If you are from an Italian American family with roots in southern Italy and lived in the greater New York area, you know what these are. Anginetti were a part of every family celebration – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Engagements, Weddings, Baptisms, First Communions, Graduations – you name it they were there. These were usually made by the family matriarch, more often than not the grandmother, who began the production line days before the event monopolizing the kitchen table along with every other surface at home. The finished Angenetti were arranged on dollie lined aluminum pie tins, wrapped in cellophane and transported to the party destination to be proudly placed on each table.
Anginetti are also referred to as Lemon Drops, Italian Lemon Drops, Italian Knot Cookies and Rosette; naturally each family has their own coveted recipe. Comparisons were part of the Anginetti culture when I was a child, often citing flavor and texture as key evaluative factors. Skillful grandmothers would quietly perform intense interrogations of family members to assure themselves that their Anginetti were far superior to those of a particular second cousin; after all, hers were “as hard as a rock”.
Ingredients for Anginetti are largely the same in all recipes and include flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, a fat and flavoring. A simple powder sugar glaze and often times sprinkles, topped these homey confections. Historically, butter was not commonplace in the southern regions of Italy which explains why some recipes use oil or shortening. Local flavorings typical of southern Italy such as lemon, orange and anise are most commonly added. Calabrese used black anise seeds from the La Sila Mountains to flavor their Anginetti. We always had a supply of these in our home as Zio Mimi would make the drive to La Sila to be certain that the entire family was well stocked. These seeds have a delicate licorice flavor, unlike any other anise seeds or anise products. Unfortunately, they are not readily available in the United States, but pure anise extract serves as a good substitute.
Anginetti conjure up memories for all who are part of this tradition; they are familiar, comforting, and ever so satisfying. With this recipe you can be part of my tradition, begin your own tradition and perhaps start your own family competition for generations to come.
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Finely grated peel of one lemon
- 2 tsp. pure anise extract
- 6 large eggs, room temperature
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 5 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for shaping
- 6 tsp. baking powder
- 1 pound of confectioners sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. pure lemon or anise extract
- ¼ to ½ cup of cool water
- Colored sprinkles if desired
- Preheat the oven to 350º, line three heavy duty baking sheets with parchment paper. Adjust the racks of the oven to the center top and center bottom positions.
- Combine the 5 cups of flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and stir with a whisk to incorporate.
- Place the softened butter, sugar and lemon peel in the work bowl of a standing mixer. Beat on medium speed until well combined, stopping to scrape down the bowl. Add the anise extract and continue to beat for an additional 2 minutes, scraping the bowl twice during that time.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating at medium high speed for one minute each, scraping down the bowl before adding the next egg.
- With the mixer on a low setting, slowly add the dry ingredients - about 1 cup at a time until combined. The dough should be soft but come away from the sides of the bowl. Dust your work surface with a little flour and turn the dough out onto the work surface. Knead briefly and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Begin forming the Anginetti by taking a small portion of the dough, start with about 1 cup and roll into a rope about ½ inch in diameter. You may need to lightly flour the work surface, however be careful not to add too much flour to the existing dough. Cut the rope into 4 to 4½ segments and begin to form the cookies by looping the small rope and bringing the end under the center to form a knot. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Continue until you have used all of the dough.
- Bake for 7 minutes, quickly open the oven and reverse the placement of the baking sheets. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cookies are lightly colored and have risen. Do not over bake these as the resulting Anginetti will become quite hard. Remove to a cooling rack and begin to prepare the icing.
- Icing: Sift the confectioners sugar into a medium sized bowl, add the fresh lemon juice and extract, stir with a whisk. Slowly add the water as needed to make a somewhat thick but spreadable icing, you may not use the entire ½ cup of water. Have a large rack set over parchment or waxed paper. Using a small spatula, ice the top of each cookie and set on the wire rack. Add colored sprinkles if desired. Allow the icing to harden, the Anginetti can be divided and placed on individual trays & wrapped to be given as gifts, or stored in an airtight container for about 1 week.