A Window Into An Italian Christmas Eve And A Recipe For Italian Christmas Cookies
Last Christmas Eve, I touched down in Rome just around midnight. Now, there are many magical traditions in Italy around Christmas eve, one of them being that Italian families will often stay up until midnight to “toast in” Christmas Day.
I love this tradition as it is about celebrating Christmas to the absolute maximum. Because of the midnight tradition, I plan my Italian route quite carefully, ensuring I don’t arrive too early while everyone is still up and about!
So, as I was saying about last Christmas eve in Rome, I noticed a familiar sensation: the rumbling of my belly as I popped into the first home.
Now, we know about how incredible Italian food is, and it was all laid out there in that first home. Traditionally, Italians feast on meat-free dishes the night before Christmas, and I just happened to stumble upon a table of plentiful leftovers. Appetizers like fried mussels and crostini topped with fish mousse. Main courses like seafood risotto and squid-ink pasta. Grilled swordfish laid out beside bowls of sauteed vegetables and roasted potatoes.
And then I saw them. They were set out with a tall glass of milk just for me. How touched I was that with all that cooking, the family had baked a fresh batch of delicious Italian Christmas Cookies for me.
I love eating these cookies because they lie somewhere between a cookie and a piece of cake. The heady almond flavor tells you straight away where you are. In Italy, of course!
Here is a simple and fun recipe for Italian Christmas cookies, to make. If you’re looking for Christmas cookies to decorate, this is for you. This is also a great option for a Christmas cookie without butter, so enjoy!
Substitutions And Variations For Italian Christmas Cookies
- All-purpose flour: you can switch out regular all-purpose flour for all-purpose gluten-free flour at a ratio of 1:1.
- Granulated sugar: if you don’t have granulated sugar, you can use castor sugar or light brown sugar for this recipe.
- Almond extract: if you don’t have access to almond extract or don’t love the taste, substitute it for vanilla extract.
- Sunflower oil: Canola oil can also be used in this recipe.
- Milk: you can use a plant-based alternative such as oat milk or rice milk for these cookies.
Here is a list of popular flavor variations:
- Vanilla and lemon
- Vanilla and almond
Storage And Shelf-life For Italian Christmas Cookies
These lovely fresh cookies can be stored in an airtight container. Because they are full of oil-based, they will keep a little longer than a butter-based recipe – so around 10-12 days in a sealed container. If your environment is warm, store them in the refrigerator.
These cookies can also be stored in the freezer in a plastic freezer-safe bag or container—layer parchment paper between the Italian Christmas cookies to protect them from sticking to each other.
Top Tips For Making The Best Italian Christmas Cookies
Here are a couple of tips and tricks for getting pro-Italian Christmas Cookies:
- There are a couple of different ways to make these cookies. Some people tie them in a knot shape. The simplest way, as a beginner, is to roll them into balls and use the underside of a drinking glass to press them down and flatten them. Dip the bottom of the glass in a bit of icing sugar to stop it from sticking.
- Please wait for the cookies to dry completely before dipping them into the glaze. This is an important tip. If you dip them while warm, the glaze will slide off the edges.
- Sprinkle the decorations onto the glaze while the icing is still soft. Doing this before it has set will ensure the little decorations stay put!
The History Of Italian Christmas Cookies
Referred to in Italian as Angeletti, these cookies are possibly one of the most well-loved Christmas cookies around the world. Angeletti means “little angels” in Italian. Such an appropriate and lovely name for a Christmas cookie.
You can find this cookie at most special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, Christenings, etc. It’s an all-important occasion cookie, but it’s a hot feature at Christmas time in Italy.
The recipe’s origin is a little bit of a mystery, although sources point to it originating in Southern Italy. All that is known is that Angeletti can be found in many Italian households around Christmas time. Families have variations of the recipe and pass theirs down from generation to generation.
Wrapping It Up
I hope you make your own batch of Italian Christmas cookies. They are fit for any special occasion, but most of all, they are fit for Christmas.
Enjoy choosing which color sprinkles to top them with, dear friends, and most of all, make sure you share them with someone you love.
Italian Christmas Cookies
- 4 cups 480g all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ¾ cup sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp almond extract
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- ½ cup milk
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar sifted
- 1 tbsp almond extract
- 1½ tbsp hot water
- Decorative sprinkles
For the Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until well combined.4 cups 480g all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 cup granulated sugar
- Create a well in the center and add sunflower oil, almond extract, eggs, and milk.2 large eggs, ¾ cup sunflower oil, 1 tbsp almond extract, ½ cup milk
- Using a cookie dough scoop, scoop up dough balls and place them onto a greased baking sheet.
- Ensure you have at least an inch/2.5cm between each ball.
- Press down lightly on the tops of each ball and bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden.
- Once the Italian Christmas cookies have cooled, place them onto a wire rack with a baking sheet beneath them.
For the Glaze
- To make the glaze, add the icing sugar, almond extract, and hot water. Mix until glossy.3 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1 tbsp almond extract, 1½ tbsp hot water
- Dip each cookie into the glaze and all of them to set. Coat a second time and top with the decorative sprinkles. Allow to set until hard.