I have never wanted a cookie as badly as I wanted the Italian lemon knots (anginetti) I baked earlier this week. For starters, I spent a year thinking about them after my friend Kathy gave me a few to take home last December. Wow. Then I spent a day last week driving from bakery to bakery to try to buy some. I finally tracked them down at Pallotta’s Pastries in Cuyahoga Falls, arriving just after another customer had wiped them out.
“He bought every last one we had,” the clerk said.
On the way home I stopped at Acme for butter, lemons and white sprinkles. I would make the damn things myself. By the time the first batch came from the oven I wanted one so badly I couldn’t wait to add the icing and sprinkles. Truth: I wanted (and ate) two or three before I iced them.
The cookies are not difficult to make but they do require several steps including zesting and juicing a couple of lemons, making the icing, and rolling the dough for each cookie into a pencil shape and coiling it on the baking sheet. You could just pinch off pieces of dough, roll them between your palms and curve into “S” shapes, as some bakeries do. Or I suppose you could drop blobs of the dough from a spoon if you’re reaaal lazy. At that point you probably should just buy a few dozen from Pallotta’s. They are $13.99 a pound (a couple dozen or so cookies).
Pallotta’s is worth a visit anyway. It is one of the few Akron-area bakeries where everything is still made from scratch rather than from purchased frozen dough. Owner Mike Pallotta’s great-grandfather was the founder of Crest Bakery. Mike is a culinary school graduate, so it figures he would eventually expand beyond baked goods. The shop now has a lovely little dining room where retired Italian guys sip coffee and business people lunch on homemade soups, sandwiches and daily specials such as lasagna. Pallotta and his crew also make homemade raw pasta and pizza dough that is sold by the pound. The website is http://www.pallottaspastries.net.
I regret not loading up on that stuff, but when I visited I was on a single-minded search for the soft, moist, sweet-yet-tart anginetti. I found a bunch of recipes and settled on one from http://www.prouditaliancook.com, adding more real lemon juice and zest and eliminating the lemon flavoring and lemon liqueur in the original. These cookies are the bomb.
(Italian lemon knot cookies)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 cups flour
Pinch of salt
5 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup milk
Lemon icing (recipe follows)
White candy sprinkles
With a mixer or by hand, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in the lemon zest and juice.
In a smaller bowl whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, adding just enough milk to produce a soft dough (you may not need all of the milk). Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap well and chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Pinch off about a cup of dough, refrigerating the rest between batches. Pinch off a walnut-size piece of dough and roll it between your palms into a 4- to 5-inch rope. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, form the rope into a small circle. Loop one end of the rope under the other end and tuck it into the center of the circle (basically making a knot). Repeat, spacing cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. The top of the cookie will not change color, but the underside will be light brown when the cookie is done. Cool on racks before icing and decorating with sprinkles. Store in tightly covered plastic containers with waxed paper between the layers. The cookies freeze well. Makes 5 to 6 dozen.
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
Water if needed
Combine powdered sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl. Stir in enough lemon juice to achieve a thin consistency.
Either brush a thin layer of icing on each cookie, or dip the tops of the cookies in the icing. Immediately sprinkle with white candy sprinkles, if desired. Let stand until icing firms up completely before storing.
If you’ve been longing for a smoker and can get your hands on a 4-drawer file cabinet, you’re in luck. While searching the Internet for lord knows what, Tony found a YouTube video of an ingenious homemade smoker made from an old-school metal file cabinet.
The bottom drawer holds a hotplate and a pan of wood chips for cold smoking, or a charcoal fire for hot smoking. Holes are made in the bottoms of the other drawers for the circulation of smoke and heat. The guy who made the contraption can smoke a couple of racks of ribs, a bunch of chicken and a side of salmon at one time.
And boy, won’t it look spiffy on your patio? To view the how-to, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bPF1hAE1zI.
From Tammy Jo:
In regard to your last blog, Krieger’s Market on Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls carries onion juice and garlic juice (and sauerkraut juice, if the mood hits you).
I have the following question (as one hunting widow to another): Although I can’t discern “violets” in a glass of Cabernet Franc, I can identify microwaved meat regardless of the covert attempts restaurants make to disguise it (sauces, etc.).
My husband insists I am crazy (as he happily consumes piping hot chicken breast left-overs served fresh from our microwave). I have tried all manner of microwave cooking methods – plastic-wrap vaporization, whereby water or broth is infused into said meat using an airtight drum over a glass bowl; the microwave-safe dome (that appears to do nothing more than minimize splatter and aid in clean-up). I STILL taste the mustiness of the microwave. Any suggestions? The future of our left-overs depends on it!
Dear Tammy Jo: Thanks for coming through with a source for onion and garlic juices. Maybe David can try his turkey recipe for Christmas.
As for your leftovers question, I have never tasted mustiness in meat reheated in the microwave. Could the plastic oven walls have picked up the off flavor from other foods? I have to remove funky baked-in odors from my microwave periodically; maybe that would help.
The method I use is to combine 2 tablespoons vinegar with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil in the microwave. Let stand without opening the door for about 30 minutes. Then wipe down the inside of the microwave with soap and water. If that doesn’t do it, I put some baking soda in a small bowl and leave it in the microwave for a few days, removing it temporarily when I need to nuke something.
If off-odors aren’t the problem, maybe you just have an ultra-sensitive palate. You may have to reheat the meat in a regular oven or on the stove. Keep me posted.
From Dorothy G.:
I unknowingly bought dextrose sugar and made an apple cake (which recipe I have been using for over 50 years). It did not come out right, so I made another and that too was a failure. Someone then told me about dextrose. Never again. As you suggest, only buy real sugar. Also, do not buy cheap butter or margarine – like you say, they have too much water in them.
Dear Dorothy: I’m sorry you had to find out the hard way, but at least you now know what you did wrong. Many people have never heard of dextrose-blend sugar, and keep repeating their failures on the assumption a technique is to blame. I’m printing your letter as a cautionary tale to others. When you buy sugar, read the fine print on the package.