About a month ago, the local grocery store started carrying Italian cookies (baked by a local small business). I’m a huge fan of Italian cookies…cuccidati, sesame cookies, anise cookies, biscotti…you name it, I probably love it! Since I missed out on the St. Joseph’s altar this year, I was definitely craving some cookies after I saw them in the store. Instead of purchasing them though, I wanted to make them. I’m stubborn like that, and hey, our church fair was coming up….the sweets booth needed donations. Any excuse to bake, right?
The only issue I’ve faced with Italian cookies is that it’s VERY hard to find a good recipe, since they’re almost always a family secret. Most of the recipes that I find on the Internet are very hit or miss, and I lucked out with this one (being a hit). It’s a soft, cakey cookie with a very subtle anise flavor. It’s enough to give a hint of anise, but not enough to make you think oh man, that’s too strong. You have to be careful with anise extract…too much of it can make something taste like licorice…it’s a strong extract! I loved adding the icing and sprinkles. I made mine in mint green and pink, and went a little crazy with leftover pastel non-pareils. They turned out so spring-y and fun! I tried one of these, and it was just so good! I bagged them up immediately so I wouldn’t eat a dozen. I need to make these again…or it’s probably best that I don’t.
Italian Anise Cookies
For the cookies:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp. anise extract
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 2 -3 tbsp. milk
For the icing:
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 3-4 tbsp. milk
- 1/8 tsp. anise extract
- food coloring
- decorative candy sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the cookie sheets by lining them with a Silpat or parchment paper, and set them aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Add the anise and almond extracts.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder. With the mixer on low, add in 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and then add 1 tbsp. of the milk. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1 tbsp. of milk. Repeat once more with the remaining flour and milk, and mix until the dough is brownie batter like.
- Use a 1 tbsp. cookie scooper to make simple drop cookies. Keep a bowl of warm water handy to dip your fingers in (use your wet fingers to smooth the tops/sides of the cookies, since it is a rather sticky dough).
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes (they will not brown in that time, but they will be done), and then place them on a cooling rack to cool.
- While the cookies are cooling, make the anise icing. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, milk and extract together. Then, add in the food coloring of your choice (it doesn’t take much with this icing to get the color you want). The icing will be a little on the thick side, so it’s best to microwave it for a few seconds to make it thin enough for dipping.
- Once your icing is microwaved/thinned out, it’s time to dip the cookies. Hold the cookie in your hand (top side down), and dip the top half of the cookie in the icing. Shake off the excess icing, turn the cookie over and place on the cooling rack. Immediately add sprinkles over the iced cookie (the icing sets fast). Repeat until all cookies are iced/sprinkled. Then, allow the cookies to set overnight on the cooling rack before serving.