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Italian cookies

August 29, 2009

Italian Cookies

I don’t know a lot about these cookies or why they’re called Italian cookies.  I know I didn’t have anise extract (and I don’t like the flavor of anise anyway) so I used vanilla instead.  I found the cookies to be a little on the drab side, so with that in mind, after two big trays of vanilla flavored cookies, I folded in some mini chocolate chips and made two big trays of those.  I prefer the ones with the chocolate chips in them, but I like the fun of the sprinkles on the vanilla cookies.  And the kids seemed to love them both because they sure disappeared in record time.

I really don’t think I’ll be baking these again.  Sorry, creator of the Italian cookie.  Nothing personal, but it was too tedious rolling all those tiny little balls of dough, then having to dip each cookie individually into the glaze.  I just don’t feel like I got a big enough payoff in flavor.  Granted, the fault was probably mine by not using anise extract in the first place, so if you like the flavor of anise, I’d say give it a try and let me know how you like them.  I bet they just needed that stronger flavor to turn them into a keeper, because they got great reviews over at Tasty Kitchen.

Recipe:  Italian Cookies

1/2 c. butter

1/4 c. vegetable shortening

3/4 c. granulated sugar

4 eggs

3 c. all-purpose flour

5 tsp. baking powder  (Yes, you really want 5 tsp.)

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. anise extract ~ vanilla or lemon extract are other options


2 c. confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2-4 Tbsp. milk


Melt butter and shortening together.  Add the sugar; mix well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in the anise extract.

Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to creamed mixture gradually.  If the dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add flour until firmer, but the dough should still be very soft.

Roll the dough in small ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  The bottom should be lightly browned and the top.  (I found this time/temp. overcooked my first batch, so I baked the rest at 350 degrees for 6 minutes and they were perfectly baked.) Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely before glazing.


Mix milk gradually into confectioner’s sugar and whisk to make a thick glaze.  Dip the top of each cookie into glaze and sprinkle with jimmies or nonpareils while still wet.

Makes about 100 cookies if you roll 1/2″ balls.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2009 5:48 am

    I’m not too keen on anise either, so I appreciate the vanilla substitution. The cookies look sensational!!

  2. August 29, 2009 7:48 am

    They sure are pretty! I’m not sure about anise either, maybe orange or something :)

  3. August 29, 2009 8:55 pm

    Oh, I saw these on TK too but I wasn’t sure about trying them. I’ve never had anise, but my boyfriend says he doesn’t like it. Good to know vanilla isn’t exactly the most exciting substitution. They sure look pretty though!

  4. August 30, 2009 5:34 am

    Hey Michelle,

    Just wanted to check out your site after the lovely comment you posted for my lemon meringue pie! Your site is wonderful! I really enjoy the ‘green’ aspect – I will definitely be stopping by your site often!

  5. August 30, 2009 5:50 am

    i don’t think these would do it for me either, but i agree with your vanilla usage and i appreciate the sprinkles!

  6. August 30, 2009 3:45 pm

    Not that I’m playing devil’s advocate, but maybe the recipe itself was lacking? Shouldn’t a fairly straightforward butter cookie be good? I think the size and sprinkles are adorable and I can see why the kids would go for these.

  7. August 30, 2009 6:09 pm

    Try them with espresso or a dessert wine, they way Italian cookies should be enjoyed.

  8. August 31, 2009 1:16 am

    I think I might try almond extract. They looked like cute cookies!!

  9. August 31, 2009 7:56 am

    I’ll be honest Michelle and tell you that even if you had RAVED about this recipe I would have taken a pass and begged you to mail me some! I’m prejudice against cookies. They all seem like too much work with little payoff. Bars are just as good (often better) and so much easier! Can we say sugar cookie bars, uh, snickerdoodle bars?! :) I can go on and on!

  10. Anneta permalink
    September 4, 2009 4:21 pm

    Anise is not for everyone, but that’s okay with my family. Like beer, liquor, or any other strong flavor, it is usually considered an acquired taste unless you’ve grown up with it. We adore it – even the cat and dog. The pets perk up and gather round my baking area whenever I open up the anise flavoring or crush anise seeds. They always beg for a tiny pinch of dough or cookie. Sometimes they wear me down and get the smallest smudge of a taste.

    Anise makes a home smell great. In aromatherapy, it is considered a Cheering or Uplifting scent. You do need to be sure to use a good quality anise extract and the freshest anise seed if you want premium taste pr scent.

    Anise scent has long been used to help calm pets. They love rubbing against slacks or jeans that have a drop of anise oil inside the cuff.

  11. oneordinaryday permalink
    September 5, 2009 12:31 am

    Veggie Girl – I thought the vanilla would do it, but it just wasn’t a strong enough flavor to make it happen the way I expected.

    Jennie – Orange might have been a great fix. Hmm.

    Lizzy – Thanks. Hope you let me know if you find a better substitution for the anise.

    Kristie – Thank you so much.

    Grace – The sprinkles saved the day.

    Irina – You’re probably right. A nice butter cookie would be tasty.

    Mimi – Thanks for the tip. Perhaps serving them in that way was why they seemed a smidge on the dry side?

    Jennifer – Almond extract is definitely a little stronger than vanilla, so it might kick the flavor up a little more. Thanks.

    Ingrid – These really were time-consuming. I don’t mind putting the time in if they’re really good though.


  12. oneordinaryday permalink
    September 5, 2009 12:36 am

    Anneta – Thanks for all the anise information. I’m just not a fan, but I had no idea it was used in so many ways.

  13. kellycooks permalink
    December 23, 2009 4:05 am

    I’ve made these as well, and we love them with lemon extract, but not so much with other extracts! :)

  14. apply for VA loan permalink
    July 27, 2010 4:24 pm

    Wonderful Recipe. Loved making them

  15. Valerie permalink
    December 21, 2012 9:57 am

    This Italian Wedding Cookie or Italian Knot Cookie is my favorite cookie in the world. You either love em or u don’t. Yes, you can use all different kinds of extracts with this cookie, i like the almond the best. I wholeheartedly agree with Mimi, Christmas morning is just not the same if I don’t have my wedding cookies with my coffee!! Great combo!

  16. lisa permalink
    September 10, 2013 1:28 am

    anise is fabulous. thankfully i grew up on this flavor and these types of cookies. what people do not realize is that very many of these cookies are made for dunking in coffee or wine and are not your typical american style cookie. i am happy to have grown up on them. And I am glad that Mimi Anetta and Valerie tried to enlighten everyone as well. Doesn’t anyone like black licorice?

  17. Roberta permalink
    September 20, 2013 10:04 pm

    I made them with lemon and a drop of vanilla and they were awesome! I love anise but did not have any.

  18. jena permalink
    September 23, 2013 11:13 am

    My family is Italian and I’m the 3rd generation to make them that in the family. My great aunt makes them with lemon extract, I make them with vanilla extract. I also add some vanilla extract to the glaze and drizzle it over the cookies after they come out of the oven. It’s easier than dipping them individually. It’s tradition to have “coffee and cake” or coffee and dessert after a meal when Italians gather for a meal, lol. These cookies are normally served with coffee after dinner or in the morning with coffee (meant for dunking), usually give the kids milk with them :)

  19. Sylvia Pezzutto permalink
    November 15, 2015 2:55 am

    I LOVE anise and I love Italian cookies! I’m half Italian and I grew up on sweets and things flavored with anise. This sounds like a great recipe and I’ll be giving it a try in the next few weeks as one of the cookies on my Christmas cookie list! I love black licorice and anise extract or seeds is another way for me to enjoy that wonderful taste. Thanks for a great recipe!

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