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Italian Bakery Butter Cookies
Italian Bakery Butter Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg, room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Fruit preserves, for sandwich cookies
Chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate, melted
Colored sprinkles
Finely chopped nuts
Maraschino cherries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat at medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in the egg.  Slowly add the flour to the mixture and beat until a dough forms.

Fit a pastry bag with an extra-large French or open star pastry tip.  Fill the bag with half of the dough.  For chocolate dipped or sandwich cookies, pipe the dough into long segments, about 3/4-inch wide by 2-inches long.  For rosettes, pipe the dough into rounds about 2-inches in diameter.  Space the cookies about 1-1/2 inches apart as they do flatten and spread slightly.  Bake the cookies for 11 to 13 minutes, or until they are light golden brown on the edges.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough.

Cookie Variations:

For chocolate dipped cookies: Melt the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring after each time. When the chocolate is about 75% melted, remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate until it is completely smooth. One at a time, dip the cookies about 1/3 of the way into the melted chocolate. Add the colored sprinkles or chopped nuts now, if desired.  Place the cookies on baking sheets to set.  You can also place them in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to help the chocolate set.

For sandwich cookies: Once the cookies have cooled, flip half of them over as they will be the bottom half of the cookie sandwiches.  Pipe or spoon 1/4 teaspoon of preserves onto each half and sandwich them with the top halves. Proceed with dipping the cookies in the melted chocolate as detailed in the chocolate dipped cookie variation above.

For rosettes with sprinkles or Maraschino cherries:  Add the sprinkles to the cookies before baking them.  If you are adding the cherries, dry them well with paper towels and cut them in half before placing them in the center of each cookie and then bake them.
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Get ready to wow your family and friends with these butter cookies that taste just like you bought them at an authentic Italian bakery.  From this one recipe you can get a number of variations.  You can fill the cookies wiith jam, chocolate or buttercream; dip them in nuts or sprinkles; shape them into rosettes and top them with cherries.  Whatever way you choose to shape them, the flavor is buttery and unforgetable. 

This dough should be piped right after it's mixed.  Don't let it rest for too long or refrigerate it, as it will become stiff and more difficult to pipe with a pastry bag.  If it does become too stiff to pipe, add a few drops of milk to loosen the dough.

How many cookies this recipe will yield depends on how you shape them and if you sandwich 2 of them together with the preserves to makes sandwich cookies.  I make a variety of shapes and get about 36 to 40 cookies.
If you do a lot of baking, this is the perfect way to save time by always having room temperature butter ready to start you recipe.
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