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Baking Cookies Family Traditions Italian cookies

Mom’s Favorite Christmas Cookie

December 21, 2020

I’ve been busy celebrating Thanksgiving and an early Christmas with two of my three kids, so there’s been cooking, baking, eating and very little blogging. My daughter is back in Seattle, so it’s me and Anderson until Christmas.

I’m back in the spirit of the holidays, especially after being put to shame by all my non-blogger friends baking up a storm, like my ex-husband’s first ex-wife, Theresa. (You need a Venn diagram to figure out all the wives.) I was also inspired by my nephew Patrick, who made my mom’s favorite cookies over the weekend. A cookie I’ve never baked. Here’s why:

Growing up, all I ever wanted was to be a normal American. The kind who ate sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies at Christmas. I admit I was a bad Italian.

But my mom grew up in Italy, so dream as I might, I knew sugar cookies would never happen. We got Italian cookies sprinkled with sugar. We got cookies with anise, lemon or orange rind, sometimes all three, but if I wanted vanilla sugar cookies I had to sneak to the bakery.

My Aunt Blanche made one called an Italian wedding cookie (or Maryann cookie because she made them the best) that was like an iced sugar cookie and I loved it, but would my mother make them? Nope.

Mom’s beloved Banana Cookie

Mom’s favorite Christmas cookie was a Banana Cookie. There’s not a speck of banana in them, but they look sort of like bananas, hence the name. Actually Mom called them Annie Vinceguerra cookies because her friend, Annie baked them the best. See the kind of fame one good cookie can get you in Italian baking circles?

My mom’s been gone for 28 years and it’s taken me this long to finally bake her favorites. I cheated and took a shortcut my brother recommended, using pie crust dough instead of mom’s homemade dough. Mom’s was moist and cake-like and these turned out more crisp and flaky than hers, but delicious. They’re time consuming but worth it. They have a filling made with raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange rind. The kicker is they’re topped with coffee icing, which explains my addiction to them.

After I baked and iced them, I thought I’d try one. Tasting them made me feel like I was home with my parents. One cookie became two, and so on until I inhaled five of them. The pie crust texture is different, but it’s easier, so I’m all for it. One day I’ll break down and make her original recipe, crust and all.

I know I’ve already told you this story, but this cookie can break you like it broke my mom, so have lots of energy when you start, or your cookies will end up looking like footballs.

One dark December evening Mom and I had already made dozens of these cookies. (Her recipe was for three times the recipe I’m giving you.) Mom was tired that night and there was a fist sized mound of dough and a cup of filling left, enough for at least eight to ten more cookies.

I walked away to take cookies out of the oven and came back to my mother laughing so hard, the table was shaking.  She looked up at me repentantly and revealed a gigantic cookie as big as my father’s fist, she’d made with the rest of the dough and filling. Tears rolling out of her eyes with laughter, she said, “Don’d a worry Frenzy, your fodder (father) will eat it.”

Armadillo banana cookie.

After wrapping my 25th banana cookie, I totally understand why. I had filling left over because I only had two pie crusts in my freezer. (I used my own pie crust, but Pillsbury pie crust works fine.) I was thinking that if I had some Bridgeford frozen bread dough, the extra filling would be great spread on it, rolled up and baked into sweet rolls, then iced with coffee icing. Just sayin’.

I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas full of laughter, cookies and at least five seasons of your current Netflix passion. I hope your Hanukkah was great. And most of all, I pray you’ll all stay safe and healthy. To all the friends and family I won’t get to see this year, just know I am with you in spirit, especially at the cookie table, at Christmas and always.

Italian Banana Cookies filled with Raisins, Chocolate Chips, Walnuts and Spice

Yields1 Serving

 1 12 oz. Box Sunmaid Raisins
 4 oz Nestle Semi Sweet chocolate chips (or darker chocolate)
 3/4 orange rind of a large orange
 ½ cup sugar
  cup hot water
  tsp nutmeg
  tsp cinnamon
 1 tsp vanilla
 6 oz chopped walnuts
 3 Pillsbury pie crusts
 1/2 cup water for moistening the edges of the dough
Coffee Icing
 1 tbsp butter (melted
 1 lb powdered sugar
 2 tbsp coffee (not espresso- I find it too strong)
 1 tsp vanilla
 salt to taste

1

Soak the raisins in hot water for 20 minutes to a half hour. Then put the sugar in a small pan with the water and stir it over low heat until the sugar melts. Set it aside.

2

Squeeze the water out of the raisins and place them in a food processor. Add the chopped nuts, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar water to the raisins. Process until combined. Then melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and add them to the raisin mixture. Process until well mixed. It should be thick, but you should be able to easily spoon it. If it's too stiff, add a little water. Then set it aside.

3

Next, roll out the pie crust dough so it's about 1/4 inch thick. cut it into 3 inch by three inch squares. Have a half cup of water standing by. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the square. Starting with a corner of the square fold it over the filling. Then moisten the edges around the filling with a finger dipped in water, and continue folding the dough over, making sure the edges seal. Try to mold it into the shape of a banana. (Mine ended up looking like an armadillo, but no one's perfect.) Place them on a cookie sheet about one inch apart.

4

Bake at 350 for 15 to 17 minutes, or until edges are brown. Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and let them cool, then ice with coffee icing.

