister’s mercy and when they can make the trip, I can only drive 20 minutes before pain sets in. I buy a really great product from them for pie filling, clearjel. And I order quite a few things from them online. Thank you so much for the support Elaine! I can’t wait to get back to posting regularly, hopefully in the new year. There’s a bunch of things I want to share.

  45. Teresa Segstro Says:

    Our family tradition is to fill one side of the cookie with lemon pie filling and one side with chocolate pudding “to look like the peach stone”. The outside is “painted” with coloured peach schnapps. Its great to read about these cookies as my Italian family always wondered where they came from.

  46. Grace Says:

    OMG Teresa they sound amazing! My niece was asking me for a lemon treat just last night, I am going to have to try your variation and I’m liking the Peach Scnapps too. Happy Holidays!

  47. balvinder ( Neetu) Says:

    Hi Grace I came to know about your Blog from January 4th’s Globe and mail.And what I saw was simply stunning. These peach cookies really look like actual peaches. I am speechless how wonderful they are.
    It will take me long time to check each and every recipe. Do you have anything that is gluten free.

  48. Grace Says:

    Welcome Neetu! Neetu it’s one of my goals this year to learn more about gluten free treats, gluten free in general really because my daughter suffers terribly from migraines and she removed gluten from her diet for about 2 months and we found it helped to reduce the severity of the migraines. I must say it was very difficult for me in the kitchen because I don’t know enough about gluten free in general and I am hoping to change that this year. I notice your site is gluten free and I’m looking forward to perusing your posts and learning as much as I can from you, hope you don’t mind. All the best to you and your family in 2012.

  49. b Says:

    Hi there –
    tried a recipe that is identical to yours, and the dough was SO sticky, wet, melty, etc. I let it sit for an hour (it was already 1130pm) and tried to roll with oiled hands. It wouldn’t even hold a roll shape and by the time I got to the bottom of the bowl, it was just wet. Any ideas as to what went wrong? should i have let rest in the refrigerator? they came out “ok” but not nearly as round as I had hoped…

  50. Grace Says:

    B I’m not sure where the differences are from my batter to the one you’re using but I’m wondering if you didn’t let the batter rest long enough. With my batter I let it stand for 2 hours. Could you email me (grace at gracessweetlife dot com) the recipe you have? Once I see it I will be able to better help you. The dough is sticky hence the oiled hands but after resting for a couple of hours it should be much easier to work with. You’ll notice mine aren’t as round this time because I was so busy the day I made this batch that I didn’t let the batter rest. And although I didn’t let it rest it still wasn’t wet like you’re describing, wondering if the difference is with the amount of flour. One thing I would really like to point out, most European recipes are based on weighing ingredients and it can really make a huge difference in a recipe. I couldn’t believe how much better my baking became after I bought a scale. Recipes I’d made for years were coming out beautifully.

  51. Yvonne Says:

    They are the best looking pesche that I have ever seen. I have never made them myself but you have seriously put temptation in my way. I am going to get a recipe out and give them a go. The ones that I did buy in Italy were very sweet and I really didn’t like them at all.

    One note on Alchermes — it has a very distinctive flavour that rum cannot offer. I would try it if it is possible. I small about goes a long way and you will like it.

  52. Grace Says:

    Yvonne I do want to try it but unfortunately not available here but I am definitely going to bring a bottle home on my next trip to Italy.

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  56. Mary Says:

    Grace, these look lovely! We’ve adapted our recipe to exclude the Alkermes (also not available here) but did bring back a small bottle of ‘zuppa inglese’ exract last time we were in Italy. Not exact but a good substitute. I’ve posted about them but would like to update with a link to your site to share this if that is ok.
    Thank you,

  57. Grace Massa Langlois Says:

    Absolutely and thank you Mary. The flavouring sounds wonderful, wonder if we can get that here? My brother was just in Italy and I didn’t think to ask him to bring me a few goodies.

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  59. Christine Says:

    These are my favorite treat. My sister-in-law’s mother, (born and raised in Italy) is the one member of the family that makes these for all the special occasions. Her recipe is a bit differnt using a pound of butter, grated lemons and almond extract in the pastry. She fills them with the Crema Pasticcera (vanilla and chocolate) … I love them so much I spent a day with her learning how to make them and now as she is getting much older, I am the family member that makes them (only for a treat now and again – I don’t have time to make them for weddings and all) …. and yes they freeze amazingly well. The only problem with freezing them, is that my children and husband have figured out exactly 20 seconds in the microwave and they are perfect for eating immediatly… lol. I love the information you gave about the history, and I will share with my family too. thanks

  60. Grace Massa Langlois Says:

    Hi Christine,

    These are one of my absolute favourites but we usually only make for special occasions too. I’ve been meaning to try the version using brioche dough, have you tried them? I’m going to have to set some time aside and make them for sure. I’m going to have to use your tip with the microwave.

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