Italian Christmas Cookies
An original recipe from The Tasty Page
I gotta say, for a Filipino I make a pretty good Italian cookie. It also helps to be married to my taste-tester, who is half Italian, grew up eating this type of cookie, and sports a sweet tooth. I made multiple batches before finally getting it 1000% right. And even though I went through many sticks of butter, cups of flour, and cartons of eggs, it was totally worth it. And if you ask my taste-tester, he didn’t have a problem with all the test runs at all.
I know I may get some flak here, but I’m not a fan of anise. Sorry, die hard Italian cookie fans. For me, the flavor is a little too overpowering. I tried using a teeny tiny bit, but it was still too strong for me. So I had to figure out a way to make a kinder, gentler flavor to include in the cookie. First I tried using more vanilla extract, but the cookie was just meh. I had almond extract in my pantry and I decided, why not? That did the trick. The half teaspoon of almond extract I added to the cookie dough was perfect. Flavorful, without screaming in your face, “Hey! Look at me! I’m Flavor!”
Next, was the cooking time. I thought 10 minutes of baking was a good call. But as the cookies cooled they got a little hard and the finished product was more crunchy than I wanted it to be. It was fine if I wanted a biscotti-like texture, but that’s not what I was looking for here. I wanted something softer. So for the next batch I timed my timer for 8 minutes. I was blasting Bruno Mars’ new album while the cookies were baking and I didn’t hear it go off until the 9 minute mark. Oops.
But as with all things Bruno, he makes everything better. 9 minutes of baking was perfect. The cookies were like nice, soft, buttery pillows of goodness. It was exactly the texture I wanted to achieve.
My younger son, Will, helped me make these cookies and it was a lot of fun. He’s a pro at cracking the eggs, especially with one hand, and measuring the flour using the straight edge of a knife to level it off. He even advised me on the size of the dough as we were rolling them into balls. I was using a teaspoon size of dough and he thought a tablespoon size was better. He was so right!
I gave him the rest of the day off when we were about half way through rolling the dough because this batch makes a crap load of cookies. I’m talking 85 cookies! So, if you’re looking for a cookie recipe that makes about 7 dozen, I am here for you.
Like the Toffee Squares, these cookies are great for giving out as presents. Not only are they amazingly tasty, they make so many you just want to share the deliciousness. But if you don’t feel like sharing, I salute you in polishing off 85 cookies all by yourself.
Speaking of presents, my oldest son, Jack, brought them to school the day after I made these. He wanted to bring some to celebrate two of his friends’ birthdays. They turned 15 so I packed 16 – one extra for good luck. Turns out I should have packed more. Jack and a bunch of his friends had the cookies at lunch and from what he told me they went pretty fast. I couldn’t help but to think their restraint is better than mine because I don’t know if I could have waited until lunch. I mean, having them before the first bell is more my style. What am I talking about? I’d have them on the bus ride to school. One of his friends did text him later that night to bring more cookies the following day. I am so on board with his friend’s way of thinking.
Even though I call these Italian Christmas Cookies, you can definitely have them year round. They’re great for any occasion: birthdays, showers, when Kim Kardashian returns to social media. Any special occasion!
- 2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 4 ½ cups flour
- 6 teaspoons baking powder
- Decorative sprinkles
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- Preheat oven to 350ºF
- In a stand mixer or with a hand blender, cream butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Crack the eggs individually into a small bowl and add, one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next egg.
- Add vanilla extract and almond extract.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add flour and baking powder mix in batches to creamed butter and sugar mixture and mix until well blended.
- Flour your hands (dough will be sticky). Take about a tablespoon-size of dough and roll into balls. Place each ball about 2” apart onto an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 9 minutes until cookies are set and bottoms are lightly browned.
- Let cool on rack.
- Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a cooling rack on top. Set aside.
- Place all frosting ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix with a rubber spatula or spoon until smooth.
- Once the cookies are cooled, dip the tops of each cookie into frosting. Immediately add sprinkles. Let dry completely on cooling rack.