Buona Pasqua! Italian Easter Cookies
The Easter season is one filled with rich traditions, including many types of foods. Food plays a particularly important role on Easter Sunday since that is a day of great celebration and when Lenten fasts are over, allowing for the partaking in all the foods which were given up over Lent. It’s a celebration of life, with food playing a central role (my type of holiday!).
My family developed many great recipes for Easter time over the years, a couple of which I hope to share with you in time for this year’s holiday, starting with the first dessert we’ve made on the Cooking with Mama Lombardo Show: traditional Italian cookies. Italian cookies come in all sorts of flavors and varieties, but the recipe I’m sharing with you today is for plain cookies. This is a recipe that comes from my mother and one that I’ve been cooking for years. I call them Easter cookies since I shape them into a Easter baskets, with a hard boiled Easter egg in the pocket. My kids loved these cookies growing up (and still do), and I’m sure yours will as well. These cookies will make for a special gift for all friends and family members. They’re great to include in an Easter basket with other traditional Easter sweets or on their own. My family likes to eat these as part of Easter morning breakfast, dunking them into coffee or with espresso. However, you can enjoy them anytime!
You can also use this cookie dough recipe to use in any shaped cookie you’d like. For instance, I use this same cookie dough recipe to make small round cookies, s-shaped cookies, and other shapes. I encourage you to use this recipe to try other shaped cookies anytime of year.
We have a special guest this episode: my sister-in-law, Elaine Angelo. Elaine is a great Italian cook in her own right, having learned the same style of cooking as me over the years of being married into the family. In fact, Elaine pioneered some of her own recipes which I we’ll be sharing with you in the future (stay tuned for the next episode where Elaine shares one of these recipes: pizza gaina). Elaine makes the Italian Easter cookies, making a similar basket shape, which she shares with us in this episode.
This cookie recipe is authentic, tasty and fun, just like all the recipes on our show. It will take you about 1 hour to do everything, including making the dough, shaping the cookies, baking, letting the cookies cool and frosting the cookies. The ingredients you’ll need are: 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of vegetable oil, 6 large eggs (not hard boiled and for using for preparing the dough), 6 hard boiled white eggs (for cooking in the basket, not for mixing in the dough), 2 tablespoons of baking power, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, and 6 cups of flour. For frosting the cookies (optional, but recommended), you’ll need: 1 cup of confectionary sugar, and a 1/4-1/2 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon of lemon extract and sprinkle toppings. This recipe makes about 6 Easter basket cookies, depending upon how big you make the cookies. We share two variations of Easter basket cookies: the larger one that Elaine makes and demonstrates in the video and the smaller one that I make and demonstrate. The same cookie dough is used for both cookies.
Making the Cookie Dough
Start off by mixing the sugar and vegetable oil in a large bowl using a mixer. Once you achieve a nice consistency, add the baking powder and mix. Next, gradually add in the eggs, making sure they mix in consistently. Add the vanilla. Then finally, slowly add in the flour. Add the flour in a little at a time, allowing for the dough to thicken. You don’t want the dough to thicken too quickly which is why you should add it in slowly, making sure you achieve a good consistency (this may take less than the 6 cups of flour). Finish the mixing process by hand. You should have a big, consistent ball of dough at the end.
Making the Cookies
We’ve got two variations of Easter baskets you can make: large or small. These directions are for the smaller baskets that I make (for the larger ones Elaine makes, roughly double the amount of dough. See the video for more details). Break the dough into 4-5 smaller balls of dough. Each ball should make one Easter basket cookie. Take one ball, break it in half and roll it out with a rolling pin. Try to get it about a 1/4 inch thick or so– not too thick or too thin. This will serve as the base of the Easter basket cookie. Next, get a hard-boiled white egg and place it on the dough, about a little less than halfway down.
Take a small handful of dough, roll it out length wise into about a 1/2 inch thick string that is about 4-5 inches long. Take the string of dough and place it along the top of the base of the basket in an upside “U” shape. This will be the handle to the basket.
Finally, take the rest of the dough, roll it out flat (same thickness as before), and place it halfway over the hard boiled egg. This is the base of the basket. You can use small pieces of dough to make decorations on the basket, but I usually keep it plain. Once completed, carefully transfer the whole cookie basket onto a flat cookie sheet.
Bake the cookies in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. You may require less or more cooking time depending upon the thickness of the cookies and your oven. You’ll know the cookies are done when they have a slight golden color on top.
Frosting the Cookies
Once the cookies are cooled off, you can frost them. Place your confectionary sugar into a small bowl and add the milk and lemon extract. You’re looking to achieve a thick consistency (but not too thick), which you can brush onto the cookies. Get a brush, dip it into the frosting, and brush on a thin coat onto the cookies. Once fully coated, sprinkle the cookies with the sprinkles.
I hope you enjoy these cookies. I want to wish you and your family a Happy Easter holiday season. Buona Pasqua!