I come from a family of Italian-Americans, at least on one side. The thing is, I am actually only one-quarter Italian, as my maternal grandmother is second-generation Italian and my maternal grandfather, Austrian. Yet my Mom and her five sisters identify solely with the Italian side. Visiting my grandmother growing up meant spaghetti with meatballs, eggplant parmesan, helping her dig up potatoes in the garden (she grew all her own vegetables) and chocolates “hidden” away in the same spot in a child-accessible cabinet. Easter was a big deal in our house, much like Christmas, even though my parents were not religious at all.
Raising my own kids, the only holiday I remain truly attached to from my upbringing, since I am not Christian, is Christmas. As for Easter, I could take it or leave it, but this year, I have made a conscious decision to celebrate it. Above all else, it’s super fun for kids and something I can easily pass on to them (since I know the traditions), so why not celebrate it?
This recipe comes to me via an amazingly talented chef, my Aunt Valerie, who learned it from her Italian Aunt Angie.
Aunt Angie’s Italian Easter Cookies
(Otherwise known as frosted balls with colored sprinkles)
3 1/2 cups flour
7 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-3 tsp lemon extract (or some finely grated rind is nice) or anise & almond extracts are good too, but use less of these and add to taste.
Approx 2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
Add milk to achieve spreading consistency
Add about 1 tbsp melted shortening (or butter) and a flavoring of choice
Use natural food coloring (see our Easter egg section to learn more about natural dyes) to color the frosting.
1. Add together eggs, sugar, oil, milk and flavoring. Mix the baking soda into the flour well. Mix the dry ingredients into the liquid thoroughly but DO NOT over-mix or beat the batter. Drop and shape into walnut sized balls.
2. Bake at 400 for 8 min (parchment lined sheets work best or lightly spray). Do test cookie.
3. Once cool, dip and roll on the frosting. Then sprinkle on nonpareils quickly before the glaze hardens.
Food tips from Aunt Val:
Some batters do not want to be beaten as this develops the gluten (protein) in the flour and will make the product tough. Pancakes, scones and biscuits fall in this category as well as this recipe! A bit of shortening in the glaze keeps it pure white and from dripping off the round cookie. Hell, this ain’t healthy stuff. And try to cover as much surface as possible when glazing since it helps to seal in the moisture.