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Amelia's Lemon Toto

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Created by RoyM,
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Description

My late Grandma, Amelia DeFusco, made these cookies every Christmas. Totos (pronounced toh-TOH), which are ball shaped, come in two flavors, chocolate and lemon. They were made by most of the Italian grandmas in the Merrimack Valley region in Massachusetts—especially those in the city of Lawrence. The origin of these cookies is not clear, but some think the name is a corruption of “tetu,” a chocolate spice cookie that hails from Sicily. The chocolate version is also similar to mostaccioli, except for the shape, and the lemon version is similar to anginetti. The cookies use oil or shortening for the fat, which is common for authentic recipes from southern Italy. Traditionally, all the ingredients are mixed by hand, though if one wants a lighter cookie, one can use an electric mixer to beat the eggs, and cream the sugar and fat together.

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Ingredients
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Makes
24
  • Dry Ingredients
  • 3 C flour
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1 ½ t lemon zest
  • 1 t lemon extract
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • Wet Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 oz. oil or shortening
  • 2t fresh lemon juice
  • Milk as required
  • Icing:
  • 8 oz. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1.5T milk
  • 1 1/2 t lemon extract
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Directions/Steps
  1. Combine all the wet ingredients, including the sugar and lemon zest, and mix or beat.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients less the sugar, and add the wet ingredients to the dry.
  3. Mix until a dough is formed, adding flour or milk as necessary to obtain a consistency that is a bit moist and sticky—the flour will continue to hydrate while the dough is resting, absorbing some of the liquid.
  4. Do not overmix–otherwise the cookies will develop a bread-like instead of a cookie-like texture.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  6. Form the dough into ¾” to 1” balls and place on an oiled or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 350oF for about 12 to 15 minutes.
  8. While the cookies are baking, it’s time to make the icing. The icing is important for the flavor profile of the cookies—without it, the cookies will seem a bit bland and not sweet enough.
  9. To make the icing, put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and slowly add milk.
  10. Add just enough milk to make a mixture that is about the consistency of pancake batter.
  11. Add the milk carefully–even a little too much will cause the icing to become too thin, and more confectioners’ sugar will be needed.
  12. When the cookies are done remove them from the oven and place them on a drying rack with wax paper or even newspaper underneath to catch any icing that drips off in the next step.
  13. When mostly cool, apply the icing with a pastry brush or by dipping the cookies into the icing.
  14. If doing the latter, the icing should be just a bit thinner so any excess can easily drip off.
  15. Let the cookies dry thoroughly, and place them in a tin.
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Additional Tips

If the icing gets sticky, the cookies were not sufficiently dried and must be placed back on the drying rack. Do not refrigerate the cookies, but rather store them in a tin. The cookies will develop their best flavor after aging for a few days.

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