I was searching for Easter cookie ideas on Pinterest and found this recipe for Italian Easter cookies. That’s strange. My grandparents are from Italy and my father often speaks nostalgically about my grandmother’s cooking, but I’d never heard of these traditional Italian cookies.
Family traditions are important to me, especially those that celebrate my Italian heritage. Unfortunately, my grandfather died before I was born and I was very young when my grandmother died. I have faint memories of her, but missed out on the opportunity to learn her cooking and baking secrets–and very few of her recipes survived her.
After searching the internet to learn more about these mysterious Italian Easter cookies, I called my dad to find out if he remembered whether my grandma made them. Sure enough, she made them every Easter. He described her process, the colors she decorated with and the shape she chose to make hers.
Based on my research, there are at least three shapes these cookies take: round, round with the middle gone (like a donut), or oblong and braided. The recipe I chose suggested hand-rolling them into the shape of an egg, so that is what I did. The dough is sticky, so I wet my hands in between for a smooth exterior.
Some of the recipes suggested using food coloring in the frosting to make the cookies look even more egg-like, but I prefer the colorful sprinkles against the stark white frosting.
I love these cookies! They are like little cakes with a hardened glaze and crunchy sprinkles on top. The anise is very subtle and the almond extract gives them a little bit more sweetness. These will become an Easter staple in my family for sure.
Italian Easter Cookies
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon anise extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may need up to 3 cups)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 – 4 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract (or anise)
- decorative candy sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
For cookies, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add anise and almond extract.
Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of these dry ingredients to the butter/sugar in your mixer, then add 1 T. milk. Add another third of the flour and another 1 T. milk. Finally, mix in enough of the remaining flour and another 1 T milk. Add extra milk if needed, until your dough is like a brownie batter (it should be softer than a drop cookie dough).
Use a 1 T. cookie scooper to make simple round drop cookies – use wet fingers to pat any rough edges OR for an Easter-Egg look, roll 1 T. dough into an elongated ball. Wet hands as needed to prevent sticking.
Bake cookies 9 -11 minutes, just until cooked. They won’t be brown but the insides will be soft and cake-like.
For icing: mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze. Heat in the microwave for 10 seconds to make it thin enough for dipping.
Hold cookie in your hand and turn upside down so you can dip the top half in the glaze; turn over and immediately top with sprinkles so they will stick.
Allow icing to harden overnight; then store in air-tight containers or freeze.
Even though I never tasted my grandmother’s Easter cookies, the act of baking them made me feel a connection to her and my heritage. I wish I had known her longer, so she could have shared her history with me, and her recipes. The next best thing I can do is create these traditions for my own family, to pass on my Italian heritage to my own children.
Do you have any family Easter recipes you make every year? I’d love to hear about them.