Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gluten Free Italian Knot Cookies

Both my husband and I had Italian grandmothers who make incredibly delicious Christmas cookies.  The Italian knot cookies made by Mitch's Mammaw were always a favorite of mine before my celiac diagnosis.  This week, I decided to make a gluten free version of Mammaw's knots.    

My father-in-law sent me a picture of Mammaw's recipe, and Mitch and I spoke to her on the phone to try and decipher it.  I then read a bunch of knots recipes online.  I even found a recipe for gluten free knots, which you can view here.  

In the end, I combined a variety of ideas from several recipes, and used Cup4Cup as my gluten free all-purpose flour.  The dough came together nicely in my mixer.

My first batch of knots was huge!  By the time I made this last tray, I was weighing my dough and making cookies of uniform size.  

I regretted adding food coloring to my icing.  I should have left it out, or added another drop or two for a more vibrant pink color.  As far as taste goes, I was really happy with my knots, and my daughters loved them.  They were a little lighter than Mammaw's cookies, but they tasted like her knots, even though I changed the recipe a bit.

Gluten Free Italian Knot Cookies


350 g (2 1/2 C) gluten free all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup) - plus more for rolling
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter - softened
100 g (1/2 C) granulated sugar
3 large eggs - room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

240 g (2 cups) confectioners sugar
1/4 C lowfat milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
optional - food coloring
optional - colored sprinkles (nonpareils)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and cover three large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium size bowl.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl.  Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing and scraping down the bowl until combined.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients.  Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 30 seconds.

Break off grape-size pieces of dough (12 g), roll them in a little bit of flour, then roll them between your hands until you form skinny logs about 4 to 5 inches long.  Twist each log into a small knot, and place them on your baking sheets about one inch apart.

Bake for 8 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned and firm.  Transfer knots to a cooling rack.

When the cookies have cooled, combine the confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth.  Optional - add food coloring.  Dip each knot in the icing, coating the entire cookie.  Place the cookies back on the cooling rack, with the parchment paper you used on your baking sheets underneath, to catch any icing that drips down.  Optional - add sprinkles.  Allow the icing to set for at least 2 hours before storing your cookies in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes

I measured all the ingredients listed in grams on my kitchen scale.

This recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies.

When I originally wrote this recipe, I used 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in the icing, but 1 teaspoon should be plenty.  I have considered making an orange icing for the knots, similar to the glaze I use on my Mexican chocolate orange muffins.  It contains powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, orange juice, and orange zest or peel.

Mammaw makes her knots ahead of time and freezes them, which you can do with these cookies as well.  I freeze all the knots we don't eat that first day between sheets of parchment paper. We like to eat them straight out of the freezer, without defrosting them, which is what we always did with Mammaw's cookies when we used to visit her house in Pittsburgh.

Cup4Cup contains xanthan gum.  If you use a flour blend without it, you will have to add 2 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum to the recipe.  

December 30, 2013 Update

My inlaws were just in Pittsburgh, and brought back some of Mammaw's knots, as seen in this picture.  In a head to head taste taste, my inlaws and my husband liked mine better because they were lighter.  Shhh....don't tell Mammaw!  :-)

December 4, 2015 Update

Here are some updated pictures from 2015, without food coloring in the icing.  They would be so cute with some sprinkles, but my daughters don't like them, so I had to keep my knots plain.

November 30, 2017 Update

Earlier this year, I taught a gluten free cooking class during Jan Term for a week at our school. My students and I made knots, and added Let's Do Organic Confetti Sprinkelz. My daughters actually liked them, so we plan on making them with sprinkles for Christmas this year. 


  1. Can’t wait to make these! My grandma called hers Anginettes, but these are definitely the same!