Man, oh man… I love holiday baking. Seriously, November and December are months of pure heavenly bliss. If I could bottle the aroma of kitchens around the country in late fall and early winter, I would be a millionaire. Holiday baking is as good as it gets, and Christmas cookies are darn near the top of the list. As you’re planning your holiday baking festivities, give this recipe for Italian Christmas cookies a try.
Traditionally called “anginette,” these cookies are absolutely yummy! (There are several other traditional names as well, like “sciamellis.”) You often find them flavored with anise (which tastes a little like licorice). That’s the typical flavoring to use. However, there are a whole bunch of different possible flavors to use with these cookies, like orange or licorice. My favorite has always been almond, and if you’ve never tried this particular recipe (that uses the almond flavor), then you’re really missing out.
As with many Italian cookies, the taste of the anginette is not over-sweet. The cookie has a really nice, moist, cake-like texture. If you choose to frost the cookies, you’ll intensify that already delicious flavor. The cookies look like little puffballs, and they don’t change color too much as they bake. The definitely taste best the day after they’re baked.
If you’ve had Italian Christmas cookies before, you may remember them formed into coiled cone shapes. That’s one of the more common shapings of the dough. But it’s also normal to shape the dough into rounded drop cookies. When making this recipe, I almost always use the rounded drop version. This particular dough recipe is better suited to that shaping. The batter in my recipe tends to be a little more moist, so it’s more difficult to structure the coiled cone cookie. Plus, the rounded drop cookie variation is waaaaay easier, and several major websites (like Good Housekeeping) prefer this method.
If you’re looking for an easy cookie recipe, this is it. The only equipment you need is a mixing bowl and a large wooden spoon. The ease of this recipe is perfect for the hectic Christmas season.
The cookies don’t spread much when they’re in the oven. That means you can fit a lot of them onto a single baking sheet. I can usually make the whole batch on just two baking sheets. Which is a huge time saver. Lots of other cookie recipes can only fit 9 or 10 cookies on a single sheet, so your baking time takes hours!
Give these wonderful holiday treats a try! Let me know what you think in the comments.
Baking: If you’ve ever had these cookies and thought they were unimpressive and dry, you’re in good company. But with this recipe, you can create the best version of this awesome cookie. Moist and tender, nothing like the dry, crunchy things you may have had in the past. Just make sure you watch your baking time closely. Don’t overcook! The tops should not brown. I try to cook them just until they lose their rawness. In my oven, 9 minutes comes out perfect. I look for the bottom edges to brown, and the second they do I pull the cookies out.
Glaze: There are different schools of thought on when to glaze these cookies. I was always taught to glaze them while still warm. But other friends of mine tell me they wait until the cookies have completely cooled to glaze. Personally, I think the glaze sticks best to slightly warm cookies, but if you feel differently, feel free to do it the other way.
You’ll want to make sure to add the water into the glaze mixture slowly. You want to get the glaze nice and thick—aiming for that familiar opaque look on the cookie. If the glaze gets too thin it won’t be white.
Shaping: I like to use an old-fashioned small ice cream scoop (not too big) to form each cookie. This helps to ensure uniformity in size, which is important because they baking time needs to be very precise. Remember, if these overbake they’ll be dry. Shaping them consistently enables you to also bake them evenly.
Freezing: Don’t be afraid to freeze these cookies. They freeze really well, and maintain their awesome taste once you’ve let them thaw out.
- Yield: about 50 cookies
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
Italian Christmas Cookies
- All-Purpose Flour - 4 Cups
- Sugar - 1 Cup
- Whole milk - 1/2 Cup
- Large Eggs, Lightly Beaten - 2
- Baking Powder - 1 Tablespoon
- Vegetable Oil - 3/4 Cup
- Anise Extract - 1 Tablespoon
- Powdered Sugar - 2 Cup
- Anise Extract - 2 1/2 Teaspoon
- Hot Water (More as Needed ) - 1 Tablespoon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder and sugar until combined. Make a well in the center and add oil, milk 1 tablespoon anise extract, and eggs. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, mix together until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth.
- Using a small cookie scoop, scoop up a one inch ball of dough, and place on prepared cookie sheet, with 1 inch between cookies. Slightly flatten tops. Bake for 8-10 minutes in preheated oven until cookies are cooked. They will not brown.
- Meanwhile, make glaze. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, anise extract and 1 tablespoon of hot water until smooth. Glaze should remain thick like the consistency of molasses.
- Place a wire baking rack over a rimmed cookie sheet. Dip warm cookies in glaze, then set on wire rack, then sprinkle immediately, while glaze is still wet with the nonpareils. Allow to cool complete on rack.