Last week my neighbor brought over some delicious freshly baked Italian knot cookies. They were small and each cookie was a tasty mouth full. My neighbors are of Italian descent as is my husband. With my father-in-law turning 88 this week, I thought it would be a nice treat for him. And he always enjoys anything related to his heritage. My neighbor shared her recipe and I did some more research and came up with my version.
I experimented with the length and size of the ropes of dough that form the knots until I got just the right size. My recipe made about 6 dozen, and by the time I was preparing the third pan, I had the method for the right size down to a science.
I’ve made some notes in the slideshow that is part of this post to demonstrate my technique.
Some of the Italian folklore I dug up referred to the tradition of giving a newly married couple a batch of these cookies along with a bedspread. The knot of course represents two lives entwined together through marriage/commitment. The recipes I found varied in flavoring, with some old recipes using anise or lemon in place of the orange flavoring I used. Vanilla was not used in all recipes I found, but since I love making my own vanilla (the fragrance is incredible), I always try to find excuses to use it. If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I refer to my homemade vanilla often. It’s pretty simple. Just plug two or three whole vanilla beans that you’ve split lengthwise into a glass bottle or jar, add about a cup of vodka, and let it sit for 2 – 3 months, giving it a shake once a week or so. As you use the finished product you may add more vodka to stretch out the use of the vanilla beans. You will find the best quality beans either at a reputable health food store or through online sources.
Here’s my version of
Italian Knot Cookies
Bake at 350 degrees for 11 – 12 minutes (adjust according to your oven)
- ½ stick of unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp. orange juice (I used freshly squeezed)
- 2 tbsp. orange zest
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups white flour
- 2 ¼ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
Cream butter with sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Adds eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add vanilla, orange juice and zest, mixing well.
Add sifted dry ingredients together and add gradually to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well after each addition. You may use electric beaters, but as you add the flour, you may find it easier to mix by hand. The dough will be soft. Refrigerate for one hour or until dough is easy to handle.
Take pieces of dough and roll with your hands onto a cutting board, forming ropes about the width of your pinky finger and 4 inches long. You may find it easier to form ropes about 12 inches long and then cut into pieces. I use a 4 inch piece of cardboard to keep the size of the ropes consistent. See the photos for demonstration. You may need to flour the board, but use flour sparingly as this will make cookies tough. You may also roll in granulated sugar as you form the ropes for extra sparkle and flavor.
Bake at 350 for 11 – 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack.
Brush on glaze while cookies are still warm, or dip the tops of the cookies into a shallow bowl of glaze. Let cool completely before storing.
- 1 ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3 – 4 tbsp orange juice
- 1 ½ tsp corn syrup
- ¼ – 3/8 tsp orange extract
- ½ – 1 tsp orange zest (optional)
Blend ingredients with a fork or whisk until smooth, adding more or less sugar to make it the desired consistency.
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