I’ve often heard these delicious holiday favorites referred to by a few different names (Christmas cookies, Italian Anisettes, etc). When it comes to the many things in this world that I truly love, these cookies are literally somewhere in my top ten. The anise really packs every bite with amazing flavor, and the dough’s cake-like consistency is a thing of beauty.
Being Italian myself, and having been raised eating these every year for Christmas and Thanksgiving, baking them these days always has a way of exciting more than just my taste buds. I was very fortunate to have had an amazing mother that I just can’t seem to stop myself from loving more and more every single day. She worked so hard to provide for her three children, and yet she always made time to cook us a delicious dinner most every single night. I also can’t remember a time when we didn’t have fresh baked sweets around the house because of her. Brownies, chocolate cakes, pies, and every type of cookie imaginable. I loved watching her as she went back and forth in our kitchen, grabbing a little of this, and a sprinkle of that. Everything she made had a strange way of always coming out perfect, something that never ceased to amaze me. But nothing stands out in my mind quite like the happy memory of watching her bake these cookies each year for us on the holidays. To this day I am still inspired by how much she continues to do for everyone around her, and how effortlessly she always seems to pull it all off. She really is a special woman (as all mom’s are!). And if she should happen to read this particular post at some point, I hope she knows how much she is loved and appreciated, and how truly amazing someone out there in world thinks she is. Perhaps that’s what makes these cookies so amazing to me. The secret ingredient has always been love!
I know, totally corny right? Anyways, please enjoy this recipe and let me know what you think!
- 1/2 cup butter , softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons anise extract (or almond extract)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may need up to 3 cups)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 -3 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/8 teaspoon anise extract
- food coloring
- decorative candy sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
For cookies, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add anise extract.
Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of these dry ingredients to the butter/sugar in your mixer, then add 1 Tbsp. milk. Add another third of the flour and another 1 Tbsp. milk. Finally, mix in enough of the remaining flour until your dough is like a brownie batter (it should be softer than a drop cookie dough).
Use a 1 Tbsp. cookie scooper to make simple round drop-cookies – use wet fingers to pat any rough edges OR for an Easter-Egg look, roll 1 Tbsp. dough into an elongated ball.
Bake cookies 10-12 minutes (they won’t be brown but the insides will be soft and cake-like).
For icing: mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze. HINT: When I make the icing, I make it thick but then I microwave it for 10 seconds so it is thin enough for dipping. Also, I like to divide the mixture in thirds, and then add ONE DROP of food coloring to each batch (pink, green, yellow).
Hold cookie in your hand and turn upside down so you can dip the top half in the glaze; turn over and immediately top with sprinkles so they will stick.
Allow icing to harden overnight; then store in air-tight containers or freeze.
Quick-set option: If you do not have time to wait for the cookies to harden overnight, you can place them directly into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes after you add the icing and sprinkles. Once the icing has hardened, you are ready to serve and enjoy!
Rewarding yourself for a job well done! My brother and I always set aside the cookies in each batch that maybe aren’t as pretty as the others (remember, there is no such thing as an ugly cookie!). When we’ve finished our last batch, we take the remaining ones and roll them in the leftover icing until they are completely coated (wait, it gets better!). Once they’re covered in icing, we then give each one a quick toss into the sprinkles, because why not? And lastly, we take our cookie creations and throw them into the freezer for a couple of hours. Once completely frozen through, we grab a nice tall glass of milk and enjoy. Believe it or not, these cookies taste amazing frozen. Sounds weird, I know. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!