When S stands for Bussola – a delicious Venetian cookie recipe by Tessa Kiros

Delicious biscuits made with Tessa Kiros recipe for Bussola - traditional Venician cookies

One Sunday afternoon, some of us Artviva Walking Tours office staff gathered for some cooking in Tuscany.

We made delicious Venician biscuits (cookies) using a recipe from Artviva’s good friend Tessa Kiros.

Tessa Kiros writes in her fabulous cookbook, ‘Venezia: food & dreams’, that these delicious and simple-to-make cookies will stay fresh for ages because they contain citrus.

However, we didn’t get to find out.

Since this traditional Italian recipe (see below) produces sweet-smelling biscuits that were impossible to resist, they seemed to disappear at an impossibly rapid rate right before our eyes!

These biscuits are so good that they almost warrant a visit to Venice to try the real thing!

In Venice, the most famous coffee shop and a must-visit place on any things to do in Venice list, is the Florian coffee shop. In the St Mark’s Square, it is the city’s oldest coffee shop, having been inaugurated on the 20th December 1720. Whilst it was originally called ‘Venezia Trionfante’ (Triumphant Venice), it soon became known amongst locals as the Florian in reference to the owner, Floriano Francesconi.

Delicious biscuits made with Tessa Kiros recipe for Bussola - traditional Venician cookies

There is also a Florian coffee shop in Florence, just a short walk from the Artviva Walking Tours office in Florence’s city centre. You’ll need to cross Florence’s best shopping street, Via Tornabuoni, to get to the Florian coffee shop in Florence. Not quite as historical just yet as the Venician version, this coffee shop in Florence’s city centre was opened in November 2006. It offers not only coffee but also hand-crafted chocolates, china and more sweets and other gourmand items than you poke a cake fork at.

For now, here is the Tessa Kiros delicious and simple cookie recipe:


‘S’ or round biscuits

(Recipe from ‘Venezia: food & dreams’ by Tessa Kiros)

125 g cold unsalted butter, chopped

250 g cake (00) flour

110 g sugar

2 egg yolks

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.5 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons milk

‘These are famous s-shaped or plain round firm biscuits that are great to serve with something like fragolino and come in many variations. They are also great with a small dish of wild strawberries and another of vanilla icecream. These must be the ones that the boatmaan said come from Burano, with its lovely coloured houses…. they are kept in underwear draws because of their beautiful smell and last forever because of the citrus. Only in Venice could I believe such a tale.’

– Mix the butter with the flour and sugar until crumbly looking (rather like damp sand). Combine the egg yolks, vanilla extract, lemon zest and milk in a bowl. Pour into the bowl and mix until it comes together. (Alternatively pulse together in a food processor.) Turn out onto a board and bring it together to make a fat 20 cm long log. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about an hour or more.

– Preheat your oven in 170°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. You will need a lighly floured surface and flour for your hands.

– Keep half the dough in the fridge to keep it cool while you work with the other half. Cut slices about 5 mm thick along the log and roll each slice out to 8 cm x 1 cm thick. Form each one into an s-shape. (Alternatively, roll them into 10 cm ropes and join the ends to make circles instead).

– Put each ‘S’ or circle on the baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes or so until pale but golden here and there – they shouldn’t be too hard as they will harden once out of the oven.

Makes about 50.

If you’d like to visit the islands of Venice, we have a great private Venetian Islands tour. We also have a discounted Venice tour package available either as private tours in Venice, or small-group prestigious Venice tour discounted package including a guided tour of St Mark’s with expert Venice tour guide, a gondola ride, guided Doge’s palace tour, and a boat ride along the Grand Canal.

You could also opt for a hands-on cooking classes in Italy to learn to make delicious Italian recipes in Florence.

Tessa Kiros is part of the Artviva Festival. Her books are available for sale in the Artviva Walking Tours office in Florence. ?

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  2. My daughter made these biscuits and we felt they very porous and soft inside. She used a cooking time of 20 minutes and had the dough in the fridge overnight.
    Any hints on how to improve?

    1. Ciao Irna,

      When making any kind of dough, the flour you use can really make a difference to how much liquid you need to add. Some flours absorb more than others, so you might want to try adding in the liquids a little at a time to ensure you achieve just the right consistency. Similarly with baking times, different ovens cook differently so sometimes you will need to bake a little longer (or otherwise!) than suggested in the recipe. It may be that the biscuits were just a little undercooked which meant that they remained too soft inside. It is also important not to overwork the dough when kneeding it or it can become difficult to work with and not give as great results.

      Jade at Artviva

      1. I’ve lived south of Verona (and about 30 minutes from Modena) for the past 9 years and alwyas use the train to travel when it’s possible. For some smaller towns where there is no train station, it’s necessary to either drive or take the bus. In a lot of those places, the buses are mainly for commuters and do not run on Sunday. The train is generally cheaper and easier than driving and is usually at least as fast – if not even quicker! Fuel is expensive as is parking. There is a familia fare on many trains though that gets you up to a 50% discount on children’s tickets (up to 12 years) and 20% for others in groups of 3 to 5. On the train website http://www.trenitalia.it put in the cities, dates and times to see the available options. If you click on buy and then tariffs information , you can see the various ticket types. Standard, Amica, and Famila are most likely to apply to you when available. Generally, I’d recommend that you get a car only when necessary. I definitely recommend that you do not try to take a car into Rome or Naples. Obviously, a car has very little value while you’re in Venice.You can get good views from either trains or cars, but I would highly recommend that whoever is doing the driving doesn’t spend any time admiring the view. There are many places where you’ll spend a significant amount of time in tunnels. Examples include the route between Bologna and Florence or along the Ligurian Coast in the area of Cinque Terre.