Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Countdown

Need any last minute ideas? Check these out
Italian Cookies
Cook's notes:These delicate cake-like cookies are glazed with icing and topped with colorful candy sprinkles. They have a mild anise flavoring, which is very typical of Italian baked goods. The cookies are the perfect bites of sweetness for this time of year and hard to stop at just one. Adding sprinkles make them all the more festive for your holiday tray or with a cup of tea. Recipe adapted from noblepig.com and makes about 5 dozen rolling the dough into 1 inch balls. It's a very easy recipe to make.
For the cookies:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening (margarine)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. anise extract or almond extract
For the glaze:
  • 3-4 TB. milk
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp. anise extract
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
  • In the microwave melt butter and shortening  together in a bowl.
  • Beat the melted butter and shortening together until it is completely incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add granulated sugar and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, about 1 minute each. Mix in anise extract.
  • Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. Don't over mix. If the cookie dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add a bit of flour. However, the dough should remain very soft, so don't add too much.
  • Roll the cookie dough in small balls (they puff up quite nicely) and place them on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes (mine took 8 minutes). The bottoms of the cookies should be lightly browned but the tops of should remain light in color.
  • Remove cookies from the cookie sheet immediately and move to a wire rack. Cool completely before glazing.
  • For the glaze, slowly mix milk with powdered sugar and anise extract. The glaze needs to be thick to adhere to the cookie. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze. I dipped about 8-10 cookies at a time. Add sprinkles to each cookie and leave  them on rack to dry. 
Anise-has a distinctive taste which is a bit sweet with licorice undertones.

Smart Cookie Tips from Southern Living December 2015

Make A Little Noise
When cookies are done, sharply tap the baking sheet against the counter. It will force the cookies to settle faster, creating a crisp outside and a chewy center.   
Crack The Right Eggs
Use eggs at room temperature so they easily incorporate into your dough. In a rush? Place eggs in a bowl of warm tap water for 10 minutes.
Avoid A Sticky Situation
When  a recipe calls for you to measure something like honey, molasses or peanut butter first coat the cup or spoon with cooking spray.
Reach for a Spoon
When measuring flour, spoon-don't pack the dry ingredients into the measuring cup. This technique helps yield tender cookies.

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