5

Melt the butter and add the powdered sugar, vanilla and coffee. Mix well with a whisk. Icing should be thin enough to dip the cookies into. If not, add more coffee. Add a dash of salt or more to taste. Dip the cookies in the icing and let them dry for a few hours. (I used Starbucks Via Instant Italian Roast Coffee. You just add hot water. The flavor is very good.) These can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic container.

Ingredients

 1 12 oz. Box Sunmaid Raisins
 4 oz Nestle Semi Sweet chocolate chips (or darker chocolate)
 3/4 orange rind of a large orange
 ½ cup sugar
  cup hot water
  tsp nutmeg
  tsp cinnamon
 1 tsp vanilla
 6 oz chopped walnuts
 3 Pillsbury pie crusts
 1/2 cup water for moistening the edges of the dough
Coffee Icing
 1 tbsp butter (melted
 1 lb powdered sugar
 2 tbsp coffee (not espresso- I find it too strong)
 1 tsp vanilla
 salt to taste

Directions

1

Soak the raisins in hot water for 20 minutes to a half hour. Then put the sugar in a small pan with the water and stir it over low heat until the sugar melts. Set it aside.

2

Squeeze the water out of the raisins and place them in a food processor. Add the chopped nuts, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar water to the raisins. Process until combined. Then melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and add them to the raisin mixture. Process until well mixed. It should be thick, but you should be able to easily spoon it. If it's too stiff, add a little water. Then set it aside.

3

Next, roll out the pie crust dough so it's about 1/4 inch thick. cut it into 3 inch by three inch squares. Have a half cup of water standing by. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the square. Starting with a corner of the square fold it over the filling. Then moisten the edges around the filling with a finger dipped in water, and continue folding the dough over, making sure the edges seal. Try to mold it into the shape of a banana. (Mine ended up looking like an armadillo, but no one's perfect.) Place them on a cookie sheet about one inch apart.

4

Bake at 350 for 15 to 17 minutes, or until edges are brown. Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and let them cool, then ice with coffee icing.

5

Melt the butter and add the powdered sugar, vanilla and coffee. Mix well with a whisk. Icing should be thin enough to dip the cookies into. If not, add more coffee. Add a dash of salt or more to taste. Dip the cookies in the icing and let them dry for a few hours. (I used Starbucks Via Instant Italian Roast Coffee. You just add hot water. The flavor is very good.) These can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic container.

Banana Cookies filled with Raisins, Walnuts and Chocolate Chips
  • Reply
    Nicol Z
    December 22, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    I’ll see you at the cookie table, Frannie!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 28, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      I’ve been there all Christmas! Trying to pull away from that table now.

  • Reply
    Rob spri
    December 22, 2020 at 7:46 am

    What a lucky man your fodder was🙃

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 22, 2020 at 9:54 am

      Too funny Rob. Yes, he was pretty lucky to have my mom. I’m sure he knew it because he sure missed her when she was gone. Thank God we still have the funny stories and great recipes. Give a hug to the lovely Dawn on Christmas Day for me and enjoy whatever delicacies she will undoubtedly prepare for you two. She is a stellar cook! Thanks for reading and enjoy the holidaze!

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    December 22, 2020 at 7:19 am

    That last cookie picture looked like an overgrown larva of some sort! They sound delicious, as does everything else you post. Here’s to a joyous Christmas and an improved new year. The only way we can go is up. Stay safe.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 22, 2020 at 9:49 am

      Yeah, a giant larva, just what I was going for!!! Thanks Chas! Have a wonderful Christmas and let’s get away from 2020 as fast as we can!

  • Reply
    Monica
    December 22, 2020 at 3:19 am

    How wonderful that you broke down and finally made these cookies despite your misgivings- don’t you wish you would have attempted it years ago? Or maybe not. I have a similar story with cookies my mom used to make when we were kids called date nut pinwheels- they were a lot of work and very frustrating (for my mom) to prepare, so she stopped making them years ago. I always loved those cookies so three years ago I decided I would take on the challenge and try to make them and they turned out great. Now every holiday season I get to enjoy a childhood recipe that I thought I’d never enjoy again. Anyway, I hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season and hope to see you in 2021. xoxo

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 22, 2020 at 9:47 am

      Yeah, I do wish I had tried years ago, but I’d probably weigh a little more if I did, so perhaps it was for the best! You may have to send me that recipe. Date Nut Pinwheels sound great! Merry Christmas to you Dave and the kids!

  • Reply
    JoAnn
    December 21, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    You are a gem , Fran, love the stories about your mom and family especially the cooking and baking. Enjoy time with your son , Merry Christmas , stay safe & healthy , Happy New Year ! Love , Bill & JoAnn

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 21, 2020 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks JoAnn. I feel lucky to have so many good memories. I found some recipes of your moms for Horns. My mom must have loved them because I think she had several copies of that recipe.So glad you enjoy reading these stories, even the re-hashed ones! Have a great Christmas and you all stay safe and healthy too. When this is all over, we definitely need to party!

  • Reply
    Theresa
    December 21, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for the honorable mention. I’m going to give that coffee icing a try. Joe and I have gained 12 pounds combined in the last month. Looking forward to a month of good vegetable based soups in January. Merry Christmas, dear Fran.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 21, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      Ha! I totally understand, I’m surprised it’s only 12 combined because your stuff looks fantastic. I’ve gained a few myself. I now just give the scale dirty looks and will step on sometime in mid-January. Merry Christmas to you and Joe too!

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