Italian Cookies are a not-too-sweet treat with a very subtle licorice flavor. I’ve decorated them with some fun green sprinkles for St. Patrick’s Day.
These cookies have been on my baking bucket list for a while now. A sweet, long time Barbara Bakes reader, Carol, shared the recipe with me and told me she makes them every Christmas. I ran out of time to bake them for Christmas, but decided they would be a fun cookie to make for St. Patrick’s Day. Even though they’re Italian and not Irish.
Carol said she loves this “recipe because it’s easy and makes a lot of cookies. They look pretty on a plate and they taste good too! They’re always a hit no matter where I take them.” Carol cut the recipe out of a Boston newspaper almost 40 years ago and has been making them ever since.
The cookies have a very tender texture that’s kind of a cross between a shortbread cookie and a cake. It’s a low sugar cookie and the icing provides most of the sweetness.
I was a little apprehensive about using anise extract. I really like black licorice, which has a strong anise flavor, but I didn’t need to be concerned. The cookies have a very subtle anise flavor that’s almost an aftertaste. You may not even recognize it if you didn’t know it was in the cookies.
Next time you’re baking for a crowd, give this crowd-pleasing recipe a try.
Italian Cookies for St. Patrick’s Day
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 teaspoons baking powder*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons anise extract (can use vanilla or lemon extract instead)
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2-4 tablespoons milk
- Colorful spinkles, optional
Preheat oven to 375°.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and shortening. Add the sugar and melted butter mixture to a mixing bowl; mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the anise extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. If the dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add flour until firmer, but it should be very soft.
Roll dough in small balls (these tend to really puff up with all the baking powder in them!) and place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes (the bottom should be lightly browned but the tops should remain light). Remove cookies to wire rack and cool completely before glazing.
Gradually mix milk into confectioners’ sugar to make a thick glaze…make sure to keep it on the thick side. Dip top of each cookie into glaze. Sprinkle with colored jimmies or nonpareils while glaze is still wet. (I usually dip 10-12 cookies, return them to the wire rack (with wax paper under the racks to aid in clean up!) and then sprinkle those cookies before starting to dip more.) Makes a lot of cookies, depending on how large you roll them.
*I reduced the baking power to 4 teaspoons for high altitude
Carol rolls the dough into 1/2-3/4-inch balls, or even a little bit smaller and gets about 100 cookies from one batch. I used a small cookie scoop, so mine were a little bigger, and made 60 cookies.
More St. Patrick’s Day recipes you might like: