I wish this were an exaggeration. I'm like an addict thinking about her next fix. Each mission has been the same - retrieve one bag of anginetti, aka Italian lemon drop cookies. I am usually a so-sweet-I-get-a-cavity, all-things-chocolate-for-dessert, kind of a gal. So, on paper, these treats are just not my type. Lemon flavored, no chocolate in sight, a tad dry, not that sweet. What's more - I have never really been a fan of Italian cookies in general, mostly for the same reasons. But when it comes to anginetti, I go weak at the knees.
It is true, they might not be for everyone. I would describe them as similar in many ways to their biscotti brethren, but this is also what makes them perfectly suited to a cup of coffee or a pot of tea. They exemplify balance. What the cookie dough lacks in sweetness, is made up for by its blanket of lemon icing. The cookie itself is not moist, but then the icing melts in your mouth and saves it. This hardened iced coating also offers a slight crunch, crackling apart when you bite into it, making way for the soft, pillowy cookie. It's all very Yin and Yang - so maybe it's no surprise that I felt a need for them after yoga.
We can thank the Southern regions of Italy for these lemon delights. Some say they are classically Neapolitan, others that they are Calabrian. Variations include replacing lemon with anise, which results in a slightly licorice-flavored version. I have even come across recipes that integrate a small amount of vanilla extract. Also associated with Christmas, it is no surprise that anginetti have started to line bakery shelves with Easter around the corner. They are a festive cookie. Delicate, light and lemony, these offerings are the perfect celebration of spring.
In Carroll Gardens I find myself enveloped with an Italian food tradition that transports me back to childhood days in Bay Ridge. Italian bakeries and restaurants and butchers and pizzerias pepper the streets. Court Pastry Shop and anginetti trigger warm and fuzzy memories that taste of lemons. It is possible that nostalgia is what keeps me going back for just one more, but it could also be the icing.
This recipe should make around 24 cookies.
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Juice and zest of half a lemon (4 tsp)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
Juice and zest of one lemon (1/4 cup juice)
3-4 cups confectioners sugar
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy. You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
Incorporate the eggs and lemon juice and zest and beat well.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. The result should be a pale yellow, fairly sticky dough.
Because the dough is so sticky, I use 2 spoons to drop the cookie dough onto a nonstick cookie sheet - you can also line it with parchment paper or use a silpat liner. This dough will spread a bit, so be sure to leave a couple of inches between cookies.
Bake for around 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are beginning to lightly brown.
Remove from oven and relocate cookies onto a wire rack to cool.
Combine the confectioners sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl - mixing until the sugar is completely dissolved. The icing should be thick enough that it forms ribbons. Add 1/2 of your lemon zest, reserving the rest for decoration.
When the cookies are cool, hold the very bottom of the cookie and dunk them into the icing, coating most of the cookie. Place each cookie back on the wire rack, allowing any excess icing to drip off. While the icing is still soft, dust the tops of the cookies with the reserved lemon zest.
Let the cookies sit before digging in. This will allow the icing to set and harden, which is what you're going for - it's worth the wait.