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[personal profile] debgeisler
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 them...like 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

FROSTING:
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.
  • Really...my kitchen smells pretty damned good right now.

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