I can’t remember the first time I tasted these cookies. All I know is that it was at a celebration. Possibly someone’s birthday. More likely someone’s bridal shower. Perhaps even mine.
What I do know is that for as long as I’ve been a part of D’s family, an assortment of Zizi Angie’s cookies are as much a part of a family celebration as pasta and meatballs. Actually, we don’t eat all that much meatballs at parties. Eggplant Parmigiana. Chicken Francese if we’re being fancy. But I digress.
I don’t know how she found the time or the energy to make so many varieties. For my baby shower, she made a large plate of 5 or 6 different cookies for each table. I had 8 tables. (Yeah, we had huge shower with 60 guests. Give or take 10.)
When I think about how long it takes me to bake one batch of cookies, I’m amazed. She did this in her 70’s.
Now that Zizi is getting older I feel bad asking her to whip up a few batches of cookies. I’ve been wanting to learn how to make some of these cookies for years anyway. Plus, I’m all about passing down family traditions. I can’t do that unless I learn myself, right?
My favorite is actually the tri-colored Venetian cookies. But alas, the one time I kinda sorta tried to make them, (Not really, I watched while Baker Mom did all the work. I might have washed some dishes.) I got really intimidated and I’ve been afraid to even sorta try ever since.
Which is why I decided to tackle the Italian Knots for Christmas. The recipe looked easier. But shhhhhh. Don’t tell D. He thinks I learned how to make them for him. They are his favorite.
I’ve always thought the cookies were Zizi Angie’s recipe. Turns out that it goes back further than that. Aunt Lucy is D’s Great-aunt. Soso’s Great-great Aunt. Finally, an authentic, handed down over the generations family recipe. We should all have a recipe from a great-great someone, don’t you think?
The recipe calls for eggs, sugar, butter, flour, milk and chocolate chips for the cookies. Confectioners sugar and lemon juice for the glaze. Still I had to make at least three phone calls to Zizi.
In my defense, while I am a flake and easily intimidated by baking recipes, Zizi wrote down a couple of confusing directions. For example, she wrote “cook for 7 minutes at 450°F but I usually cook at 375° for 8 minutes.” Huh? Bake at 375° because at 450°, the cookies burn too fast.
Add a package of chocolate chips by hand. A package? These cookies have two, tops three chips per cookie. I press in a couple of chips per spoonful of dough before placing them on the baking sheet.
Juice from 1/2 lemon was not enough to thin out the glaze. Add some water until it is thin enough to brush on.
Perhaps, Zizi got these confusing directions from Aunt Lucy. Or in Aunt Lucy’s days, 450°F was really like 375° of today? And a package of chocolate chips held a lot less chips?
I also ran into some hiccups with my dough size. My first tray was too large and wouldn’t bake fully at the top without getting too brown. I got it right with the last tray.
Goes perfectly with espresso.
Aunt Lucy’s Italian Knots
Prep Time: 10 mins Cook time: 30 – 40 mins Inactive Prep Time: 30 mins
Serving: 3 dozen cookies
4 cups all purpose flour, plus a couple of tablepoon set aside
5 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chip
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon water, or as needed
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or more if you have and want to save time). In a medium bowl, sift 4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. With the speed set on low, add the eggs one at a time, milk and vanilla extract last. Add flour mixture slowly until just combined. Add a couple of tablespoon more of flour if the dough is very sticky.
Spoon out a tablespoon of dough, press a couple of chocolate chips inside and drop on the prepared cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. These cookies do not spread much.
Bake in the middle rack for 7 – 8 minutes (or in the two middle racks but alternating) or until the bottom is golden. The top should stay white. Cool 1 minute.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining confectioners sugar, lemon juice and just enough water. The glaze should have a viscuous consistency like syrup.
Brush glaze on each cookies, leaving just the bottom unglazed. Top with a few sprinkles and transfer to rack to cool completely. Can be stored in plastic containers up to a week. I’ve found that in tin containers, the glaze starts to breakdown and get gooey. I’m not sure that these can be frozen. May be unglazed?
Edited: I’ve changed the recipe name to Italian Knots per D’s instructions.