I grew up in an Italian neighbourhood and it was all about food. My grandparents actually lived across the street from a bread bakery, and every few years it would change hands from the Portuguese to the Italians and back again. They shared the neighbourhood, but I was definitely interested more in the Italian food and the Portuguese culture.

My grandparents were some of the only ones on the block who spoke English well. That didn’t stop my socializing family however, and they became fast friends through food, gardening and laughter. Christmas every year would yield platters upon platters of food and you guessed it, cookies. My grandmother would swap biscuits, pies, cakes, scones and other treats and our neighbours would deliver cookie platters. They were so different from my grandmothers usual baked goods we were always so happy for something new.

I ended up looking for a book on Italian cookies, and they are few and far between. I settled on Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray, but I haven’t really used it! I know the cookies by sight, and this book doesn’t have pictures. I know what my favourite Anginetti looks like  and of course biscotti but other than that, I recognize slang Italian names for them or I have no clue. I broke it out this week to look for something different to bake for a coworkers birthday.

I veganized these Chocolate Sesame Bars and it was pretty easy. They only called for 1 egg anyway so replacer worked, Tofutti Cream Cheeze, Silk creamer, and used margarine instead of butter. Most Italian cookies are filled with egg and butter and I think that’s why I like them. You can taste the walnuts and of course the almond extract but the sesame seeds give it a great texture. Of course, the dark chocolate filling makes everything okay. There isn’t much sugar in the filling itself since it is only semi-sweet chocolate and no added sugar, but the crust lends its sweetness to the bar on a whole.