Today is the Epiphany, the day the wise men visited Jesus. And last night, in Italian folklore, is the day La Befana, an old lady, visits kids and gives them presents, or a lump of coal, depending on their behavior.
My family wasn’t really big into La Befana (St. Anthony is a much bigger figure for us), but I liked the idea of having a cookie to commemorate the epiphany and mark the end of the Christmas season.
These cookies have a hint of anisette flavor and are topped with sprinkles. They’re star shaped to represent the star the wise men followed to find Jesus. I love them because they taste just like the anisette cookies my grandma used to make for me, so in her honor, I skipped the original glaze and coated them with the icing my grandma used to use on hers.
La Befana’s Stars, from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma
3 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ c granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks, divided
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp anisette (or 1 tsp anise extract)
Zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp water
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about two minutes. Beat in the egg and two yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, anisette, and orange zest.
Remove the dough from a bowl and flatten it into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about one hour. (Dough can be frozen at this point for two months).
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment.
Divide dough into three pieces. Keep one out and refrigerate the rest.
On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Using a star cookie cutter, cut the dough into stars and place an inch apart on baking sheet. Re-roll scraps, and repeat process with remaining pieces of dough.
Bake cookies 12-14 minutes, rotating the sheets in the oven about halfway through. Allow cookies to cool completely before glazing.
Mix water and powdered sugar together. You may need to add more, depending on how thick you like the icing. More water will give it a runnier consistency, less will keep it thick and add a lot of extra sweetness to the cookies.
Using a pastry brush, apply the glaze to the cookies. Top with sprinkles. Let dry.
Cookies will stay fresh for 4 days, kept in an airtight tin.