Yaya Vittles, my paternal grandmother, always has these at the holidays. Either she makes them herself, or her friends do and bring them over.
However, trying to get the correct recipe out of my grandmother proved to be quite a task.
Years ago, I asked her for it, and she somehow ended up writing half the correct amount of sugar, and forgot the oven temperature. Needless to say, they came out awful, and I ended up losing the recipe anyway.
Then a few years later, I asked her for it again, and that attempt left out the baking time and the eggs.
Ummm... yeah. Not so helpful.
So then I ended up getting a much more reliable recipe from my mom's side - supposedly this one came from my great-grandmother's family, who was from Italy.
my great-grandmother (who I called 'Gigi')
(But these days you can find similar recipes all over the internet - it's very popular with Italian Americans. My brother-in-law's girlfriend Kristen was making them too today, with her family's recipe.)
In any case, they're similar to the ricotta cookies Mr. Vittles loves, but these have anise extract in them.
Wait, though, before I completely lose you here - let me tell you that I do not typically like anise. Or licorice, or anything like it.
But in this case, it gives these cookies a subtle, anisette-like flavor that (I think) is awesome.
I know it's kind of an acquired taste though, so I'll usually put half anise & half vanilla extract. Feel free to do that if you're unsure.
You can also use all lemon extract, if you like?
Personally, I think they're best with anise, but then again that's how I grew up with them :) Totally up to you!
Italian Knot Cookies
- 3 C. flour
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1 T. baking powder
- 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 C. sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 t. pure anise extract
- 1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
- 4-5 T. milk (first try 4, then add a little at a time if necessary)
- 1/2 t. anise extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
In large bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and anise on medium speed until combined (it's ok to have chunks of butter floating in the egg).
With mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, scraping sides as necessary. Increase speed to medium low, and beat until dough forms.
Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon (for uniformity), scoop balls of dough and roll them into fat ropes. Holding one end in each hand, place on end over the other and press to adhere, forming crescent, knot-like shapes. (Alternatively, you can just roll them into balls).
Place on prepared baking sheet, and bake 8-10 minutes until puffed and bottoms are golden. Leave 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Once cookies are completely cooled, whisk powdered sugar with milk and anise until smooth. Icing should be somewhat runny. Dip tops of cookies into icing, and then decorate with colored nonpareils if desired. Put back on rack to let icing dry. Store cookies in airtight container. Makes about 3 dozen