Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Italian Sprinkle Cookies

Earlier this week, I wrote about how the lingering winter weather inspired me to make Ginger Hermits, a spicy cookie meant to be eaten with a good cup of tea (cranberry green tea for me).

Well, now I'm thumbing my nose at the latest forecast of snow with a cookie that is just meant to celebrate spring - Italian Sprinkle Cookies!

I've literally dreaming about these cookies for years, after tasting my first a work bake sale.  I wasn't quite sure what they were called but ended up finding a recipe for Italian Anise Cookies that seemed to fit the bill for the soft cookies I wanted to make, with a sweet icing on top.

First, a name change was in order. The recipe suggested either anise or almond extract could be used for flavoring. I chose almond - while I love both flavors, Andrew doesn't like anise so that made the decision for me.

One of the best purchases I made last year? A large bottle of almond extract purchased at Marshalls, of all places, for $7.99.  That may sound pricey but any baker will tell you that a tiny bottle of extract purchased at a typical grocery store usually costs $3-4. So for double the price, I probably got 10x the amount of extract. And it came in handy for this recipe.

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract (or almond extract) I upped this to 1 Tablespoon for a strong almond flavor and I highly recommend this, I don't think there would've been enough flavor with only 2 teaspoons
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons milk 
  • 2 cups of confectioner's sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk (I used 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon anise extract (1 teaspoon of almond extract)
  • food coloring (optional - I kept the icing white to show off the sprinkles)
  • decorative candy sprinkles (I went with the classic and colorful nonpareils)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (I used my Silpat liners).
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add almond extract.
  3. Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of dry ingredients, to the butter/sugar mixture, add 1 tablespoon of milk, and repeat until dough resembles brownie batter (personally, I thought it looked more like biscuit batter - warning, it is very sticky!)
4.  Use tablespoon-sized cookie scooper to make simple round drop cookies - NOTE: This dough is extremely hard to work with/shape without a cookie scooper. And I found the tablespoon size scoops to be too big, I ended up switching to my teaspoon-sized scooper. Use wet fingers to smooth any rough edges

5.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes - cookies will not be brown but the insides will be soft and cake-like. I used a toothpick to make sure the center was cooked through.

They look like biscuits, no? I'm not going to lie. I was a little worried about how these were going to turn out at this point. They looked craggy and ugly. The one on the left was made with the tablespoon scoop and right with a teaspoon scoop.  Teaspoon scoop was definitely the way to go and still gave you a decent sized cookie.
Now for the fun part - sprinkles! Just looking at all these colors made me feel happy and put me in the mood for bright and happy things, like spring weather.

To make the icing, simply mix the sugar, milk and extract in a bowl. You may need to add a little extra milk to get the right glaze consistency. I simply mixed with a rubber spatula and didn't need to microwave the icing at all. After your cookies have had a chance to cool, commence dipping activity:

Sprinkle some nonpareils on top - don't make the mistake of dipping the cookies into nonpareils, that puts way too much on top as I discovered. I guess it makes sense that something called sprinkles would work better sprinkled!
Look how pretty these look arranged on a plate - no one would be able to say no to one of these pretties!

As for my worries on the appearance/flavor/texture? Put to rest the minute I bit into one of these. They are an irresistible combination of soft cake-like texture with just the right amount of drizzle on top. Almond flavor bursting from every corner.  Surprisingly not as sweet as you would think, the cookie itself is not that sweet which is why it balanced out the pure sugar on top. 

These cookies have definitely made their way onto my top ten favorite cookie list. They're easy to make, easy to decorate (and easily adaptable for any holiday/occasion with the right sprinkles) and taste fabulous. As in, I ate three when I was packing them up for my coworkers. And when I brought them into work, it was no surprise to see a coworker take one, and return for a second (even a third) within minutes.

It may be gray and yucky outside but that doesn't mean your desserts need to be gloomy too!

PS - I think you could get between 4 - 5 dozen teaspoon-size cookies easy.  I ended up with a dozen gigantic cookies and 2.5 dozen regular size cookies.


Molly said...

I love sprinkle cookies! I'm a big anise/licorice fan, so I think I'm going to stay with the original for this one. Yum!

bcallegra said...

Molly, I think this would taste awesome with the anise flavoring, but I would go with the amounts mentioned by the original recipe and tailor to your preference (I smelled and tasted a bit of the dough to judge the flavor). Next time I make these, I'll try the anise.