Oh, you should be proud of me. This is the post and recipe that almost never happened.
For the last few nights I have been all-consumed by… Gah!…the Hallmark Channel. I was finally, finally, able to pull myself away from those sappy, ridiculously predictable, but completely addictive, Christmas movies long enough to post this recipe for you before the holidays! I’ll make this quick so that
I can get back to those awful movies you can make these Italian Knot Cookies too.
The recipe I am sharing today is a traditional Italian Christmas cookie. These are the cookies of my childhood. I remember how they would take over the kitchen table on cooling racks, with their slow-dripping lemon icing falling into thick, sweet droplets onto the awaiting parchment paper. My brothers and I would reach under the racks to scoop up the icing remnants, like my kids do now when we make them (licking their fingers and repeating). I remember how the cookies, in their Christmas-themed tins, would overflow on the kitchen countertops and the dining room table, with their colorful sugary sprinkles. We anticipated ruining our appetites with these cookies all season long.
Traditional Knot cookies are a little dry – in a good and delicious kind of way. However, in my grandmother’s recipes I found a handwritten note explaining how to make these cookies just a tad softer using cream cheese (say no more, I’m in!). Her note read “with half cream cheese.”
Half. Just half. Half of what we wondered.
Years ago we’d debated whether it meant 1/2 cup or 1/2 of a package. I opted to go with half of an 8 ounce-sized package. Whether or not that is correct, I will never know. However, these cookies are perfectly sweet, slightly soft and delicately crumbly, and have been long taste-tested by my family over the years. The consensus is that they taste just like Nana’s. What an honor.
I’m grateful that my children are growing up with these traditional cookies too, especially since my mother can’t make them to save her life, bless her heart. Although her Italian Knot Cookies do provide us with a dose of comic relief, so we usually include her in the Knot making purely for fun. She’s a good sport. Love you, mom.
If your kids are like mine, and they prefer to only eat the tops of the cookies, dare I say to forgo the light sprinkle of sprinkles and just go ahead and dip the cookie tops into the sprinkles. Hey, it’s Christmas! My grandmother did that for us grandkids all the time. If you do that though, just be sure to let most of the excess icing drip off before dipping or you’ll have a landslide (cookieslide?) of glumpy wet sprinkles everywhere but on the cookie.
Unlike some Italian Knot Cookies where the dough is rolled out into a concentric circle forming the appearance of a knot, these cookies are rolled out and tied into actual loose knots. They are baked for 15 minutes, with care not to overcook. Then they are dipped into the sweet, thick, icing. There are two types of icing my grandmother would make, one with anisette for the grown-ups (like the original recipe suggests) and the other was a lemony icing that we ALL liked. I’ll share both. Lastly, they are sprinkled (or loaded up!) with colorful nonpareils.
These cooki… Wait… This is the movie where two strangers are stranded in a snowstorm at the airport and they constantly bicker, but then they end up sharing a car to drive to the city, and the woman’s fiance is waiting for her there, but it’s so obvious that she has feelings for the stranger-man now, even though she refuses to acknowledge that and… eek! Ok, I won’t keep you any longer from making these cookies. Enjoy some with a ridiculously predictable movie, too!
I’d love to hear from you!
If you made this recipe, scroll down and leave me a comment below, I’d love to know what you think! You can also follow me on Instagram and share your creation with me. Be sure to tag me @chasingtheseasons and use the hashtag #chasingtheseasons so I can be sure to see it!
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2 sticks unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened (cut an 8 ounce package in half)
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
Juice of 2 lemons
Colorful nonpareil sprinkles
Juice of 1 lemon (can also substitute with 1 ounce glass of anisette)
Juice of 1 orange
Colorful nonpareil sprinkles
- In a large bowl cream the butter, cream cheese, eggs, vanilla and sugar by hand;
- Mix together baking powder and flour and spoon in to bowl with egg and sugar mixture, mix until dough forms, lightly flour a flat surface to knead dough;
- Knead dough for 10 minutes; dough should still feel somewhat sticky to the touch but should not stick to the surface;
- Form dough into a large ball and set aside;
- To begin making the knots: pull a piece of dough about the size of a large walnut and roll between your fingers and back and forth on your work surface to form a strip (about 5 inches in length and as thick as your finger) and tie into a loose knot;
- Bake at 350 for 15 minutes – Do not overcook. They will only tan slightly, they will not brown. Cool completely on baking racks.
- In a medium bowl, squeeze the lemon and/or orange juice and combine with confectioners sugar. Make it a little thick as some icing always runs off the knot;
- Dip top of a completely cooled knot into icing, set cookie on a rack and let excess icing drip off. When almost all the icing has finished dripping, sprinkle a few cookies at a time with the nonpareils as icing will dry fast;
- After icing is thoroughly dry, turn over to let drippings dry off. Store in containers with fitted lids.
While a batch of Knots is baking be sure to cover remaining dough with plastic wrap so it doesn’t begin to dry out.
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