It is Christmas morning. Even after a night of cooking the feast of seven fishes, I woke up early to make this recipe for Italian Christmas cookies. I did not have time to make them till now, and it would not be Christmas morning without them. They are exactly what you need with a cup of coffee after a night like last night…if you know what I mean. For the past 25 years or more, this is how I start my day on Christmas morning.
Why the question marks in this recipe title? Well, I always smile when I pull this recipe out of my file as it was not given to me by an Italian, but rather from a friend of English decent. Not that I am doubting the origin of the recipe. It certainly tastes like an Italian cookie. My friend and I have shared so many recipes over the years, but generally, I gave her Italian recipes, and she shared recipes for things like English Trifle (which I will share with you in the future), Yorkshire pudding, etc. But one day, she proudly told me to try this cookie recipe as it was easy and delicious. If you look closely at the original recipe in her handwriting, you will notice the word “plop.” This word is used in every recipe she has ever given me. I know the recipe came from her if “plop” is written somewhere. Is this an English culinary term? Certainly no Italian cook is “plopping” anything, but I do, when it comes to her recipes. There is a certain release of tension when you “plop”, and you stop taking yourself so seriously while cooking or baking. I constantly tease her about this. We always have a good laugh about it.
I met this dear friend 27 years ago. We have shared many recipes over these years, but I have to say, in the late 1980s and early 90s, we spent more time dancing in our kitchens then we did cooking. We would put on the Pet Shop Boys, Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, and dance our hearts out. Oh yes, we would stop around dinner time, when the kids got hungry, and I would teach her a pasta dish or two. The kids loved these get togethers as there were lots of laughs, good music and good food. Hey…there’s another good title for a book….”Dance, Laugh, Cook”.
We often talked about the dichotomy of our experiences with food growing up in very culturally different families. My family was all about food…..hers, not so much. I remember my shock when she told me that her family ate the same thing on the same night of the week, each week. In an English family, if it’s Sunday, it most be a roast. But this is how it was each night of the week in her family. This absolutely shocked me. I remember her telling me that her mom had a friend and neighbor, who was Italian, and who taught her mom to make several italian dishes, just in the same way that we began the recipe swapping. To this day, we are still exchanging recipes and cooking for each other. And oh yes, we still dance.
Italian Christmas Cookies
2 1/2 Cups flour
3/4 Cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Combine above ingredients in a bowl.
In a separate bowl combine:
3 Tbsp. Anisette (I have used Sambuco in a pinch)
2 oz. orange juice
1 stick melted butter
Combine both sets of ingredients. You can easily mix by hand or use the dough hook of a Kitchen Aid. Plop onto a cookie sheet forming two logs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely. Mix 1 cup Confectioners sugar with 2 Tbsp. milk or water and mix until a thick paste forms. You can add more sugar or water to get desired consistency. Drizzle over the top of both loaves. Add sprinkles or colored sugar. Slice about an inch thick.