Okay, so the name for these guys is a little bit misleading. Not quite a shortbread, not quite iced, these cookies are actually an Italian classic and taste delicious with a simple confectioner's sugar and water mixture on top. I can't be sure where this recipe came from - it was cut out of a newspaper or magazine by my mother and was simply titled "Italian Cookies." But it makes some delicious cookies that, especially when dressed with a sugary frosting, are quite irresistible!
The original recipe suggests forming the dough into small wreaths. I find this unnecessarily laborious and tiresome. When you're putting 6 cups of flour into a dough, you're bound to come out with a whole lot of cookie and I don't want to spend all my time rolling small wreath forms out. So I resort to a much simpler method, invented by my ingenious mother - a pizza cutter. She simply rolls the dough out to an even thinness and then runs a series of parallel and perpendicular lines all the way through using a pizza cutter. Though this makes for a much less work-intensive recipe, the cookies still are festive with their diamond shapes and colorful icings.
These aren't the sweetest of cookies on their own, but they have their own addictive qualities nonetheless and are the perfect backdrop for all variety of icings and toppings. Just be forewarned that this recipe turns out a huge batch of cookies - I had somewhere upwards of 6 dozen!
For the cookies:
- 6 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the icing:
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 3 Tbsp water
- Food coloring, optional
- Sanding sugar, optional
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder and whisk to mix.
3. Add room temperature butter and shortening and knead the mixture by hand (the dough won't come together quite yet but everything should be thoroughly mixed before proceeding to the next step).
4. Whisk together milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Pour liquid mixture over the flour and butter mixture, and further knead with your hands (at this point, I find it easier to remove the dough from a mixing bowl and knead on a flat tabletop). If too dry, add more milk as necessary to achieve a cohesive dough (I can pretty much guarantee that you'll need extra milk, so make sure you've got at least 1/2 cup on hand!).
5. Divide the dough in half and roll each half out to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a pizza cutter, cut parallel lines through the dough on a diagonal. Then cut another set of parallel lines intersecting the first set at a 60 degree angle to create diamond-shaped cookies.
6. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch space between each. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until bottom of cookies just begin to brown.
7. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.
8. Once completely cool, prepare icing. Combine confectioner's sugar, water, and a few drops of food coloring. Whisk until all ingredients are fully incorporated and drizzle icing over cookies (add more water incrementally if icing is not drizzling well).
9. Sprinkle with sanding sugar just after icing. Enjoy!