Italian Anise Cookies for Easter and Beyond

anise cookies

Spring is officially here finally, and Easter is quickly approaching, and I can’t think of a better cookie to grace your dessert table than these pretty pastel glazed Italian anise cookies.

 

These cookies are classic, traditional and perfect for any special celebration and just the mere scent of them bring back fond memories of old. Italian anise cookies have played center stage at many weddings, showers, communions, graduations and of course all the major holidays.

 

What I love about these cookies is that you can change up the frosting and sprinkles to fit whatever the occasion is, so with Easter coming up I thought frosting them with some pretty pastel colors would be fun and just looking at them scream “spring” to me.anise cookies

 

Let’s talk about anise and the flavor of anise, if you haven’t tried it you’re missing out. It’s described as being warm, a little spicy and very aromatic with just a mild hint of licorice. Anise is used widely in making pastries and baked goods and it’s the essential ingredient in these cookies where you taste it inside as well as in the frosting.

 

The dough is very similar to my Anginetti Lemon Knots with a slight variation, some recipes add milk, some do not, some are made with shortening, some butter, but basically they turn out very similar. The end result will yield a soft, crumbly, light cookie that takes on the flavors of the extracts you choose, in this case it’s anise but if you prefer, lemon, almond and orange work wonderfully as well.

 

frosting cookies

 

This is the first time I mixed up different colored frostings and I’m so glad I did because they look so festive and they resemble little colored Easter eggs.anise cookies

 

The dough can be formed into balls like I did here or tied into knots and even formed into rings, either way don’t get nervous if you see some characteristic cracks on top.anise cookies

 

Don’t you think they’re the perfect addition to your Easter table? But think ahead to summer parties, baby and wedding showers, birthdays and BBQ’s, you can’t go wrong with a platter of these pretty cookies on your table.anise cookiesanise cookies

 

I did a search on the internet to find a recipe that was as close to the one made by my beloved mother-in-law who made them often for her family because sadly none of her children have a complete recipe of hers. The recipe I chose was the Anise Cookies on the Cooking with Nonna website which is Rossella Rago’s actual Nonna’s recipe, so I knew it would be a good one, and it did not disappoint.

 

I did however double the recipe and I changed up the way the cookie gets mixed, just the procedure in doing it, so that’s what I’ll be posting, it seemed easier for me with one less step for my lazy self, and they turned out absolutely fine.anise cookies

Keep this recipe tucked away for all your special occasions and make sweet memories of your own.

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Italian Anise Cookies for Easter and Beyond
 
Adapted from The Cooking with Nonna website, Anise Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • COOKIE DOUGH
  • 5 cups all purpose flour, un-bleached
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons anise extract
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • ICING
  • 3 cups, confectioner's sugar
  • 6 tablespoons half and half or cream, adjusting if you need a little more or less. Icing should have a nice flow when stirring it with a little thickness but not runny
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract ( or if you prefer another extract like lemon, almond or orange)
  • 1 drop of any food coloring to make your pastel colors
  • non-pariels and sprinkles to decorate
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place parchment paper onto rimmed baking sheets.
  2. In a separate bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until incorporated.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with your electric hand or stand mixer (preferably a stand mixer with paddle) add the softened butter and confectioners sugar, beat on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time along with the extracts, beating until all is incorporated.
  5. Lower the speed and add in all your dry ingredients a cup at a time, dough ball will form and pull away from side, the dough will be sticky.
  6. Form your balls either from a rounded teaspoon or a small cookie scoop which I used. Remember you can roll your dough and form them into a knot or a ring if you like as well.
  7. Keep them 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 12 minutes total, bottoms will be golden and tops still pale with some cracks.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. MAKING THE ICING
  10. Stir together in a small bowl the confectioners sugar, extract, half and half and food coloring if you are using it. Depending on how many cookies you're making you could do a large batch of white frosting then divide and separate some into smaller bowls so you can add your food coloring to each.
  11. Dip or brush the tops of the cookies into the icing then immediately add your sprinkles ( over a bowl so they don't fly all over your kitchen).
  12. Let the icing dry completely on a rack before you store them away.
  13. NOTE;
  14. You can bake these ahead of time and freeze if you don't frost them, I would recommend frosting them just a day or two ahead before you'll be serving them, otherwise the frosting won't look as nice and fresh.
  15. I made 68 cookies from this batch.

