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Italian Toto Cookies are spicy, chocolate and orange flavored cookies – full of walnuts, chocolate chips and cherries – with a chocolate orange frosting.
Growing up – after opening gifts at the crack of dawn, then rushing off to church services – we spent most of Christmas Day visiting my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother (aka Babci) and my Aunt Bertha lived together in a double decker house – with Babci living upstairs, while my aunt lived on the first floor in the larger apartment.
Christmas dinner was always in the back ‘parlor’ of Bertha’s place – tables pushed together to create enough seating for everyone to all sit together. The menu was always a combination of the best Polish and Italian dishes.
My mother’s side of the family was Polish – so we always had a variety of homemade pierogi, as well as stuffed cabbage on the menu. And my Aunt Bertha married an Italian guy – so to incorporate his family’s tastes and traditions, Bertha always made a big pan of really fantastic lasagna, salad, plus other Italian favorites.
After dinner, there was always a tray of Italian cookies too – piled high with all of the traditional favorites like glazed anisette cookies, ricotta cookies, pizzelle, cannoli, and these Italian Toto Cookies.
Fast forward to today, it actually wasn’t until Jack made these Italian Toto Cookies to share here today that I learned their name. Some families call these ‘meatball’ cookies, or dudu or tetu cookies – some are sprinkled with powdered sugar, others are frosted with a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze, and others have a chocolate frosting and sprinkles – like our recipe today.
But they are all essentially the same recipe – round, clove and orange-flavored chocolate cookies with a very distinctive flavor. Take a bite, and inside you’ll discover chopped walnuts, chocolate chips and chopped maraschino cherries in a light and cakey cookie.
I took a bite of these Italian Toto Cookies – and their spicy, citrusy flavor immediately brought me back to my Aunt Bertha’s Italian cookie tray. Back then, I remember being startled by the flavor – thinking I was about to eat just a typical chocolate frosted cookie.
But these Italian Toto Cookies are a wonderfully different surprise for your taste buds – and absolutely delicious served with some espresso.
Recipe adapted from our favorite Italian cookbook, The North End Italian Cookbook.
4 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
5 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, well beaten
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strong black coffee
1–2 tablespoons whole milk
1 small jar of red, green and white sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl sift the flour. You want 4 ¼ cups of sifted flour, not 4 ¼ cups of flour, sifted. So after you sift it, pour it out into another bowl and measure the now sifted flour back in to get 4 ¼ cups.
Sift in the baking powder, cocoa powder, ground cloves and ground cinnamon into the flour. Mix and aside.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs well with a whisk. Beat in the milk, oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar and both extracts.
Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, mix the wet into the dry ingredients.
Mix in the walnuts, chocolate chips and cherries.
Line three sheet trays with parchment paper and spray the paper with pan spray.
Using a one-ounce scoop, scoop out 20 cookies per tray (5X4) for a total of 60 cookies. Dip the scoop in water in between each cookie.
Wet your fingers and shape any mis-shaped cookies into a smooth round. The cookies do not spread and will look the same going in as coming out, just risen a bit.
Bake one pan at a time on the middle rack for 15 minutes.
While the first pan is baking, make the icing by mixing the melted butter with the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, both extracts, the coffee and one tablespoon of the milk. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix. If the icing is too thick and dry, add the additional milk. The icing should be thick but spreadable.
After 15 minutes, remove the first pan from the oven and place the second pan in.
Move the hot cookies from the first pan onto a rack and while still warm, frost with one third of the icing. The icing will pick up a glisten when frosted warm.
Immediately sprinkle or dip into the sprinkles to coat.
Repeat for next two pans.
Cool completely and serve or store in air tight container.
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