Christmas Cookie Baking: Sicilian Cookies

I love to bake cookies for the holidays. I usually bake a dozen different kinds during the week leading up to Christmas. The majority are Italian favorites, but I also make some German and Scandinavian cookies. We have a fun family tradition in which, a few days before Christmas, we wrap up homemade Christmas cookies and have our children help deliver them to our friends and neighbors. As my children get older they also enjoy giving cookies to their school friends. I bring a tiered tray full of cookies to the family for Christmas Eve as well.

By the time Christmas rolls around the dining room table is filled with food gifts that friends and neighbors give in return. I have one friend that makes delicious homemade chocolate-covered cherries and another who makes wonderful pecan tartlets. There are spiced nuts, braided homemade breads, mini cakes, and cookies. It is wonderful and I spend the week after Christmas walking the track to burn off all the holiday sampling.

This Sicilian cookie recipe came from my cousin Rosalie. I have adapted it slightly and it is now my children’s favorite holiday cookie. They are somewhat cake-like with a fairly strong licorice flavor. They are topped with colored non-pareils and look festive on an assorted cookie platter. I like to make these cookies with a combination of regular sugar and anisette sugar. (I cannot find anisette sugar where I live, so I bring it back in my suitcase every time I go to New Jersey. Victoria Brand Anisette Sugar can be ordered online. Use all regular sugar with a little anise extract if you cannot get anisette sugar.) It is important to chill the dough overnight.

Sicilian Cookies
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. anisette flavored sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. shortening
1/2 c. milk
6 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
6 c. flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Anise Glaze
1 c. powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. anise extract
colored non-pareil sprinkles

Cream sugar, butter, and shortening in a mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add milk, then eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix until well combined. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add into wet ingredients one cup at a time. Chill dough overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet. Allow 1 inch space in between so cookies can spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are very pale in color and somewhat firm to the touch. Cool on rack. Combine glaze ingredients and stir until smooth; it should be fairly thin. Dip cookies in glaze, then in non-pareils. Let dry on rack. Makes 5 dozen cookies.


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