It’s December. Which means it’s cookie baking season. I don’t usually crave sweets much, so when I do eat Christmas cookies, I go for more traditional ones, such as Italian Christmas cookies. Growing up, our neighbors were Italian (like, actually from Italy), and each Christmas they would ring the doorbell, leave a huge basket of fresh bread, calzones, homemade peanut butter cups, chocolates, and Christmas cookies with flavors such as anise, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, almond extract, some stuffed with a walnut and fig filling, most covered with a vanilla flavored icing and sprinkled with nonpareils.
Every year, my brother and I would wait patiently for the basket of goodies, obviously. And shortly after, my mom would fry up a fresh batch of spring rolls filled with pork, cabbage and carrots, and have me bring it to their doorstep. The trade was equal. They got to enjoy our types of food and we got to enjoy theirs.
Naturally growing up with this experience, I have extremely high standards for Italian baked goods and chocolates now, and there’s no where to go but down. I’ll never get that exact cookie ever again. I’ll never get freshly made bread, warm out of the oven. Unless I try to make all of it myself. I spent a good part of last December trying to find the best recipes that resemble what I remember as a kid.
So here is the first recipe, for Italian Chocolate Christmas Cookies. They are made with chocolate cake mix. I’ve tried making them without the cake mix before, and they came out dry, but these tasted really close to the original I remembered. So I stuck with it. I’ve made batch after batch, filled tin after tin, passed them out to everyone I knew. And this one always goes immediately.
The cookies stay moist for days, and I’ve kept them in Tupperware on the counter for a week with no change in texture. So if you are shipping them in a tin cross-country, rest assured they won’t go stale.
I’ve taste tested everyday to ensure it. It was hard work but I had to do it.
Italian Chocolate Christmas Cookies
- 3 cups flour
- box of chocolate cake mix
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. cloves
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 cup raisins (optional)
- 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
- nonpareils (optional)
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients for cookies in a large bowl. Roll into balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
- Step 2 Set cookies on cookie rack and let cool completely. In a medium bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar with vanilla. Pour a tablespoon of water into the bowl at a time and stir, repeating the process until you have a thick consistency for the glaze. Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze and place on the cookie rack to wait for glaze to harden. Sprinkle nonpareils before the glaze hardens.
- Step 3 Store in Tupperware or cookie tins.
Instructions with Photos:
Here is the cake mix I used. You can use any type of chocolate cake mix you wish.
The clove powder and cinnamon really stand out in this recipe, and if you had to give up the other spices (allspice and nutmeg), they would still taste great with just these two spices, so be sure you have them on hand.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients for cookies in a large bowl.
Fold chocolate chips, raisins and walnuts into your cookie dough if you are using them. You can simply add in walnuts only, but my kids love chocolate chips in it, and even though I love raisins, nobody else in the family does. So walnuts and chocolate chips are our compromise.
This is what the cookie dough should look like when it’s done.
Roll into balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
The cookies don’t flatten out much after baking, so no need to place them so far apart on the cookie sheet. They are supposed to resemble little meatballs, and are called such. If you want them to have a flatter shape like a regular cookie, just flatten them slightly before putting into the oven.
Set cookies on cookie rack and let cool completely. In a medium bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar with vanilla. Pour a tablespoon of water into the bowl at a time and stir, repeating the process until you have a thick consistency for the glaze.
It should be thick enough to coat a spoon.
Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze and place on the cookie rack to wait for glaze to harden. Sprinkle nonpareils before the glaze hardens (optional).
Store in Tupperware or cookie tins.