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Since I am not Italian (and my brother did not meet his wife Denise until he was a grownup...ish), these cookies were not a feature of my childhood. But I shared with my mother a love of licorice. She and I would do battle over the black jelly beans, and we both loved anise as a spice. While the cookie recipe below originally called for all vanilla, that made a wicked bland cookie. I've changed that up to lemon, almond, and anise in the past, and the anise works out the best.

Also? I make these cookies year-round. My story is that they aren't Christmas cookies unless they have little colored sprinkles on the cookies currently in the oven will have once they are frosted. :-)
Italian Christmas Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 carton (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla, almond, or lemon extract *or* 1 teaspoon anise oil
(if using lemon extract, add the grated zest of 1/2 lemon0
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon anise oil
3 to 4 tablespoons cream, half and half, or milk
Colored sprinkles (omit if not Christmas)

  • In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in ricotta and flavoring. Combine flour, salt and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture.

  • Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

  • In a large bowl, butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to reach spreading consistency. Frost cooled cookies and immediately decorate with sprinkles. Store in the refrigerator or freeze.

    Yield: 8-1/2 dozen.
  • kitchen smells pretty damned good right now.

    *And Geisler-Benveniste, in this case...

    on 2014-12-19 01:51 am (UTC)
    ext_73228: Headshot of Geri Sullivan, cropped from Ultraman Hugo pix (Default)
    Posted by [identity profile]
    I clearly headed in the wrong direction when I was reunited with the Cardis in Worcester today.

    I did, however, pick up confectioners' sugar, so there may well be some cookie baking here at Toad Woods between now and next Thursday.

    (Already have butter, cream, and various other necessities on hand.)
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