Hi all — welcome to my Reader’s Recipes series of holiday cookies. I’m going to be sharing YOUR family recipes here every Saturday from now until the New Year. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent in recipes for me to try, and if you want to participate, there’s still time — you can get the submission form here.
recipe box This recipe was sent in by Susan, who lives in southern Maine.  According to Susan, her aunt brought these festive Italian anise cookies to Christmas every year and the tradition took hold.  Her mother in law also made them, but preferred a lemon flavor.  Susan’s aunt was actually Scottish, or Irish, depending on who you talked to, and while her mother-in-law claimed to be Italian, she had a Polish maiden name…so…like with so many family recipes, the origins of this one are little vague.  But, more to the point, these cookies are classic  holiday treats, the kind that make everybody’s eyes light up!

Reader's Recipes: Italian Cookies with frosting and sprinkles!

Traditionally these Italian cookies are made with anise extract.   It comes from the seeds of a Mediterranean plant, and has a mild licorice flavor.  It gives these cookies an old world flavor, and Italian anise, or anisette cookies are a staple of so many people’s holidays, whether they claim Italian heritage or not.  Over the years Susan’s family came to prefer a lemon flavor, and I actually chose to use almond extract in both the cookie and the frosting because I love it, and didn’t have any anise around.  Both lemon and almond are also traditional, so you’re good with whatever you prefer.

Reader's Recipes: Italian Anise Cookies fresh out of the oven

These cookies come together easily in one bowl.  They’re a little unusual because they’re made with oil rather than butter or shortening..  Eggs and lots of baking powder give them a light cakey texture.   They come out of the oven in perfect mounds ready for decorating.

Reader's Recipes: Italian Christmas Cookies recipe

So I have to confess, even bloggers misread recipes sometimes, and I misread the frosting portion of Susan’s instructions.  I didn’t notice that it was supposed to be a ‘drizzle’ of frosting.  Could have been a Freudian slip, as I do love frosting.  As you can see, I made extra and loaded it on.  Now that I think about it, the drizzle would be really pretty, and more authentic — an excuse to make another batch, I guess!

Frosted Italian Christmas Cookies recipe

These cookies are soft, with a nice, pillowy texture.  The flavoring, whichever one you choose, comes through nice and clear, and the sprinkles or colored sugar adds a final touch of crunch to every bite.  They are wonderful, and I highly recommend them.

Reader's Recipes: Italian Cookies with frosting and sprinkles

Reader’s Recipes: Susan’s Italian Cookies

Yield: makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

    cookies
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon or anise extract
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups flour
    frosting
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • approximately 1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • milk as needed
  • colored sprinkles and or colored sugar

Instructions

  1. Set oven to 350F
  2. Beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and lemon or anise extract.
  3. Mix in the baking powder, salt, and flour until well combined.
  4. Roll dough into 1" balls and place about 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  5. Bake 9 - 11 minutes (cookies should not brown).
  6. Place on wire rack to cool. Then frost and decorate as described below.
  7. To make the frosting, whisk together the butter and vanilla and then whisk in enough confectioners sugar to make a frosting. Add about a tablespoon of milk at a time until you get a drizzling consistency.
  8. Liberally drizzle over cookies and immediately sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles. Leave until frosting sets.
http://theviewfromgreatisland.com/readers-recipes-italian-cookies/

notes:

  • I suggest making the cookies as Susan says, with a drizzle of frosting.  But if you want to make them like I did, you’ll need at least a double batch of the frosting recipe, and just add enough milk to make a spreadable consistency.
  • If you’d like to make these ahead, freeze the plain baked cookies and frost them when ready to serve.
  • If you want to make the authentic Italian cookie, you can find anise extract HERE.

A platter of Italian Holiday Cookies

Thanks Susan for sending us the recipe!

 

There’s still time to send me YOUR favorite holiday cookie recipe — use the entry form HERE..

mixing bowl

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21 Responses to Reader’s Recipes: Italian Cookies

  1. Kathy says:

    Love these little morsels…so colorful. Love anise flavored cookies!

  2. Natasha polchlopek says:

    I’m baking these now and they’re beautiful!! So good.

  3. GiGi Eats says:

    GAH! sprinkles turn my taste buds on SOOOOOOOO much!

  4. Such pretty cookies and I love that you piled on the frosting! ;)

  5. Teresa Maloof says:

    You posted a recipe for 3 ingredient candy about 2 weeks ago I deleted it in error the recipe has white chocolate would love the recipe. Thanks enjoy your recipes

  6. What a fun idea Sue. I’ll try to send a recipe over as well.

    These Italian cookies sound tasty and they’re so pretty. I’m sure my crew would love these.

  7. Michele says:

    I love these cookies – they’ll be perfect for my niece’s birthday party in a few weeks… She absolutely adores lemon, frosting and sprinkles (just like her auntie!), so these are going to be a hit! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. These cookies look excellent and the colourful sprinkles make me happy :-))

  9. Hehe as a frosting fan I think I may have misread it similarly! :P These are gorgeous Sue!!

  10. cheri says:

    Hi Sue, my mother-in-law bakes with anise quite often. I think using almond extract is a nice touch. Love how colorful and festive these look, perfect for the holidays.

  11. What a great recipe. I actually bought anise extract because I saw a licorice recipe I wanted to try! Now I have a few reasons to use it. What pretty cookies. Thanks to both of you!

  12. Louise says:

    I grew up eating these cookies every Christmas. When I make them, I make the cookies with vanilla extract and the icing in 3 batches: one vanilla, one anise (I actually use Sambuca), and one with either lemon or orange extract. I keep them in separate, labeled containers. Don’t keep them too long because the sprinkles tend to run.

    My favorite? Anise cookie with anise icing!

    • Sue says:

      I really have to try the double anise version, I think it’s one of the those flavors that takes getting used to, but once you give it a try, it can be really addictive! Thanks for the tips Louise :)

      • Katheryn Butts says:

        I make them double anise as well. My family is from Trentino in Italy and this is a Christmas tradition for us as well. My great-grandmother taught me to make them. And we totally pike on the frosting.

  13. What a wonderful idea Sue! These Italian cookies are our favorite ! And love Lemon flavor! We look forward to submitting a recipe as well!
    Xo Anna and Liz

  14. Eleanore says:

    Please send a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin blondies to me

  15. These look like they have the perfect texture and so pretty! Love the colorful sprinkles. I’ve always wanted to try a good Italian cookie – thanks Susan and Sue!

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