Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pignoli Cookies, Citrus Cookies and Italian Knot Cookies

An Italian Cookie Christmas... Pine nuts, almond paste and citrus make these 3 cookies very Sicilian. The ingredients are so sunny and bright with flavor, they shake up winter.


Pignoli Cookie


I did consider doing a post using grapefruit, cottage cheese and raw carrots. It is possible that your eyes may glaze over if you see one more preparation that includes "cream butter and sugar and add eggs mixing well." But 'tis the season of sweets and during the holidays Italians pull out all the stops. If we're putting together a Cassata, we're contemplating the wisdom of adding panforte to our to-do list. Then there's Ciao Chow Linda's boozy Baba Au Rhum or Proud Italian Cook's Limoncello Tiramsu or What's Cookin' Italian Style's Lemon Polenta Biscotti. You see the dilemma - Italians typically only do sweets on special occasions. But when they do - they do it right. I'm surprised there isn't a Feast of the Seven Dolci!

Even if you're "cookied-out," note these sweets for 2012. The pignoli cookies are classic - delicate almond-flavored puffs studded with pine nuts. The Italian knot cookies are soft, pliable, citrus billows often seen at weddings. And the "S" cookies made with olive oil instead of butter pair very well with Prosecco! Which is my best ringing endorsement for that Sicilian cookie.

Pignoli Cookies (from Tastes of Italia)
For fun: You might also want to try Mister Meatball's "Best Pignoli Cookie"
(makes 30 1-inch cookies)
1 8-ounce jar of almond paste (do not use almond paste that come in tubes - it has a different consistency)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
3 egg whites (keep 1 egg white separate)
1 cup pignoli (pine) nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease baking sheet very well (even better, grease both sides of parchment paper and put it on baking sheet. These cookies bake better if there are no edges on your baking sheet. Cream your almond paste and granulated sugar. Add the confectioners sugar and 2 egg whites and beat until smooth. The dough will be wet and sticky. You can refrigerate to make it a bit easier to work with - I grease my hands. In a small bowl, beat the last egg white. Pour pignoli nuts in another bowl. Grease your hands and pinch off 1 inch of dough (can pinch off larger for fewer cookies). Roll into a lumpy ball and then roll in beaten egg white and then in the pignoli nuts. Place on cookie sheet - two inches apart. They will spread!

For the small 1-inch balls - bake about 12-15 minutes. Larger ones may need a few more minutes. Watch carefully that they do not brown. This are not a crispy cookie - they should be soft and chewy. Cool on wire rack. These are the fussiest of the recipes. But if you sit down and have them with a cup of coffee or an amaretto, they truly are a taste of Italy.




"S" Cookies - 24 cookies
Leave these plain, add sprinkles or brush with a citrus icing (1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, 2-4 tablespoons of milk, 1/8 teaspoon orange extract)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon orange extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your cooking sheets. In a medium bowl, sift (I don't sift) your flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat your olive oil and sugar until a bit fluffy. Add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add your extracts and beat for 45-60 seconds. Add in your flour - about 1/4 at a time and mix well after each addition.

Guess what? The dough will be sticky! Flour your hands and pinch off about an inch. Form into a ball, then a log and then turn your log into an "S." Put on cookie sheet. Repeat - placing your S-dough 2-3 inches apart. If using sprinkles, sprinkle now! Bake for 8-10 minutes. (You also don't want these to brown.) Cool for 1 minute in pan and then transfer to wire rack. If using, brush with icing. Let cool completely and store in airtight containers. These do keep well - at least a week - but they never last longer than 48 hours here (and I hide them!).


Italian Knot Cookies (makes 24) (I think at this point the camera lens was smudged with dough)
The orange scent while baking is a walk is a heavenly bonus. As with the "S" cookies - simply sprinkle with sugar before baking or add confectioner's icing after baking. Or leave plain and have them for breakfast. 

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter - softened and cut into pieces (or in my case - blobs)
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
zest of 1/2 orange
juice of 1/2 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 baking pans. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the zest and juice and briefly mix. Add the flour in 3 additions and mix well. If dough is too sticky, refrigerate for an hour (mine wasn't).

Pinch off a two-inch piece of dough. Form into a ball and then a log - about 8 inches long and  form into a lose knot or simply cross the ends. Space them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes (just until the edges look like they are browning). Can cool in pan. But I cool on a wire rack after a few minutes. 

And an oldie-but-goodie from last year - Ricotta Cookies - creamy, snowy-sweet. Find them here.



