Start to Finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 25 cookies
Italian “S” cookies are so-named because of their shape, which is a flat-surfaced, large “S” shape. These cookies essentially are basic Italian butter cookies. Less sweet than other butter cookies, they most often are eaten plain or lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. This recipe, adapted from ones by Ciao Italia and Cake Boss Baking, pipes the cookie dough rather than rolling it to give the treats their distinctive appearance.
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups white, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups butter, unsalted and at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a rack in the center of the oven.
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl, stirring well. In a separate bowl, mix the beaten eggs, vanilla extract and lemon juice.
Whip the butter and white sugar with an electric mixer until just combined, around 30 seconds to one minute. Add the egg mixture and beat until just mixed.
Slowly add in the flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, beating on low to medium speed. Stop beating as soon as the flour is thoroughly mixed in.
Beating too long or hard when adding the flour leads to dense, tough cookies as the extra beating encourages gluten to develop.
Place the cookie dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a smooth, round tip.
If your kitchen is very warm, store the dough in the fridge for an extra five minutes before piping. Refrigerate the dough — or even place it briefly in the freezer — to keep it as cold as possible between batches of cookies. Colder dough leads to less spread during baking.
Pipe the dough onto a cookie sheet, making smooth, even “S” shapes approximately 3 inches long. Space the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart. Return the pastry bag with the extra dough to the refrigerator.
Bake the cookies on a center rack in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. When they are ready, the cookies turn a pale gold color and are lightly browned on the bottom.
Remove the sheet from the oven and let it cool for one or two minutes before transferring the cookies with a spatula to a wire rack. While the first batch of cookies are cooling, pipe a second tray of cookies and bake. Store the pastry bag and dough in the refrigerator between batches to keep the dough chilled.
Once all the cookies are finished and cooling on wire racks, sift powdered sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, over the cookies.
The cookies may be shaped to any size you like.
Smaller “S” cookies bake faster, so pay close attention to keep them from burning.
The butter can be replaced with vegetable shortening, which results in a crisper, less rich cookie.
“S” cookies often are served plain, but they may be half dipped in melted chocolate for a fancier presentation and a sweeter, richer taste. Once cooled, dip the cookies in tempered, melted chocolate, coating no more than 1/3 to 1/2 a cookie. Place the cookies on a wire rack to let the chocolate harden.
“S” cookies can be sandwiched together with fruit jam. To do this, pipe half the cookies in a standard “S” shape and the other half in a backward “S” shape. When the cookies are cool, spread the back of one cookie with a thin layer of fruit jam no more than 1/8-inch thick. Place the flat side of a backward cookie against the jam.