There was a time when Christmas baking began the day after Thanksgiving. It would take the 4 weeks between that holiday and Christmas for the stollen to mellow and for me to bake all my favorites (and there are many). Cookies were wrapped and frozen until just before Christmas when I would make up trays and platters to give away as gifts. Of course, it was always necessary to sample the wares and that is one of the reasons I no longer do that kind of baking.
Needing to make up about 15 small bags of cookies to give away to local seniors served by a volunteer group I work with, I turned to a simple recipe that goes together quickly and produces a stiff dough that rolls out easily and bakes up in 12 minutes. The recipe yielded 12 dozen cookies. These are butter cookies, not too sweet, and, for some reason, they've been labeled Italian Christmas cookies. My mother always made them in twists, but I opted to use small to medium-sized cookie cutters.
12 cups flour
12 large eggs
1 lb unsalted butter
4 cups sugar
3 Tbs baking powder
2 Tbs vanilla
2 Tbs almond extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
dash extract (almond or vanilla or anise or peppermint)
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, baking powder, extracts, and 3 cups of the flour. Add remaining flour until a stiff dough forms. At this point, you can divide the dough and color it, if you wish. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Work with 1/4 of the dough at a time. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out desired shapes.If dough gets warm, place it back in the refrigerator until it chills. You must keep your surface well-floured. Place cookies on silicone mats and bake 10-12 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Cool completely, then glaze and decorate with sprinkles, colored sugar, etc.
To make glaze: add dash of extract then small amount of milk; add just enough milk to make the glaze like a thick Alfredo sauce.
A simple, not-too-sweet butter cookie, these cookies are perfect for baking with children or for when you need a large quantity of cookies in a short amount of time. The dough puffs up nicely when they bake and they keep well in an airtight tin.