Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner…

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It’s National Cookie Day, and to celebrate this grand occasion (I think it’s worth a day off from work and school, whattya think?) I wanted to share a recipe much similar to the one my half-Italian grandmother made during Christmas. If you love the taste of anise (licorice) then you’ll certainly love these.

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Pictured above with my Aunt Sandy, my Grandma Irma always had her coffee table adorned with platters of various cookies and fudge she made during the holidays. Us kids would run to that table before having Christmas dinner and nosh on the sweet treats despite our parents’ scolding. But she didn’t mind. She loved it that we loved them so much. She, too, was a cookie monster, and devoured them with us when the parents weren’t looking. I’m pretty sure I got my sweet tooth and love of baking from her.

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Italian Anisette Cookies
Recipe adapted from Vittles and Bits
Yields about 2 1/2 dozen

FOR THE COOKIES
INGREDIENTS
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoon pure anise extract

FOR THE ICING
INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
4-5 T. milk (first try 4, then add a little at a time if necessary)
1/2 t. anise extract
1/2 cup nonpareils aka “Jimmy” sprinkles

METHOD
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In large-sized bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and eggs on medium-low speed until combined. Lower the speed and gradually add in the flour mixture, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Increase the speed to medium-low, and whip till a dough forms. It may be a little dry. That’s OK.

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Using a small ice cream or cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop the balls of dough and roll them into uniform-sized balls.

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Place the dough onto a prepared baking sheet, and bake for about 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven’s convection) till puffed and lightly golden.  Allow the cookies to cool for one minute before transferring to a wire rack.

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Once the cookies have completely cooled, sift your powdered sugar through a sifter till all clumps are gone. This way, the icing doesn’t come out chunky. Whisk in the milk and anise until smooth. Check for consistency, it should be somewhat runny.

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Now dip the tops of the cookies into icing, and then finish with Jimmy sprinkles.  Allow for the icing to set completely.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container.

Sprinkle Me

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Suga suga…

Cookies and ice cream are probably the best pairing next to cheese and wine. My favorite store-bought cookie as a child were the Mother’s Circus Animal Cookie Parade. I’d dig through the bag and just eat the frosted- and sprinkle-clad, buttery shortbread cookies, discarding the rest. For A Streetcar Named Devour’s 4th Birthday (GASP! It’s already been 4 years?!) I wanted to create a spin on an old-school favorite and make an ice cream that tasted like those pretty pink-and-white cookies.

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This recipe includes real frosted vanilla cake bites (leftover birthday cake cut into bite-sized pieces) with a great vanilla ice cream base recipe from David Lebovitz’ must-have book, The Perfect Scoop, and, of course, sprinkles. And lots of ‘em.
Happy Birthday, Streetcar!

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Birthday Cake Ice Cream
Yields: About 1 quart
Adapted slightly from The Perfect Scoop

INGREDIENTS
1 cup whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups leftover cake, cut into bite-size pieces and frozen thoroughly** (If you don’t have any leftover cake on hand, go to the bakery section of your local grocery store and you’re sure to find birthday cupcakes and small cakes available.)
1/4 cup Jimmy sprinkles

METHOD
Heat the milk, salt, and sugar into a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for about 1 hour.

To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, frozen cake bites, and sprinkles. Refrigerate overnight to chill thoroughly.

**Cook’s note: It’s important to freeze your cake pieces beforehand, so that the pieces don’t soften once incorporated into the ice cream base. I like to first freeze the cake slices (and securely wrap them in plastic wrap) for about 3 hours, then cut them into the bite-size pieces, then return them to the freezer (again wrapped in plastic) before adding to the ice cream. 

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