Straight out of college, FHE and I resided in Evanston, Illinois. There was a small bakery by our humble studio, Carol’s. It was a bakery I had been familiar with because my sorority frequently ordered their baked goods and cakes for special events. Conveniently located on my walk to and from the “L,” I passed by their storefront daily. On a lark, I decided to go in on a warm summer afternoon. There, I discovered the Italian Lemon Knot. Delicate with a tender, lemony crumb and coated with a thin icing, these soft cookies were so addicting I began buying them by the half dozen. I remember scurrying home with a clamshell of them from the bakery several times a week, eager to get them into the apartment so the hot Chicago sun wouldn’t melt their delicate, sugary exterior.
I eventually got FHE hooked on them, too, despite the fact that he doesn’t have the biggest sweet tooth. But within a few months, we relocated to the city and my beloved lemon knots were a faint memory.
Years later when we returned to the Bay Area and moved into our home (and discovered the oven and a love of baking), I scoured the web for a recipe and found the one below. I have to admit that it has been bookmarked for over 5 years now. The flavor is distinctively reminiscent of Carol’s cookie, but the texture isn’t quite as tender. (Perhaps because there isn’t enough fat. They are tender straight from the oven and for about a day or two after, but don’t have much shelf life beyond that.) No matter, we all thought they were delicious and a wonderful change of pace from our typical chocolate-laden cookie (not that there is a problem with that).
If any of you have any lemon knot recipes to test/share, please do! (Since I first made this recipe, I have tried several that call for the addition of milk. This is still te best one, thus far.)
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Italian Lemon Knots, from Mangia Bene Pasta
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons milk or half-and-half
1 teaspoon almond extract
To make the cookies:
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the lemon juice and zest.
Gradually add the flour mixture, beating well to combine.
The dough will be soft.
Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease 2 baking sheets.
Place the dough on a lightly-floured surface.
Break off golf-ball size pieces of dough.
Roll each piece into a rope about 7 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter.
Tie into a knot with one end poking up in the center.
Place 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly.
You want the cookies to be slightly warm when you add the icing.
To make the icing:
In a bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth.
Stir in the almond extract.
Add more milk if necessary to make a slightly thin icing.
Dip the top of each cookie into the icing.
Place the cookies on wire racks and top with the colored sprinkles.
Allow the icing to dry before storing.
These cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container for about 1 week.