And Orange Whiskey Cookies. Also find them here.


If you're in the kitchen a lot consider listening to Holiday Spectacular form This American Life. (It came to me from Brian Ferry's blog The Blue Hour and if you don't know it - you should.) Your baking time will fly by and I am sure everything I baked tasted better because the cookie dough also listened to the stories.

I will be stopping by all of you to wish you soft lights in the solstice, Buon Natale, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah and for the politically-correct among us, you may like the University of Minnesota's mandatory greeting "Happy Winter Celebration." 

May soft hugs, almonds, citrus, and treats be yours during this season of sweets. (And what's an extra 2 pounds among friends?)

52 comments:

Anne said...

This looks yummy as always! I went to a party on Saturday night and made
your recipe with the califlower, carrots, celery, parsley and red peppers with oil and white wine vinegar. I forgot to copy down the name of the recipe. I hope you know what I mean. It was such a success!

Kristen said...

Save the grapefruit and carrots for January. I'll take all of those wonderful sweet treats right now. What a fabulous variety!!

The Food Hunter said...

Oh I've got my eye on those orange whiskey cookies

Ciao Chow Linda said...

No matter how many cookies I make for Christmas, I always want to make more - and your post confirms that. I haven't made pignoli cookies but lucky me, the friend whose recipe I use told me she is making some for me. Diets start Jan. 2.

Jeannie said...

This is the best season to find delicious cookies recipes in the blogs! I am so spoilt for choice! Everything look so delicious!

Pegasuslegend said...

Claudia, you have made me tear up, serious,I love these pignoli cookies, I actually forgot about these, way back grandma made these, she added cherry juice to the dough to make it pink. She was one of those who just threw it in the bowl and it always came perfect! I have to make these in her memory for sure.~ I have everything but the time and will make it! You are so amazing to have added me here, I am beaming with the Christmas spirit and its your continuous support as a blogger in the cyber space that keeps me doing this... I hope you have the best year every with your wonderful spirit of life with you family and friends, Merry Christmas Buon Natale, I only wish someday to meet you... xoxoxo hugs to you.

Lizzy said...

What a fabulous array of Italian cookies! I'd love to sample each one of them...and then hop on the treadmill NEXT week :) Merry Christmas, my friend!

Reeni said...

Oh goodness save me two of each please! I don't mind drowning in Italian cookie goodness. Merry Christmas my dear Claudia! xoxo

Mister Meatball said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mister Meatball said...

Yeah, can never get enough cookies this time of year. I'm up 5 lbs already and many days left before the big one.

Thanks for the mention, and have a very happy Christmas!

natalia said...

Ciao Claudia, you really baked a lot of wonderful cookies !! I'm much behind in my prepararion !

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

All of these cookies look so good and remoind me of ones my mother-in-law made every Christmas, especially the "S" cookies!

I did not bake one cookie this season, Claudia..a first for me! When I came back form visiting my childrena and grandchildren in Colorado I had a cold and no energy. I am also trying to diet for my daughter wedding. Not much success there, as Denver is such a foodie town and we ate a lot of good things during our visit! :) I'll need a good carrot stick/grapefruit diet in January, please!

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

That Girl said...

I'm not cookied out, but I'm still anxious for that grapefruit and carrot recipe!

Cake Duchess said...

There should be a feast for the 7 Dolci and yes, I'm ready for my savory posts on my blog...lol! Your pignoli cookies are just perfect. Buon Natale bella Claudia. xo

Tina said...

Enjoyed the links to this american life as well as the recipes for all these delicious cookies! I have your post marked to come back to so I can save some of these-yum!
Have a Merry Christmas!

blackheartbetty said...

I love this! The cookies look lovely and I bet they taste amazing!

Angie's Recipes said...

I want those pinenut cookies!!! S cookies are so adorable with coloured sugar. I still remember those ricotta cookies you made last December. ;-))
I wish you and your family a happy holiday season!
Angie

Namitha said...

Those cookies look so X'massy :-) Love this season ! Have a wonderful Holiday season !

Island Vittles said...

Merry Christmas, Claudia! I wish you and your family a peaceful week of smiles, laughter and food. Lots of food...Theresa

Kathy said...

Claudia, Love, love love your cookie collection! As I browsed your site I saw the Marsala cookies and know I have to try them. Although I'm not Italian...my uncle was and we baked many of these goodies every year. As I write this my pignoli dough is in the refrigerator waiting for the oven. They are the best! Wishing you and your family a wonderful blessed Christmas.

Cucina49 said...

