Gluten-free occhio di bue cookies + rainy day baking

I used to enjoy rainy days – the right excuse to stay in, do a bit of baking and potter about the house. But with a toddler, this is a whole different thing. Rainy days means attempting to keep indoors a ball full of energy wanting to explore, run, jump and get messy.

gluten-free occhi di bue cookies

I seem to be doing an awful lot of baking lately and although I try to get most of my life done while the toddler is napping, sometimes this spills over into awake time. Luckily I discovered she has a love of baking, rolling and shaping as much as I do. In fact, I think she loves more than anything to stand next to me on a big chair, rolling out dough (I just make a mix of flour and water until it’s springy and no longer sticky) and cutting out shapes while I do the same with my dough. And it turns out that baking with this girl makes a great rainy day activity too – win-win!

We recently spotted a little cookie cutter set at a second hand market made just for little bakers – a little wooden rolling pin, a pink frilled-edge cookie cutter and a tiny little heart cookie cutter. Best $2 I ever spent. I immediately knew some cute occhio di bue (“bull’s eyes”) cookies would be on the agenda.

mariu rolling pastry

They’re the sort of cookies you find in pastry shops all around Florence, tempting you through the glass counter – a double layer of short, sweet pastry, sandwiched with apricot or blackberry jam peeking through a round hole on the top. Sometimes they are cute, little button sized biscuits, sometimes as large as your hand, often dusted in a heavy layer of powdered sugar.

They’re so very simple to make. A quick pastry dough, which can be pulsed up in a food processor, some cookie cutting and then once lightly baked so they are still pale and tender, they are assembled with a bit of jam holding each pair of biscuits together. It’s really the same recipe as the jam crostata, just a different shape and assembly.

occhi di bue making

I had an overload of lemons from a neighbour’s Meyer lemon tree so I ended up making some lemon curd which made a nice contrast of colour and a tangy, creamy filling for these too. The dark  jam is cherry jam, instead of the usual blackberry. But feel free to go the way of your favourite jam.

This time I made my trusty pastry dough (thank you, Artusi) with a gluten-free flour mix of part rice flour, part potato starch to replace the regular flour. I left off the dusting of powdered sugar as I don’t think it needs any extra sweetening. The extra cut out hearts made very cute cookies for a tea party (another rainy day toddler activity – hooray!).

occhi di bue with lemon curd and cherry jamocchi di bue gluten free recipe

Occhio di bue cookies (gluten-free)

You can also use all-purpose flour for regular cookies here too. For a variation or two on this gluten free version, try also half rice flour, half fine polenta (cornmeal) or two-thirds rice flour, one-third almond meal.

  • 250 grams gluten free flour mix (I used half rice flour, half potato starch)
  • 110 grams powdered sugar
  • 125 grams cold butter, diced
  • 1 egg, plus 1 yolk, beaten
  • lemon zest
  • Jam or lemon curd for filling

Pulse the butter, powdered sugar and flour together in a food processor (or rub the butter into the flour with hands, if you don’t have one) until the mixture resembles sand. Add the egg, yolk and lemon zest until it comes together to a dough. Add a tablespoon of cold water if it’s too crumbly. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 3-4mm thick. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter or a glass and on approximately half of the rounds, cut out smaller holes in their centres (or do them off centre, why not?) with a very small cookie cutter or similar (get creative – a water bottle lid perhaps?) for the eye.

Place cookie pieces on baking trays lined with baking paper and bake until dry to the touch but not browned. Still pale.

Transfer to a rack to cool, where they should harden completely. Place a teaspoon of jam on the bottom of a round cookie and top with a cookie with an eye. Set aside and continue until all the cookies have been put together.


  1. Sara says:

    These look gorgeous! And honestly, that sounds like a perfect rainy day, with a little helper at your side…

  2. These look amazing Emiko! And that photo to Mariu crazy cute. I learnt long ago that the easiest way to get any cooking done was to involve the kids, usually with homemade playdough at the counter. Love your idea of the dough! xx

    • Emiko says:

      Thanks Emma 🙂 Yes, she LOVES playdough! She tries to eat it too though, or add it to the real baked goods or request for it to be cooked so she can eat it! So, baking real things with her has turned out to be pretty rewarding for her too so she can taste it! Her favourite at the moment? Pizza!!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Your daughter looks like a natural born cook, she’s wielding that rolling pin like a pro. The cookies look delicious too.

  4. Zita says:

    Great recipe, and cute post! I would like to see more photos of Mariu! 🙂

    Adam loves being in the kitchen. He learnt to smell and taste all the vegetables and fruits I use during cooking. He is so cute! I’m wondering how old Mariu was when she first started standing in a chair next to you? I’m not sure Adam would be safe enough standing on a chair… He is 16,5 months old. Or shall I try?

    • Emiko says:

      She’s been on the chair for a while but then again she was an early walker (10 months!) so pretty steady on her feet. Don’t do it if you think he’s not ready yet, toppling over in a kitchen can be super dangerous (I have a scar on my back from a fall from kitchen bench with lots of freshly washed dishes when I was 2 years old to prove it!). Love seeing the pics of Adam munching on raw veggies!

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