My Sicilian Grandmother used to make these cookies with us every Easter for as long as I can remember. As we got older, along with my grandma getting older, the tradition seemed to have stopped for a while. When I had children, a long time ago, I started the tradition again. Now, I make them with my family every year. We plan a day and make a big batch. We bake and eat and talk all day long in the kitchen. I mean really, is there another room in the house?! My grandma and my mom always used shortening in their cookies so I stay with that tradition, although I do use organic shortening instead of Crisco. I also use a half cup of butter, it gives them a little bit of a buttery flavor. I use vanilla extract in my cookies and then add anise for the last batch of cutouts and hide those for my morning coffee :)
If you have more than 6 grandchildren or children, or just family members that like the baskets, then make more hard-boiled Easter eggs and shape more baskets.
9 cups flour
2 cups shortening - melted and cooled
1/2 cup butter softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla or anise extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
6 hard boiled colored Easter eggs
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Milk as necessary
In a stand mixer or with hand beaters, beat the shortening and the butter together. Add the sugar, beat 1 minute then add the eggs, zest and extract.
In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Remove the shortening bowl from the mixer and stir in the dry ingredients one cup at a time. By your 9th cup it will be a little difficult, but you can do it! Stir until all the flour is blended in.
Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. Remove the dough 15 minutes before you make the cookies.
Here is where you get creative. I like to make mine look like baskets with the egg in the middle. I even put a handle on my basket. My daughter-in-law made a large bunny face and used the egg as a nose. I am not sure what my granddaughter made but she was very happy about it!!
Shape the cookies and put them on a cookie sheet. I use a silpat because my sheets are a little dark but you do not need to. Bake them for 13 - 16 minutes, depending on the thickness of your baskets. They will remain a light color, you do not want them to brown.
After you make as many baskets as you want, shape the rest of the cookies into any Easter shape you like. We did bunnies, eggs and flowers.
When the cookies are completely cooled, frost them with the icing (recipe below) and any type of sprinkles you would like. We used a variety of what we had at home.
Place the sugar in a large bowl, add the vanilla and then add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir until combined and smooth. Tint with food coloring. We made 6 colors to decorate with.