Italian Christmas Cookies (knots)

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Christmas cookies should be shared with friends and family, and this recipe will make plenty for that purpose.

I remember these from when I was growing up. My stepmother’s mom made them every year, but when she died, she kind of took the recipe with her (or so we thought, till now)

I had been on a long quest to try to duplicate them, but they never came out quite right.  Now I have a copy of the original recipe, which I have posted here for both safe keeping and to share with you.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups all purpose flour (sifted well)
  • 8 eggs
  • 8 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 5 sticks softened salted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

1. Mix together with your hands until a firm dough is formed.
2. Roll into knots (similar shape to an awareness ribbon) and bake at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are slightly golden brown.
3. Move cookies from baking sheet to a cooling rack as soon as they come out of the oven, as the heat from the pan will continue to cook them, and they can easily become over-done.
4. Once cookies are cool, they can be decorated by dipping upside down in a thin icing (see recipe below) and then dipped into colored sprinkles.

Icing:

  • evaporated milk
  • confectioners sugar
  • vanilla extract

Start with a cup of confectioners sugar in a mixing bowl and add evaporated milk 1/4 cup at a time while hand mixing with a fork until smooth and blended well. You can alternate adding more sugar and milk until you get the desired consistency (thick enough to stay on cookie, thin enough to easily swirl the fork in). Once icing is ready, slightly flavor it with vanilla to taste.


NOTES:

  1. Above is the original recipe, with only the language altered a bit for the purposes of clarity. I have experimented a little and discovered that instead of mixing up the icing with the ingredients listed, you can just open up a can or bottle of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk), pour a little on a small bowl, and dip the cookies in that before dipping them into your toppings. It’s the right consistency, works well, and eliminates all the fuss & bother of trying to get the icing right.
  2. My stepmother also experimented a bit with the icing, when I was a kid, and I do remember her adding Nestle’s Quick powder to it, to give it a bit of a chocolate flavor. I suppose you can also try the strawberry or banana, if you want, although I don’t remember her ever doing that. I don’t think the banana one even existed, back then.
  3. As you can see from my photo, you can also experiment with different toppings, including shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or any other desired toppings, except colored sugar, which does not work well with the icing. Last year, I tried crushed candy canes, but it was a disaster. The candy canes prevented the icing from drying properly, causing the cookies to spoil rather quickly. They were also an unpleasant texture, with the overly crunchy bits of candy on them. Keep this in mind if you decide to experiment with toppings, avoiding anything with a very hard texture.

 


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