Before the St. Peter’s Italian Bazaar in Portland each year comes the marathon annual cookie bake, in which some 60 volunteers, “from young people all the way up to parishioners in their nineties,” according to a press release, gather to bake cookies to sell at the festival. This year, the festival’s 93rd, the baking started yesterday and ends today. Reached before the group bake began, cookie bake coordinator Ellie Fields-Cooper expected to go through 75 dozen eggs to make some 7,300 cookies.

She kindly agreed to share one of the cookie recipes with our readers. But our request turned out to be a little harder to fill than we’d expected.

“I didn’t have much of a recipe,” Fields-Cooper confessed in a telephone interview. “All I had was the ingredients. Like my grandmother’s recipes – a glass of this, a glass of that. You know how those recipes work. But luckily enough, I’ve mixed this recipe lots of times in the last few years, so I was able to put together a recipe.”

She attributed this “Italian Round Cookie” recipe (she didn’t know its name in Italian) to the church, not to any one particular baker. “This is our 93rd Italian street festival,” Fields-Cooper said. “It is the recipe they have used to make the cookies ever since they started making cookies for the festival.”

Fields-Cooper, who grew up across the street from St. Peter’s, said her grandmother – who emigrated to America with her family in 1904 – always had cookies just like these. “Oh my God. Anytime you went in her house, there were Italian cookies made.”

The recipe calls for an ingredient that may be unfamiliar to you – anise oil. Anise oil is made from the fennel plant and is often used in Italian baking. Fields-Cooper warned that anise extract will dry out these cookies, so to be sure to use the oil flavoring in the cookie dough; you can find it at Micucci Grocery in Portland.

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PGrodinsky

ITALIAN ROUND COOKIE

Recipe courtesy of St. Peter’s Church Italian Bazaar Cookie Bake. Cookie bake coordinator Ellie Fields-Cooper says it makes a soft, moist cookie. The church always uses Casa Mia oil, but any olive oil should do. Olive oil expert and Camden resident Nancy Harmon Jenkins suggests California Olive Ranch, as widely available, reliable and not too extravagant.

Yields about 5 dozen cookies

6 large eggs

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

11/2 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon anise oil

4-5 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

Cookie glaze, to decorate

Sprinkles, to decorate

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the eggs, oil, sugar and anise oil in the bowl of a mixer and mix until combined, about 2 minutes on low speed.

Whisk together the flour and baking power. Gradually beat 4 cups of the flour mixture into the egg mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Add the remaining 1 cup flour mixture if necessary to get a dough that is soft but not sticky.

Using the palms of both your hands, roll into smooth balls, about 11/4-inch in size. Place on the prepared cookie sheets about 1/2 inch apart. These cookies do not spread.

Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until the cookie bottoms are lightly brown; the tops should stay light. Cool completely.

Glaze the cookies with your favorite icing recipe, flavored with either anise or almond extract. To judge the right consistency, dip a spatula in the glaze. Let the glaze drip off. It should leave a mound on top of the bowl of glaze for a few seconds and then dissolve into the flat surface.

Decorate the cookies with sprinkles before the icing dries.

Breaking News on the Italian Round Cookie Front:

About eight hours after we wrote and published this recipe, we were copied on an email that Fields-Cooper sent to thank the volunteer cookie bakers. We couldn’t resist sharing (a very slightly edited) version with you:

“Greetings all!!! The cookie bake is done! We used 128 dozen eggs, which gave us 8,046 cookies, yielding 1,341 packages of cookies. We endured the hottest days ever, ran out of baking powder and confectionery sugar and anise oil in the middle of the bake. Thanks to Micucci Wholesale and volunteers who were willing to go to Micuccis to pick up product, we were able to continue on. On Monday, 3 ladies manned the kitchen to chop eight gallons of cherries and 25 lbs walnuts for our filled cookies!  I am amazed and fueled by the help/dedication of all of our volunteers. Grazie to all of you for shining a light on our festival!!”

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