From America's Test Kitchen Christmas Cookies 2013 {Updated this page December 2015 with a few more Tips.]

Italians call these cookies "angeletti" and like all Italian cookies you can find thousands of recipe versions online. As I have mentioned elsewhere I have a wee obsession with Italian cookies and these are stars in my repertoire. It is one of those great cookie recipes that comes together fast in a food processor - especially if all ingredients are prepped ahead of time. I use a 2 tsp scooper and get 3 dozen cookies from this. If planning to bake two cookie sheets at a time, in a convection oven, adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle position. If doing one sheet at a time in regular oven, adjust rack to middle.

Heat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure vegetable shortening and pop it into the freezer while prepping everything else and it will be chilled by the time you need it. Take the eggs out of the fridge so they will come to room temperature. (If you decide to make this on the spur of the moment and the eggs are fridge cold, just place them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.)

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 TB unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces and chilled
4 TB vegetable shortening, cut into half-inch pieces and chilled
1 tsp grated lemon zest

I use a digital scale to weigh the dry ingredients. Process flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds.

Scatter butter and shortening over top and pulse until mixture looks sandy, 10 to 12 pulses. Add grated lemon zest and pulse once or twice.

2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp anise extract

Add eggs, vanilla and anise extract, and process until dough forms - 20 to 30 seconds. 

ATK suggests working with 1 TB dough at a time, rolled into balls and spaced 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. I prefer to use my (2 tsp) cookie scoop. The dough resembles play doh a bit. I fill the scoop, pressing gently to make sure the scoop bowl is filled, and then flip it onto the cookie sheet. The scooper leaves it looking a bit "ragged" on top - that imperfection will be hidden by the glaze, or you can roll it around a wee bit to make the cookie top smooth.

Bake until tops have puffed and cracked, and bottoms are light golden brown, 13 to 16 minutes. (Rotate sheet halfway through baking, and If using two sheets at a time - switch and rotate halfway.) Don't over-bake these. The recipe says to bake until bottoms are light golden brown. Don't be waiting until tops are golden brown.

Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.

2 TB lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp anise extract
multicoloured nonpareils (optional)

Whisk confectioner sugar, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon anise extract together in bowl until smooth. If it's not at the consistency you want - keep adding little dribbles of lemon juice and/or anise until it's just right. Working with a few cookies at a time, cover each cookie top with glaze and decorate with nonpareils, if using. My preference for icing the cookies is to dip the tops into the glaze. Let glaze dry for at least 30 minutes before serving or storing. Icing sugar glazes are sometimes a bit finicky and you may need to add more lemon juice or more icing sugar to get the desired consistency. In this case, you want the icing a bit thick to avoid too much of it from dripping off. Take care when adding extra lemon juice - sometimes you need only a wee drop to tweak the consistency.

Notes and Tips...

  • One or Two Cookie Sheets - the advantage of baking two sheets at a time is time management - especially important if this cookie is part of a Xmas baking marathon. I prefer to do one sheet at a time. While the first is baking, I am prepping the second. (More on cookie sheets
  • Dry ingredients - so far I may not have said much about digital scales. When ingredients are listed by weight, I now prefer to weigh, rather than measure. (Read more...)
  • Butter - ATK recipes use "European Style" butter - that means 84% such as Sterling. I have found that some of their recipes simply do not work as well if not using 84%, but this recipe works just fine with the usual butter available in stores. Their Test Kitchen also notes that they tried various combinations of shortening and butter. Cookies using butter are more tasty, but are soft - the reverse for shortening - and so they use equal amounts of each.
  • Lemon zest - I always wash (and dry) citrus fruit to remove wax and impurities; if both zest and juice are required, zest first; optimal juice can be extracted by first rolling the fruit on a counter to soften.
  • Portioning - I use a scoop and after portioning out all that fit on one cookie sheet, I roll them lightly before baking.
  • Icing - important to do only 2-3 at a time and then sprinkle the nonpareils - the icing solidifies quickly and then the nonpareils will not stick. I make the icing in a small, but deep bowl and that makes it easier to "dip" the cookies rather than trying to "ice" them with a knife.
  • Dry time - drying / hardening to the point where storage is possible is faster if they are left in a cool place. When made for Xmas, they last for weeks in a tin, in a cool place.
  • Nonpareils - available in the bulk barn - they come in different colours, often to match the season.
  • Anise - no surprise that Lidia also has a recipe for these cookies and in addition to anise, she uses Sambuca
  • For KB Recipe Attribution Practices please click here.

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