In my home Easter cannot go by without baking these adorable egg cookies. My mother baked these cookies every year sharing with family and serving for Easter breakfast. These cookies were as excitedly anticipated as finding my Easter basket filled with chocolates!
My mother always prepared a full breakfast on Sundays either eggs, pancakes, waffles, French toast, bacon and or sausage. But on Easter morning, cookies were our breakfast! Slightly sweetened, anise cookie with a light lemon flavored frosting. The hard boiled egg was eaten with a bit of salt making this a combination I simply long for every year.
Just like the Christmas season of endless cookie baking, the week prior to Easter was just as busy baking these cookies. My mother formed the dough into the basket shapes and when cooled, my mother would brush on the confectioner’s glaze and my job was to quickly add on the sprinkles before it set. Remaining dough was shaped into “S” shaped cookies, baked and frosted as well.
My mother’s recipe created a huge amount of dough as she prepared dozens of these cookies for family. I have had to adjust down the amounts as it is only my kids and I these days plus a small package sent overnight to my sister!
I have found recipes for Easter breads with the hard boiled eggs, but have not been able to find these specific Easter cookies. It seems that no one I have asked through the years has heard of these other than my immediately relatives. I would love to hear from anyone who has had these cookies in their family. Italians are known for having sweets or biscotti for breakfast with their morning cup of coffee as breakfast was normally a light meal to start off their day.
Italian Easter Cookies
For the dough:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon anise extract
8 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 colored hard boiled eggs
For the Icing:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup milk, slightly warm
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Food coloring, optional – I used red for a light pink color
In a stand up mixer, combine wet ingredients – eggs, sugar, butter, lemon juice and anise extract, beating well until light and frothy. Add in dry ingredients and beat on low to combine; mixture will be thick and somewhat sticky. Cover mixing bowl and allow to rest ½ hour refrigerated.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with Slipat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface begin to shape the baskets. Taking about ¼ cup of dough, gently roll the dough into a long thin pencil, about 20 inches. Cut in half and twist to form the basket handle. Place the handle onto the baking sheet in a horse shoe shape. Take about ¼ cup dough and form it into the “basket” shape, like a thick oval or egg shape. Place that on top of the ends of the basket handles pressing lightly to mold together. Take one egg and place it on the basket. Push in lightly, but not so much as to push through the dough. Continue making the baskets; about 4 baskets fit on each baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and allow to cool completely. Makes approximately 12 baskets.
For the icing:
Mix together the confectioner’ sugar, milk and lemon juice until smooth and no lumps. Add in food coloring if using, pastel colors look best. I use a pastry brush to gently brush on the icing holding the cookie basket in my hands. Place the cookie basket on a cooling rack over a baking sheet and sprinkle on the colored sprinkles. Allow to rest and harden. Store cookies in a covered container in the refrigerator for a week or so. I like to make these the weekend prior to Easter to share with friends and family during the week.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.