A bite of these Italian anise cookies will bring back any Italian-American’s memories of childhood Christmases with family. Even if you are not Italian, these cookies are a delicious addition to your holiday cookie tray.
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Add flour and baking powder to a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; add anise extract, optional anise seeds, and mix until well blended.
Add the flour mixture a little at a time, and mix until well blended. The dough will be soft and sticky.
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake 5-7 minutes until bottoms are golden and the cookie springs back when pressed with your finger. Remove the cookies from the baking sheets to cooling racks to cool.
To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and anise extract in a medium bowl until smooth.
Place the cooling rack of cookies on the cookie sheet to catch the extra sprinkles. Dip the tops of cookies into the glaze, return to cooling rack, and sprinkle tops with candy sprinkles right away while the glaze is still wet. Let the cookies set until the glaze hardens.
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to a month (see note below). Yield: 32 cookies.
To freeze the Italian anise cookies, place the cooling racks in the freezer until the cookies are frozen, then add the frozen cookies to a zipper freezer bag or freezer container. To thaw, remove the frozen cookies from the bag and let thaw at room temperature. If using a zipper bag, be sure to remove the cookies from the bag while they are still frozen because the icing will get sticky and messy if left in the bag.