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Foodporn Mon Aug 25 2008
As a kid, I was dragged to Italian folk dancing classes, which were held in a decrepit building in a seedy part of town. Most of the dancing involved moving around in a big circle, and I'm pretty sure it was to the tune of Neil Diamond's "Coming to America." The endpoint of the dancing classes was to perform in a late-summer local festival. I had to wear a peasant outfit. Neil Diamond provided the background music, again. I hated it. But I loved the festival's food, notably the genetti.
Genetti cookies are a somewhat soft, nondescript vanilla cookie covered in a colorful, anise (licorice)-flavored glaze. They tend to show up at Italian holiday celebrations, notably Easter and Christmas. Maybe the last thing you'd think of as a decent cookie flavor would be the sharp sting of anise, but trust me--like rum or amaretto, anise softens in taste when combined with heat and a high sugar content. Anise shows up in a lot of Italian sweets in much stronger concentrations--biscotti and cakes, notably--but here is a good genetti recipe to ease you into baking with the licorice-flavored stuff.
Genetti (Anise-frosted Italian cookies)
(Note, this recipe makes a huge batch of cookies; can be scaled down)
2 c shortening
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 c sugar
1 c milk
5 heaping tsp of baking powder
3 lbs flour (more may be needed)
3-4 tbsp cocoa powder*
1.5 tsp allspice*
*Needed if you want to make a chocolate, spiced version of the cookies (also amazing). Add these two ingredients to the 1.5 c of sugar and mix well. I prefer making a straight vanilla glaze for this version, so substitute anise with vanilla flavoring in the glaze recipe below.
Cream shortening and white sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the liquid until dough has putty-like texture. Knead and roll into ropes for slicing into 1.5" long pieces, or shape into designs. Bake for 10-15" at 350 deg on a greased sheet.
2 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp anise extract
Food coloring (optional)
In a saucepan, cook all ingredients at low heat and stir frequently. This will thicken if not stirred, but can be reheated to restore texture. While cookies are mostly cooled, dip cookie with spoon or fingers into warm glaze mixture and let cool on waxed paper or cleanable surface. Let cool.
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If you're more interested in eating (but not baking) these cookies, you can order them from Kenosha's Paielli's Bakery or through Tenuta's Italian Grocery (read more about Tenuta's here). Locally, I haven't found a place yet that makes genetti, but Pasticceria Natalina and Ferrara's Bakery make similar cookies.