We’re walking down sidewalks of Biscotti, along streets lined with Cannoli through neighborhoods with rows and rows of Tiramisu – now we notice the lovely clumps of Farfatelle that dot the lawns in the neighborhoods. Though a simple dessert, these delightful love knot / bow tie shaped cookies make such pretty arrangements. The sugar sprinkled on top of them appears as a light dusting of new fallen snow or even the sparkle seen after heavy dew in the early morning sun. What a lovely sight to behold!
The next stop on our tour of Italian Desserts… Farfatelle… required a fair amount of research. If you search out the term “Farfatelle”, it will likely bring pasta results as this appears to be the Italian name for the popular bow tie pasta we use in so many recipes today. Well, far be it from me to stop there, being the tenacious person that I am! As I kept digging, the illusive “Farfatelle” continued to confound me. Finally! Something came up that lead me to some sparse history on this Italian Dessert. It seems the original name for this cookie was Wandi, which I soon realized is an Americanized term for Guanti, as there is no “w” in the Italian language. The word, Guanti, translates to “gloves” and was so named because the cookie resembles two hands clasped together…hence the OTHER name for this cookie…Italian Love Knot Cookies.
My search for Farfatelle history revealed an old, Catholic tradition called St. Joseph’s Table. Now, St. Joseph’s Day is observed in Italy on March 19, but here in the United States, the celebration of St. Joseph is significantly overshadowed by the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day, the patron saint of green beer. In Italy, however, the Sicilian people feast and re-create the Holy Family. The celebration surrounding St. Joseph’s Table or Buffet originated in Sicily with a banquet provided for “those that St. Joseph would have invited”…the poor, the blind, the lame, the homeless, etc. It is said that the rich prepare the banquet of traditional foods and serve it to the guests. Dinner begins with a play in which villagers portray Joseph, Mary and Jesus at the meal. In Italy, this is a much celebrated feast but here in the United States, one rarely, if ever, hears of it.
Here is the recipe that I found. I doubt, however, that you’ll find it in a cookbook anywhere. It seems that it was pretty much handed down from memory through the generations.
Bow Cookies (Farfatelle)
1 ½ cups flour – sifted
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons of Crisco
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup powdered sugar
Oil for deep frying
Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Using a pastry blender or butter knife, add the Crisco to the flour mixture by using a cutting motion. Do this until the mixture is well-mixed. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly. Turn the dough out onto a floured board or surface and knead until the dough is pliable. The dough should then be allowed to rest for one or more hours.
After allowing the dough to rest, divide it and roll out the dough pieces to an 8 x 10 in rectangle. Now, cut the dough into strips that are 8 inches long and approximately ¾ inch wide. Tie the strips into loose knots.
Heat the oil on the stove or in a deep fryer. Deep fry each knot until it is a lovely golden brown. Remove the knot from the deep frying oil with a slotted spoon or spatula. Allow them to drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle them generously with the powdered sugar.
A variation of this recipe might be to use a cinnamon and granulated sugar combination to sprinkle over them. Colored candy sprinkles could also be used to the increase eye appeal of the cookie.
Enjoy making this cookie with your children. Some good bonding time can be spent preparing the knots for the deep fryer and kids LOVE to sprinkle the sugar…and the mess…well what can I say! A bit of sugar to clean up is a great trade off for the quality time spent with your kids, especially during the Holiday season.