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Theresa Reads at Recipes from Brooklyn & Beyond 2021 Showcase Event

Life Story Club Contributor

September 19, 2021

I guess I was trying to figure out a good recipe and I picked baking with my relatives. We usually did it as a group. It was never quiet, lots of noise and lots of sugar, and we usually baked for a while. Everybody had their specialty. Mine was lemon anise cookies. My Zia Lucia would make these amazing Italian wedding cookies, and my sister had ricotta cookies and cheesecake. It was just non-stop sugar-fest. But halfway through our baking–because we’d always have to bake for the Fifth Army–we would sit down and, of course, relax, have some espresso with anisette or Sambuca to make it more interesting, and sample some of the cookies. And somehow, we got on this conversation about our significant others being oblivious. So my Zia Lucia said about my uncle, said, “He never notices what I wear. He doesn’t…he’s very oblivious.” So, what she did was she took a wig, put an auburn, red, gaudy wig on, and we’re all sitting there laughing, waiting for my uncle to come in. And he comes in, and he says, “What are you all cackling about? What are you doing?” And he takes some cookies, and he walks out of the kitchen, and as he’s walking out of the kitchen, he says to her, “Would you fix your hair or something? It looks a mess.” He didn’t even notice that she was wearing a red wig, which is not an Italian hair color but proved the point: oblivious. He didn’t mind the cookies.

But what I used to make was the lemon anise cookies, and I still do it today even though some of my relatives are no longer with me. It just brings back such fond, fond memories. I put them on a Pinterest page at @MissMadyB. 

And you would think, “Well, why anise?” Anise is got that woody, smoky, licorice-y taste to it, and it so compliments the lemon. And it’s not just lemon juice, you use the curds too. You get some of the skin of the lemon in there. And it’s a basic recipe, it’s so easy to do, but it has such a unique flavor to it. I use a three-quarter cup of sugar, some unsalted butter, melted, large eggs, two large eggs, quarter milk, and a teaspoon of extract.

I put the zest of a lemon, finely grated, a tablespoon of lemon juice, two and three-quarter cups of all-purpose flour, two and a half teaspoons of baking powder, and a quarter teaspoon of salt. And then I put a glaze on it afterward. I heat up the oven to 325, I grease the sheet. I mix in all the wet ingredients like the sugar, the butter, the milk, the anise, the lemon zest, and the juice into a large bowl, and then I gradually, on low speed, put in the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. This makes a very easily handy dough. And I take a teaspoon of dough, I put it on the baking sheet about two inches apart. I bake for about 8 to 10 minutes so that the bottoms are lightly golden, not brown, but lightly golden. And then, I cool the cookies off on a wire rack, and I dip them in a glaze once they’ve cooled off. And the glaze is basically just confectionary sugar, powdered sugar, two tablespoons of lemon juice, and two tablespoons of milk. 

And I just dip the cookies, the tops of them, in that. And these keep for a while. They keep for, airtight at room temperature, for up to two weeks, or you can freeze them up to a month. So, what we used to do for Christmas is we would, like I said, bake for the Fifth Army because we’d make lots of, like, the cookie trays of all different cookies and we’d share it with other relatives, neighbors, the priest at our church, you know, anyone that needed a sugar fix for Christmas, we had it. So, that’s basically, you know, my thing. And my fond memory of having espresso and putting a little anisette or Sambuca in there to make it more interesting, just sit around laughing and telling stories and baking with several generations together baking. It’s hard to put into words how wonderful that experience has been for me, and I’m passing that on to my kids as well. So, that’s the end of my sugar story.

September 19, 2021 I guess I was trying to figure out a good recipe and I picked baking with my relatives. We usually did it as a group. It was never quiet, lots of noise and lots of sugar,...

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