Italian CookiesMarch 21, 2016 By Cathy — 8 Comments
Italian cookies have been a family favorite for many years and look so sweet all dressed up for Easter.
I don’t think there was a single holiday or birthday growing up that we didn’t serve Italian cookies. There was always a plate of these family favorites on the table, the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk. They have a tender crumb, mild flavor and were always topped with a shiny glaze and sprinkle of nonpareils.
Of course, since these cookies were always available, I didn’t really appreciate them until I got older. I had a pretty serious sweet tooth as a kid and often eschewed these simple cookies in favor of the ooey gooey more decadent treats. If there was a double chocolate anything on the table, I was the first in line. I still love my sweets, but I don’t necessarily gravitate toward that rich, dense chocolate cake like I did when I was younger.
These cookies have just the right balance of sweetness thanks to that shiny glaze. The cookie itself has a cakey, light texture and a delicate taste. They can be flavored with lemon juice, anise or vanilla and although I really love the lemon flavor, I am usually overruled by my vanilla-loving family. The icing is a snap to make. Just whisk a little milk and extract into some confectioners sugar until it’s perfectly smooth, then dip your spoon into the bowl then let if fall right over the cookie, dripping down the sides. No need to overthink it here, just drizzle, drizzle and sprinkle.
A drop or two of food coloring and some festive sprinkles makes it easy to dress these cookies for any occasion. I went for a pale blue and some pastel nonpareils this time for Easter, but a pale yellow or pink would be adorable too. My mom always made a special version of these for Easter breakfast. (Yes! Cookies for breakfast!) She would form one big circular cookie and then place a hardboiled egg on the dough for each member of our family. The eggs would get topped with little dough crosses and then this giant cookie would be baked until puffed and golden. Once cooled, she would drizzle it with icing and cut a wedge for each of us for breakfast. We would peel our eggs and delight in this sweet, special breakfast.
I’d like to tell you that having a big slice of cookie for breakfast prevented me from cracking into that chocolate Easter bunny as soon as the dishes were cleared. But I would be lying. I would begin with the ears and nibble away to get my chocolate fix, usually stopping when that poor bunny lost his head. Then the Easter basket negotiations would begin…trading and swapping candies with my brothers, each of us trying to pawn those licorice-flavored jelly beans off on the other. So fun, until I realized that my basket was heavy on jelly beans and light on Peeps. Clearly my negotiation skills needed work back then.
I can’t imagine sitting down to tear through a basket full of candy anymore, but I’m still in favor of cookies for Easter breakfast. We’ll be spending the holiday with my parents and fingers crossed that she’ll be making this favorite (hint, hint if you’re reading Mom). I won’t miss those jelly beans, but it just wouldn’t be a holiday without a plate of these cookies.
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp milk
- *a couple drops of food coloring, optional
- **sprinkles or nonpareils, optional
- Cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.
- Combine eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and mix on medium speed with a paddle attachment until well blended, about 2 minutes.
- Add flour and baking powder and mix until flour is completely incorporated and dough is shiny.
- Scoop out dough into walnut size pieces - I use a 1½ inch scoop.
- Roll each ball of dough between your hands into a 4 inch strip and then form a circle or a twist.
- Place on parchment lined sheet and bake for 12-15 mins or until they are pale golden in color. Cool on a wire rack.
- Glaze: While cookies are baking, make the glaze by combining the confectioners sugar, vanilla and milk in a bowl and whisking until smooth. Add a couple drops of food coloring if desired.
- Drizzle each cookie with icing and top with sprinkles or nonpareils. Glaze will harden as it dries.