 

Signature

Homemade Cucidati a Sicilian Fig Cookie Tradition

cucidati fig cookies When I think of holiday baking the first cookie that comes to my mind is cucidati, a Sicilian fig cookie filled with a mixture of nuts, dates, figs, raisins, spices and a few different flavorings and all that goodness is wrapped in a tender buttery dough that’s baked, frosted and sprinkled.

In my family this is a cookie that has memories attached to it, just the smells alone evoke fond thoughts of a mother long gone who lovingly made these for her family throughout their childhood for special occasions and holidays.

It’s about wanting to keep up that tradition and then handing it down to generation after generation.

cucidati Italian fig cookies So for that reason when I make them I go big and it’s a family affair. We start early in the morning and it becomes a whole day of baking. I think the most we made in a one day was 600.

Every one brings their own containers to take their cookies home, many will be gifted out to other family members and friends who look forward to our baking lollapalooza.

I like finding different tins to put them in and I always layer the cookies between wax paper.

fig paste

We have it down to a science now and everyone has their own jobs to do that they’re comfortable with, from making the filling, rolling the cookies, watching the oven, frosting them and adding the sprinkles. I always prep the dough the night before so that job is out of the way, I make at least ten batches.

cucidati Italian fig cookies I line my dining room table with sheets of wax paper and by the time we’re finished every inch gets covered and then some!

cucidati Italian fig cookies The one rule we have is that no one takes any home until the frosting has completely hardened, otherwise they’ll just get ruined when you’re packing them up.

cucidati Italian fig cookies

We even made some with white on white for a more classic look, wouldn’t these would look nice set out at an Italian wedding?

cucidati Italian fig cookiescucidati Italian fig cookies The smell of them baking lasted for days in my house!

cucidati Italian fig cookies

Because of the overwhelming requests for this recipe, I’ve posted it below along with all my tips.

Happy Baking! 

CUCIDATI

The Dough
TIP: (My handed down family recipe used Crisco because that was very common then, but today all I use is butter in the dough and we like it so much better!)
 4 cups all-purpose flour
 2/3 cup sugar
 1 teaspoon baking powder
 1 teaspoon salt
 8 ounces cold unsalted butter or 2 sticks, cut into pieces
 4 large eggs
Put flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse just to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse. Add eggs and pulse until dough forms a ball on the blade. Remove from processor and knead briefly on a lightly floured work surface until smooth. Shape dough into a log shape and wrap in plastic and put into fridge overnight or use after it chills well.

TIP:(It’s great to work with when it’s chilled, if you leave it on the counter which I’ve done in the past the butter warms up and rolling it is a nightmare of stickiness, so take out one batch at a time. You might have to whack it with the rolling pin to break it down a bit but believe me it works and rolls much better. Making the dough ahead is especially good when making large amounts like I do, plus it will free up your food processor for the filling.
The Filling
 One 12-ounce package dried Calimyrna or Mission figs, snip off the hard end of stem
 ½ cup of dates, remove pits
 1/2 cup un-blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
 1/3 cup apricot preserves or orange marmalade
 ½ cup plump golden raisins
 1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced ( you can find this on line if you can’t find it in the baking isle, or just used grated orange peel and more marmalade, but I love this addition)
 1/3 cup of honey if you want it sweeter
 1/4 cup dark rum or whiskey
 1 teaspoon cinnamon
 TIP: ( My advice is to taste as you go along maybe adding more or less of the ingredients, my favorite is using whisky)
Instructions for filling
Remove stems from figs and cut the figs into medium-size dice. Put figs and remaining filling ingredients into the food processor and pulse with the metal blade until finely chopped; if you want to do this the day before go right ahead, it gives the flavors a chance to meld together.
To assemble the cookies
Cut your log of dough into 12 pieces and try to roll it out into a 3” by 12” rectangle. Then take the fig filling and scoop it out or make a fig log right down the middle onto the rectangle of the dough and roll it up placing it seam side down.
Cut cookies into 1 1/2 inch pieces, you can cut them into a square or on an angle, then place the cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, till bottoms are nicely golden.
The Frosting
One whole bag of confectioners’ sugar mixed with milk to get the right consistency, sort of thick, not watery.
Non-perils for sprinkling

