The Most Versatile Cookie in the World (Thanks, Rose Felice!)
If you and I have had a conversation about baking, we have likely talked about this cookie. In fact, I've already shared this recipe with you guys in a piece I wrote last summer about the Silpat baking mat. Rose Felice's Magical Italian Cookies™ are quite simply the most perfect cookie on the planet. First, they are buttery and delicious -- win. Second, they are incredibly simple, so simple that you will probably always find the ingredients in your pantry. That second thing makes them perfect for people (like me) who often find themselves saying, "OHMIGOD. I said I'd bring something to that holiday party! Shitballs!"
Photos by Christina Uticone I ate All The Cookies.
The third amazing thing about Rose Felice's Magical Italian Cookies™ is that they are among the most versatile cookie options out there. Yes, it's an Italian wedding cookie, but it's also basically a sugar cookie, which means you can customize it quite easily. And unlike sugar cookies, you don't need to refrigerate this dough for long periods of time, or re-chill as you work with it; also, no cutting out precious shapes, which I think is wasted time between mixing and eating.
Here are three ways I'm using Rose's cookies this holiday season:
Once you add wet ingredients to dry, use your hands to finish mixing the dough. It will be soft and slightly crumbly.
Since we're heading to Fairbanks for Christmas, I've promised my girlfriends -- and Christmas cookie-making cohorts -- that I would whip up a batch of my standard lemon flavored. I love to grate a LOT of zest into the icing, so it really shows up visually as well as on the palate.
Orange is probably a more traditional Christmas flavor -- we got an orange in our stocking every year when we were kids -- so go ahead and replace the lemon with orange juice and zest in the dough and icing.
Alternately, you can flavor just the dough, skip the icing, and then dust the cookies with sugar and cocoa. Or put all three on there. It's Christmas, dude.
Add the cool flavor of peppermint with peppermint extract in both the dough and the icing. While the glaze is setting, add red and white sprinkles or -- better yet -- crushed peppermint candy. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly.
One thing I miss the most from my childhood are my grandmother's pizzelle cookies. The flavor of anise is closely tied to Christmas for me for this reason; my gram always used it, and served us the pizzelle still warm from the stove and sweet with a heavy dusting of confectionary sugar. I don't have my own pizzelle maker or iron, so I just make a batch of these and flavor with anise. Dunk 'em in a cup of Maxwell House International Café instant coffee and raise a mug to Connie Uticone.
Rose Felice's Magical Italian Cookies
The cookies won't spread far, but leave an inch or so between them.
Here is the basic recipe. It only takes a teaspoon or two of extract or juice to change the flavor (almond, anise, lemon, peppermint, etc.); each batch will yield about 2.5 dozen cookies.
In a large bowl, combine:
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 4 1/3 tsp. baking powder
• 3/4 cup sugar
Mix these three ingredients together well; add one stick of softened butter (or margarine) and crumble with the dry ingredients.
In a one-cup measuring cup, mix:
• 2 beaten eggs
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• Enough milk to bring mixture to one full cup
• Zest of 1/2 lemon (add a squeeze of lemon juice if you want it extra-lemony)
Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix together with a large (I prefer wooden) spoon to make the dough. Roll the dough into a ball and chill for 30 minutes. Line cookie sheets and preheat the oven to 375° F.
When the dough has chilled, roll into balls approximately one inch in diameter; place on cookie sheet with space left between for cookies to expand. Bake each batch for six to eight minutes; let cool completely, and glaze.
• 1 cup confectionery sugar
• 1 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. milk
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• Juice from 1/2 lemon, plus zest from whole lemon
Mix ingredients until the consistency is smooth. Season to taste, adding more zest/juice/extract if needed. Drizzle glaze over completely cooled cookies and let the glaze set at room temperature, or in the refrigerator.
Frosting works, but the glaze is more traditional.
To more thickly coat the cookies: Take the cookies out of the oven and dip into the glaze several times, while still warm, using tongs; let rest on a cooling rack to let dry completely.
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