Grandma Alida’s Italian Sugar Cookies

gmacookies
The Marshmallow Nest (shown above) is from SophistiMom

She was alarmingly braless, had a furious mass of dyed red hair, slippered feet, happy raspy laugh from years of devotion to cigarettes, and long spindly fingers that would wrap themselves around your little face, squeezing gently. She was my Grandma Alida.

And if anyone provided my mother’s family with a holiday essential that we have coveted and protected, it was her. I have posted, unposted, submitted, and in a cold-sweat unsubmitted this recipe. I’ve heard family fables about the secretness of it’s combination. I’ve swelled with pride at a co-worker’s question, “Oh yum, what bakery did you buy these from?” and laughed inside while spying my self-proclaimed “sweet hater” fiancé quickly and quietly shoving his face in our darkened kitchen.

I’ve justified posting this recipe by virtue of the fact that it is so well-loved, so highly praised, and brings me back to my childhood like no other thing can. It would be a shame to not share this recipe, and provide my grandmother with a legacy beyond her family. I will admit, I am a little ill thinking about posting this, but I intend to stick to my resolve that it must be shared, because all good food should be.

I’ve substituted or discarded all of the ingredients at some point (despite the sacrilege), and I’ve even creamed the sugar with the egg (gasp!); but nothing gets the taste and texture I’m looking for quite as well as the original recipe, shown below. This is like many anisette cookies and sugar cookies in the sense it has both anise and sugar, but the end result is more subtle flavor than either produce.


Grandma Alida’s Italian Sugar Cookies

Preheat oven to 350°

Bowl 1

  • 1/2 cup milk (1%, 2%, and whole milk’s differences are difficult to distinguish)
  • 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix and let sit for at least 3-5 minutes.

Bowl 2

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix well.

Bowl 3

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Shortening (not butter-flavored)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Anise extract
Mix well.
Directions
  • Combine the mixed contents of Bowl 1 and 3 (the wet ingredients)
  • Combine remaining bowl with the mixed contents of Bowl 2 to form the dough.
  • Knead in extra flour until it reaches a “less sticky” and workable dough
Adding the extra flour isn’t an exact science, I’ve added as little as a 1/4 cup, to as much as 1 cup! I’ve lived at sea level and up at high-altitudes cooking these; I recommend kneading in about a 1/4 cup at a time until you feel it not excessively sticky and becomes “roll-able”, be careful not to make it too dry
(Basically, it should still be moist, but you should be able to tap it with your hand and have it not stick to you)
  • Roll the dough on a floured surface to appx 1/4″ (1/2 cm) to a max of 1/2″ (1 cm) thickness.
  • Cookie cut that dough! Yay!
  • Place on a non-greased cookie sheet, and bake in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes.

You’ll start to see the bottoms lightly brown when they are done, but the cookie itself should be white.

Let the little guys cool, and then I recommend using the simple white vanilla frosting you can get from the store! It keeps the cookies moist, and compliments their sweetness the best.

Decorate to your hearts content! 🙂

When my cousin Eric was very little, he had a difficult time pronouncing my grandmother’s name, “Alida” (he did get close with “ly-der”) and with the constant coils of smoke wafting up through her red hair from her cigarettes, it seemed logical enough for him to call her “Grandma Light’er, Hair on Fire” which is what he called her for a long time.

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