This recipe makes 4-5 dozen.
Make icing but don’t ice them until the cookies are completely cool from the oven,(important!) Spread a little icing onto each cookie, I like to use a pastry brush instead of dipping which gives me more control and it controls some of the sweetness because the filling is sweet also, then sprinkle the nonpareils on the top of the wet frosting but over a bowl otherwise you’ll see them all over your floor.

Pack them into tins only when frosting is completely hardened between wax paper layers, I repeat, let them dry completely!!

These can be made ahead of time to freeze but please do not frost then until you’re ready to serve. I don’t freeze mine I store then in the tins like I said between wax paper and keep the tins in a cool place, like my garage.
Happy Holiday Baking!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up daily in my kitchen!

 

Signature

Rosette Christmas Cookies

holiday rosette cookies

Do you remember rosette cookies? When I was a kid we would have these cookies every year around the holidays and then when I got married I had my very own set of rosette irons they were snowflakes, but somehow they vanished through the years and they’ve been nowhere to be found.

holiday rosette cookies

You really don’t see the irons in stores anymore but you can find them online, I ordered my set from Amazon, I thought the tree and snowflake would be perfect for the holidays but there are also so many other shapes available that you could use throughout the year, flowers, butterflies, bunnies, fish, birds, hearts, I could go on and on.

They’re very simple to make, you whip up a batter, sort of like a crepe batter which you can flavor with different extracts, I used vanilla with some added vanilla bean but you can also use, almond, anise, rum, lemon and even orange, whatever you like.

HELPFUL HINTS

Make your batter ahead of time and refrigerate it for a couple of hours or overnight, your cookies will be nice and crispy… Keep your oil at 365 for best results, so you’ll need a candy thermometer… Heat your iron in the oil for about 8 minutes before you start to dip them… They can be stored in an airtight container for months, they can also be frozen and if needed you can re-crisp them in a 300 degree oven.

holiday rosette cookies

On the back of the package you’ll find some helpful tips plus a recipe for the batter, but I didn’t care for the recipe they had so I slightly adapted my friend Paula’s recipe which turned out perfectly, not one cookie broke!

holiday rosette cookiesholiday rosette cookies

Placed on a pretty platter these rosettes would be the perfect addition to your holiday dessert table, don’t you think?

Follow along and see what else I’m cooking up during the week on Instagram, here’s the link.

4.8 from 4 reviews
Rosette Christmas Cookies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cup of flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla or other extract or vanilla bean
  • oil for frying
Instructions
  1. For the batter beat all ingredients together until incorporated then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to ensure a crispy cookie.
  2. Place 3 inches of oil into a saucepan.
  3. Heat to 365 and keep temperature there.
  4. Attach iron to the handle and submerge in hot oil for at least 8 minutes.
  5. Lift iron out and blot on paper towel.
  6. Dip hot iron into the batter ¾ up the sides, let it coat the iron but do not submerge, it will not release.
  7. Keep it under the oil for a few seconds as you see it turning golden, then gently shake it a little and it will usually release, if it doesn't just take a fork and gently nudge it, then flip it over until golden brown on both sides.
  8. Lift it out gently and let it drain on paper towels.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  10. This recipe makes quite a bit, around 40

 

Signature