Whether a part of the assortment of Italian Christmas cookies or at a baby shower or wedding, these anise cookies are constantly making an appearances at my family celebrations (With a simple drop of food coloring they're perfect for any occasion!) If the licorice taste of anise doesn't suit you, try using almond, vanilla or even lemon extract...they are all delicious!
Makes about 8 dozen
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons anise extract (almond, vanilla or lemon can also be used!)
2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2-3 tablespoons milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon anise extract (optional)
food coloring (optional)
sprinkles of your choice(optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cookie sheets or pans by covering them with parchment paper.
To prepare these Italian Christmas cookies, get a large bowl and combine the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy, which should take anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes. Crack in each egg, making sure to mix well after each one. Add your choice of extract.
Now combine the flour and baking powder, sifting it together so that there are no chunks of baking powder together. Take about a third of these dry ingredients and add them to the wet ones, using a hand or stand mixer to combine them. Then add about a tablespoon of milk. Repeat this process by adding another third of the flour mixture to your batter, and then another spoon of milk. The last batch of flour should be added very slowly, mixing in between so that you can determine how much flour is enough. You want the batter to be very easy to mold, but not sticking to your hands. The dough should not be stiff! If you add too much flour, try adding a few more drops of milk until the batter is easy to manage.
Using a tablespoon, drop balls of the batter onto the baking sheets, leaving space for them to bake and puff up in the oven.
Stick your pan in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until they puff up and the bottoms begin to turn a light golden brown.
While the cookies are baking, mix together the confectioners sugar, milk and extract of your choice (if you are using it). At this point you can also add food coloring if you want your icing to be a special color. White is also just as nice though!
After the cookies have mostly cooled, hold each one upside down and dip into your frosting glaze. flip it over and let it rest on a flat surface covered with wax paper. If you intend to use sprinkles, only dip a few at time and then sprinkle them, or else the frosting will harden and sprinkles will no longer stick. (If your frosting begins to harden before you are done dipping just microwave it for about 10 seconds to let melt again!)
Let the frosting harden to the touch, arrange on a plate and get ready to serve these Italian Christmas cookies to your family and friends!