I have a secret. Every year, I bake Christmas cookies for my loved ones and receive rave reviews, but 90 perecent of the time, I use fail-safe boxed mixes. Like Remy hiding under Linguini’s chef hat and guiding his cooking in Ratatouille, Betty Crocker steers me away from baking disasters. My nana’s Italian lemon hill cookies, cake-like in texture and just sweet enough to satisfy sugar cravings without overwhelming the palate, are one of the only exceptions to this rule.
My nana was a second-generation Italian-American whose parents emigrated to the U.S. for a better life. She passed away when I was in middle school, but I’ve come to know her through my mom’s stories, many of which involve cooking. Like any Italian mother, my nana baked enough to feed an army. My mom remembers her baking these cookies before Christmas and stashing them away from the hands of her hungry children.
My mom and I honor my nana’s legacy by baking the lemon hills at Christmastime. The recipe can be cut in half, but we always break out our biggest mixing bowl to ensure that there will be enough cookies for everyone. Honestly, there will still be cookies left for Valentine’s Day.
The recipe is simple enough that even I, who would be kicked off The Great British Bake Off for smuggling in boxed cookie mixes, can follow it with confidence. While not included in the original instructions, I recommend baking the lemon hills with your loved ones or setting aside a few minutes (maybe while the cookies cool?) to remember the people closest to you, whether they’re visiting you this holiday season or forever living in your heart.
Laura’s Nana’s Italian Lemon Hill Cookie Recipe
12 cups of flour
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 cups of sugar
1 lb. of margarine
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
2 tsp. of lemon extract
6 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. lemon extract
½ cup water
Sprinkles, for decorating
Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
Mix together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set mixture aside.
In another large bowl, beat eggs and add sugar, margarine, vanilla extract and lemon extract, mixing well.
Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, and mix well until the batter forms a dough. Knead the dough mixture on the countertop until it’s nice and smooth.
Roll dough out into long strips and coil it into small "hills" (see photo for reference).
Bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Let cookies cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting
Mix powdered sugar, lemon extract and water for icing until smooth. Frost the cooled cookies with icing and decorate with your favorite sprinkles.