Italian Butter Cookies are tender and extra rich thanks to three egg yolks. Customize the cookies with rainbow sprinkles, chocolate buttercream frosting or leave plain to maximize the butter flavor. I’ll be posting the recipe for the easiest chocolate buttercream frosting later this week.
The one thing I miss from my home state of Missouri is good Italian food, especially a good Italian bakery.
For years, my mother sent me a box of Italian cookies from Missouri Baking Co. every Christmas.
But, my parents have moved to Maine permanently.
It’s nice having my family here but it also means no more Missouri Baking Co. cookies. 🙁
I’ve tried ordering from the bakery but they say the cookies are too fragile for mail order.
So, I’ve had to collect as many Italian cookie recipes as possible!
Best Italian Butter Cookie Recipe
Italian Butter Cookie Recipe with Frosting
This recipe is from The Italian Bakery Cook Book by Lee Cirillo. The book has been out of print for nearly 40 years but I was able to buy a photocopy from a woman in New York. If you’d like to purchase your own photocopy, send me a note: [email protected]
How to Pipe Italian Butter Cookies
You’ll need a star tip size 11/16 and a pastry bag or a big resealable plastic bag to pipe these butter cookies.
Working with a pastry bag
If you haven’t yet worked with a pastry bag to pipe cookie dough, try it, Pastry bags are easy to use and they give your cookies a polished appearance.
- Open a pastry bag,
- Stick tip inside the bag all the way down so it peeks out of the bag’s narrow opening.
- Fill the bag about halfway with dough.
- Grab a bench scraper and slide it down the pastry bag, pushing the dough towards the bottom of the bag so you don’t have any dough threatening to spill out.
- Fold the very top of the pastry bag over once or twice.
- Using both hands, one at the top of the bag and one near the tip, squeeze the dough so it extrudes from the tip into strips or circles onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Pastry bags are really simple to use, especially if your dough is the correct temperature, which in the case of these cookies, is room temperature.
You want the dough super pliable and supple to squeeze through that star tip.
Equipment for Piping Italian Butter Cookies
That’s a good deal because I pay $2.19 a tip at the kitchen store.
But if you don’t have tips or pastry bags and don’t want to invest in them, it’s okay.
You can also use a teaspoon or a cookie scoop to portion the dough into one-inch round balls, which you’ll flatten a bit with the palm of your hands.
You can still put a dot of frosting on top, perhaps using a teaspoon after baking the cookies and letting the cool.
Or you can roll the dough in colored sprinkles before you bake them.
You’ll use the yolks from three eggs.
Also, the oven temperature, listed at 400 F, might seem hot but that’s the correct temperature.
I followed this recipe exactly as Lee Cirillo wrote it and it was delicious.
However, Cirillo’s published her book in 1982 when we were not as wanton with salt in sweet recipes as we are today.
I’ve since begun adding a half teaspoon of kosher salt in with the dry ingredients.
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
- 2 tbsp flour
- In a mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar for five minutes, pausing at least twice to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
- Add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix until combined
- Add flour (both the cups and tablespoons) and mix on low speed until just combined.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Fit a pastry bag with a star tube and fill halfway up with dough.
- Pipe dough into rosettes (a swirly circle) onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You should be able to fit at least 24 cookies on a half sheet pan. These cookies do not spread.
- Bake at 400 F for 9 to 11 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies are just golden.
- Let cool completely on baking rack before frosting.
I recommend piping this Italian butter cookie dough with a pastry bag and a star tip but if you don't have those things, use a cookie scoop or a teaspoon to portion the dough into one-inch balls.
Flatten the balls of dough slightly with the palm of your (clean!) hands.
You can vary the cookies by using a different type of extract such as lemon or orange or fiori di sicilia, which means flower of Sicily.
Fiori di Sicilia smells like the best combination of floral and citrus and makes cookies taste magical. You can find it King Arthur Flour or on Amazon. I've linked to it below.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 36 Serving Size: 36 cookies
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 90 Total Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 34mg Sodium: 95mg Carbohydrates: 8g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 3g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 1g
What’s your experience with Italian cookies?
Did your nonna make cookies?