Mom’s Italian Anise Cookies
Italian anise-flavored cookies glazed with icing are perfect for Christmas
or Easter celebrations.
The only times The Adults cook are usually in times of crisis; Emily’s mother Gloria makes elaborate appetizers for her husband’s birthday party, even though they are getting divorced. After the divorce, Gloria struggles in her attempts to fulfill her duties as a mother, so she orders cookbooks, as though that makes her one step closer to being a better mother. She seems to feel a pressure to cook, as though everything could be better if she just made the perfect batch of cookies for her daughter.
Gloria makes the Italian Anise Cookies on the night of her first date with Bill, the same night she gets in a fight with her daughter. Gloria keeps getting interrupted in her attempts to make them, and by the end of the scene, Emily helps her mother finish rolling out the dough. It is the first time in the novel we really see the two of them working together on something. Creating and working with dough in your hands can be soothing, healing.
The recipe for the Italian Anise cookies is my mother’s. They were one of the first things I ever remember cooking with her. My mother is very Italian, and she takes a lot of pride in these cookies. She makes them every Christmas, and so many of them, that we usually eat them on Easter too.
Mom’s Italian Anise Cookies
Prep time: 2 hours
Note: My mother and I would do seasonal colors
for the icing and split the icing in two bowls. For example, around Christmas we’d make red and green food coloring.
For the dough:
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
For the icing:
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon lemon or vanilla extract
2 or more drops food coloring, divided (see note)
1. To make the dough: Mix eggs, butter, and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer on low speed for 5 minutes. Add anise and lemon extracts and milk and mix well. Add flour and baking powder and mix well.
2. Place dough on a lightly floured board, and knead for 2 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove dough from refrigerator. Pinch off teaspoon-size pieces of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Roll each into ball, and then flatten with palm very slightly. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until bottoms of cookies turn golden. The cookies should be doughy and they will puff up a little bit. Remove from sheet and let cool for 3-5 minutes.
4. To make the icing: Heat butter and milk in saucepan on low heat. Stir until butter dissolves. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar, and then add lemon or vanilla extract. Stir. Remove from heat. If coloring icing, divide icing into two bowls and add a drop of food coloring per bowl (more if darker color preferred). Dip cookies face down while cookies are still warm.
Yield: 44 cookies