Introduction: My Nonna's Italian Cookies
Tradition is the best part of any holiday. It's those times of the year we enjoy delicious meals in good company. After a great meal, there's nothing like a small taste of heavenly sweetness to make everyone smile. These cookies have been a tradition of my family for many years. My Nonna, grandma, would teach all the kids to make them by hand. Everyone had a job. A few of us held the huge bowl, some mixed with the oversize wooden stick, and if you were lucky, you could lick the spoon!
They have a taste of their own. Of course with Nona's secret recipe, anything would! (Hint: It's love).
Follow the recipe, and take your time; good things come to those who bake! Enjoy.
- 6 Large Eggs (separate whites and yolks)
- 1 lb. of sugar
6 oz. for Egg White Mixture (about 3/4 cup)
10 oz. for Butter Mixture
- Almond Extract (Preference: McCormick Brand)
- 6 sticks of butter (1 1/4 lb.)
- 1 tsp. of Salt
- 1lb. 2 oz. of flour
- Food Coloring or Food Dye ( Preference: Chefmaster Brand)
- Raspberry Preserves (Preference: Polaner Brand)
- Powdered sugar for covering
- Shortening to grease baking pans
- Standing Mixer
- Mixing bowls
- 3 - 9 inch x 13 inch pans
Step 1: Egg Whites First
The secret to having nice fluffy cookies is beating the egg whites first. This will give your cookies height and an airy texture. Separate all six eggs into two separate bowls. With a mixer, beat the egg whites at medium high speed (3-6 on a standing mixer) until soft peaks start to form. Once you see soft peaks, slowly add the 3/4 cup (6 oz.) of sugar. Stop your mixer when stiff peaks are formed. This step should only take about 10 minutes. Set this mixture aside.
Tips: Any little bit of egg yolk will sabotage your egg white mixture, and not let it grow. Make sure to use only the egg whites.
Step 2: Butter Beating
Using a standing mixer will be extremely helpful in this next step. My family used to do the mixing with the wooden spoon, and it would take a couple of hours. The mixer will save you time, and possibly a few splinters.
Add the butter and the remaining sugar into another mixing bowl. Beat in a standing mixer until pale and fluffy. Once you see that the butter has turned pale, reduce the speed to a slow mixing speed (1 or 2 on a standing mixer) and slowly add the egg yolks and almond extract.
Tips: Make sure your butter is at room temperature. This will make beating easier.
5-7 teaspoons of almond extract will work just fine, but no more than 8 teaspoons.
Step 3: Flour and Egg Whites
Keeping your mixer at a slow speed, add the flour and salt until a dough forms. After this step, you can set your mixer to the side. With a spatula, gently fold your previously made egg white mixture into the dough until it becomes light. Make sure to do this in stages and not all at once.
Step 4: Adding Pizzazz to Those Cookies!
Now that you have folded the egg white mixture into the butter dough, it’s time to give these cookies holiday pizzazz. Separate the dough into 3 bowls. Make sure they weigh the same so you get nice equal layers. Add green food dye to one bowl and red dye to another. Leave the last one alone.
Tip: A couple of drops of food coloring should do the trick. You decide how light or dark you would like your cookies to be.
Step 5: Spreading and Baking
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 13x9 inch pans. With a spatula, slowly spread each color dough onto the bottom of each pan. Make sure the dough is even all throughout. It will not even out while it's baking, if not already leveled. Once completed, insert your first two pans to the oven. Bake the first two pans for 10-14 minutes, take them out and then bake the last one at the same time and temperature. Let each cookie semi-cool before removing from pan.
Tip: Another way of knowing if the dough is done baking is to look at the sides and middle of the pan. The sides should be separated from the pan. The middle of your pan should not look wet. There should be an even color all throughout
Step 6: Putting It All Together
Each pan needs to be flipped over before completely cool. Do this by adding a parchment paper over each pan and covering each one with a baking sheet. Grasp both pans tightly and give it a quick flip. Bang the top of each pan to assure that each layer comes out nicely. Greasing each tray ensures an easy release.
Once each layer of cookie has been flipped out of its pan, let it cool while you move on to the raspberry preserve. Try to strain the raspberry preserve to get rid of the seeds. These cookies taste best without seeds.
To assemble the cookie, spread the bottom layer with a thin layer of raspberry preserve, gently pick up the second layer with the parchment paper and flip it over the first. Do the same for the last layer. When all the layers are stacked, press the entire cookie sheet with a tray, so the layers stick. Cut 1/4 inch off of each side.
Tip: Don't be too hard on yourself if you can't flip each layer perfectly. Practice makes better. Try cutting each cookie layer in half. This makes flipping easier.
Step 7: A Delicious Ending
Your cookie can be cut up however you like. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or melted chocolate and enjoy!
These cookies can be stored in a refrigerator for 3-6 days. Whole sheet can produce 54 -1 inch x 1 inch cubes.
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