I'm a little behind on my Christmas duties having been laid up with a nasty cold for the last week. But one thing I managed to do before I got sick was bake these Anginetti cookies.
They're a recipe I got in August from Florida-based cook Michael Salvatore Gottuso and I've thought about making them for Christmas since then. They remind me a lot of the sweet taralli cookies my mom used to make, although she made hers in the shape of circles rather than "knots."
The recipe actually comes from Michael's nonna and I'm so grateful to both of them for sharing this recipe so freely. It makes A LOT of cookies (I cut the recipe in half and got at least four dozen), so it's perfect for shipping off to friends or for tucking into the freezer when company stops by.
The dough is a breeze to work with - so pliable and easily formed into little knots. I think kids would have fun rolling out the dough into logs and shaping the cookies too, so get your children or grandchildren involved and start a tradition.
As Michael says, there's no right or wrong size -- make them as small as your patience permits or as large as you like.
Bake until they're still pale on top, but slightly tan underneath. (I baked them slightly longer than the recipe called for because I like these cookies to be a little "harder" with some crunch.)
Then let the cookies cool, frost with the icing, and top with sprinkles right away.
My friend Marie, of Proud Italian Cook, recently posted her recipe for anginetti and they look delicious too. Hers are flavored with lemon, as are Michael's, but Michael's also contains anise extract, a classic Italian flavoring for cookies. Use whatever appeals to you and your family.
Once you've tried them, I'll bet they become part of your traditional Christmas cookie repertoire.
Recipe from Michael Salvatore Gottuso (thanks to his nonna)
makes at least 8 dozen cookies.
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. anisette extract
juice of one lemon
juice of one orange
1 1/2 t. grated fresh orange zest
1 1/2 t. grated fresh lemon zest
3 sticks melted and cooled unsalted butter
8 cups flour
1 t. kosher salt
8 t. baking powder
juice of 2 lemons
juice of 1/2 orange
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 t. anisette extract
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 t. grated fresh orange zest
Mix together 7 beaten eggs with 1 cup sugar until well blended. Now add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon anisette extract (make sure to use pure, not imitation), juice of one lemon, juice of one orange, 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest, and 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest. Blend well. Add 3 sticks melted unsalted butter (make sure they are cool). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Now sift unbleached flour enough to make 8 cups SIFTED flour. In batches sift together the sifted flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 8 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it's aluminum-free) and gently blend into the bowl until it's a soft, not too sticky, pliable dough. You may have to gently knead with your hands. Don't panic if it's still a bit sticky. To get to the right consistency, simply dust a little more flour into the bowl and onto your hands and only add enough until you are at a smooth dough. Then stop and let it rest for a good 15 minutes. Pull out the dough in small balls, like a golf ball size and roll into a rope, then turn it into a knot (like a "wreath"). Place onto sturdy baking sheets. Remember there is not "set" size so no debating on this. Make that your own preference. My family likes them a bit bigger than some other families do. The cookies cook fairly quickly and are NOT supposed to be a dark brown. Bake for 10 minutes, check the bottom to see if it's light brown. When you are done with your last batch going in, it's time to make the icing glaze. Mix everything together till you get a nice consistency: juice of 2 lemons, juice of 1/2 orange, 4 cups of confectioners' sugar, 1 teaspoon anisette extract, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh orange zest. If it appears too loose, in small batches add more confectioner's sugar. Dip the cookies on their tops into the icing and let the excess run off. Grandma suggests that you also dip the bottoms as that will encase the cookies in the icing and keep them fresh longer. Place the iced cookies on racks and top them with small confettini (multi colored non-pareils).