Christmas baking is at a feverish pace here at our Italian baking headquarters. We are baking fiends after Halloween leading all the way up to the week of Christmas. One cookie that is a staple in our home is taralli al limone, or Italian lemon knot cookies.
You may know them as tarallucci or even anginetti. I remember having them as a little girl at various Italian friends’ houses during the holidays and have fond baking memories of making them as a young girl.
My mom and I would roll out the dough together into the little strands that would be shaped one after another into their familiar knotted shape. It didn’t matter if they weren’t perfect. And now my kids have learned how to bake them with me and with our friends that have Sicilian nonni (grandparents).
Taralli are baked in Italy during Easter in the Southern part of the peninsula. In Sicily, they are baked even at Christmas time. In Sicily you can find them in different provinces and they could be flavored with orange instead of lemon and also with anise.
The taralli I have enjoyed in Sicily are made more like little ciambelle (little ring shapes)instead of knots. The last time I got to enjoy taralli in the winter time was 3 years ago exactly when my dad passed away. We buried my dad in his hometown in Sicily. My cousin Alessio would take us to all of the best pastry shops in his town and around his town and we would try every Sicilian cookie and pastry.
Here below are some of the amazing cannoli I had that January in Sicily when my father passed away. These were made with pistachios that are famous from Bronte, Sicily and sheep’s milk ricotta. Absolutely amazing. My cousin Rosario brought us a box of these cannoli when he came to visit us at my cousin’s house where we were staying. Various relatives passed by to visit us and pay respects and most of them arrived with typical Sicilian sweets.
Here are some more cookies to consider baking for the holidays are any time of they year:
Cuccidati-Sicilian fig cookies
Happy New Year! Buon Anno!
Photos and text updated from 1/2016.
Italian Lemon Knot Cookies-Taralli al Limone
- 4 cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- zest and juice of one lemon I used organic
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus more if necessary
- zest of lemon
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the shortening and the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time; mix well.
- Beat in the milk and the juice of the lemon; mix well.
- Add the flour one cup at a time, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate the flour.
- Refrigerate the dough for one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Line 3 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.
- Scoop out dough a small portion at a time and roll dough to the length of your dough scraper (about 4-inch long).
- Shape into little rings (wrap one side over the other and tuck the ends under the bottom of the cookie).
- Place cookies spread apart on the sheets and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the bottom. (every oven is different. Mine were done at about 13 minutes).
- Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
Lemon Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until it forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more lemon juice if necessary). If it gets too thin, add a little more confectioners' sugar. Drizzle on each cookie, add the sprinkles and let set, about 15 minutes.
- Glaze cookies with lemon glaze and sprinkles.