I will begin by saying one thing; nobody beats the Italians when it comes to Christmas cookies. These in conjunction with the lemon ricotta drops, which I'll elaborate on later, impressed me in a way that cookies normally don't :) Not only is it a creative and aesthetically pleasing recipe, but they have a unique flavor without being overly sweet.
I will also confess that I'm not a fan of anise or anything licorice-ey. The recipe said that the anise extract could be substituted with vanilla, lemon or whatever else you desire. I have a good bit of rosewater waiting in my cabinet and decided to put it to use here. It added an extra "something" to these cookies, but I should have used more to make the flavor really come out. This recipe makes quite a few cookies, so I'll include my modifications. Just remember that if you're not using rosewater, only use 2 tsp of your chosen extract.
A last note: I know that I'm super against shortening and hydrogenated oils and considered omitting this recipe for that reason. However, because the recipe makes so many cookies and the amount of shortening is so small I went ahead and made it with no substitutions. It seems important to the texture of the cookie, but if you have any ideas for a better substitution I'd love to hear them!
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp rosewater
2c confectioners sugar
sprinkles or sugar
Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the butter and shortening together and add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the rosewater then gradually add the dry ingredients. The dough should be soft but firm enough to roll into balls with your hands, if it's too sticky add a bit of flour. Roll them into small balls, about an inch in diameter -- they puff up a lot when they bake! Bake for about 8-10 minutes and allow to cool completely.
Combine the confectioners sugar and milk and dip the tops of the cookies into it. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles when it's wet and allow to harden, about an hour. Repeat with each cookie. These ship and present beautifully when dry!