What a beautiful assortment of Italian sweets! I am particularly loving the look of your pignoli cookies.

Marcellina said...

I love that your camera lens was smudged with dough - mine is always covered in fine dust of flour. Very strange to most people when you pull out the camera for non food photography! Your cookies are wonderful! I love this American traditions of baking cookies! Buon Natale!

Juliana said...

Oh Claudia...can I have some of these cookies, love them all especially the pignoli cookies...
Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones :-)

Rebecca Subbiah said...

fun never had a cookie with pine nuts in them :_) Merry Christmas

Lyndsey said...

I love seeing all these Italian cookies. I couldn't decide if I saw them all on a plate...so I guess I'll have one of each please! Funny, I find I need to wipe the camera off after grabbing it to take a shot of something right in the middle of cooking or baking! :)

Asmita said...

These cookies look and sound fabulous! Very tempting!

Loveforfood said...

The colors and textures in your photos make it look so tempting.

Katerina said...

All cookies look terrific, I would go for the pinenut ones. I bet they taste really great!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Pignoli cookies are one of my all time favorite cookies. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

Beth said...

A grapefruit post would have been great, but this was much prettier!

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too.

tasteofbeirut said...

These look so yummy; we have similar cookies here, like the pignoli, so it is familiar/ still I need to get busy making them!

Monet said...

Italian Christmas cookies are some of my favorites. These all look so very good. Thank you for sharing...we're getting ready to go to Colorado, and I'm glad I got a chance to stop by before we depart. Happy holidays and many blessings!

easyfoodsmith said...

All the cookies are so eye-catching and they all look delicious!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

They most certainly look beautiful to me. Wish they were right in front of me at the moment.

Merry Christmas to you. Eat, eat...

with pleasure

Joanne said...

Aww yay! All of my favorite Italian cookies in one place! I was debating whether to make pignolis or the sesame seed cookies for my mom this year...after seeing yours, I might have to go with pignolis.

Natasha Price said...

Such scrumptious looking festive cookies! Happy holidays!

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing all the delicious cookies, my mouth is watering reading this post! The pine nut ones are my favorite, I can't resist anything with those in them! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas weekend :)!

Pam said...

Love them all and wish I had samples. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Stephanie said...

As a fellow Italian gal, I love this post so much! I will take a dozen of each!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a wonderful array of Italian cookies. I think I might fall in love with the citrus ones.

Happy holidays Claudia.
Sam

Diana said...

Merry Christmas, Claudia! To you and your family may blessings flow. I pray that 2012 brings well-being for us all. And thank you for offering us such wonderful recipes this year.

Debbie said...

I made the "S" cookies today and they are delicious!!! Glad you warned that the dough was sticky..wow....call me flour lady!! Thanks for the great recipe!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Claudia

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

Hugs,

Pat

Lori Lynn said...

As this little Jewish girl visits her friends on the blogs on this Christmas Eve...I am drawn most to Italian Christmas Cookies. Brava Claudia, Marie, Linda, Simona! And more I have yet to visit.
Dearest Claudia - wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy healthy New Year.
Your blogger friend,
Lori Lynn

Barbara Bakes said...

It looks like a delicious Christmas at your house. Wishing you a new year filled with all you favorite things.

Barbara GF said...

If I wasn't so "cookied" out, Claudia, I would break out even more butter and sugar and bake all of these wonderful recipes! And I love the idea of a feast of the seven dolci. :) Buon Anno to you and yours!

sophiesfoodiefiles said...

I hope you celebrated a lovely Christmas with your family & with these outstanding lookking cookies!


Thanks for sharing! :)

Rosemary said...

I'll save for 2012 -- I am cookied out! These are lovely and remind me so of a dear neighbor who taught me to make similar kinds. (Always eaten with wine!) Hope your Christmas was all you wanted!

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

As you very well say...cookies to be tried during the coming year...next week?
The best for you in 2012!! May all your Italian traditions live a long life!

OysterCulture said...

I adore Italian cookies mainly because they are not too sweet. The pignoli are a favorite. Thanks for sharing some gorgeous recipes.

Roz said...

This is one Italian cookie that for whatever reason was never prepared in my family. It sounds and looks so yummy, Claudia! Every time I ask my mother about missing recipes in our Italian family, her continual response is "our families in the Italian mountains were just too poor". I am always loving each and every Italian recipe that I learn from fellow bloggers! Grazie!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wonderful cookies! I never get tired of such goodies.

Happy New Year!

Cheers,

Rosa