Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to Make ANGEL WINGS aka ITALIAN BOW TIE COOKIES by Cleo Coyle #ChristmasCookies

These delicious, crunchy-sweet cookies, widely known as Angel Wings, brought back many fond memories for our readers when I first posted about them. With Christmas only a few weeks away, please enjoy this re-post of one of my favorite holiday recipes.

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Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Many cultures have a version of these crunchy-sweet fried cookies whether they're dusted with powdered sugar or finished with a drizzle of warm honey. The Polish version is called chrusciki. In Hungary, they are called csöröge. In France, bugnes lyonnaises. In the Ukraine, they're called verhuny.

In Italy, they are known by many names, depending on their region and their shape. In Piedmont, they are bugie (lies); in Lombardy chiacchiere (gossips); in Rome frappe; in Veneto galani or crostoli, and in Tuscany they have three different names cenci (rags); guanti (gloves) and fiocchetti or fiocchi (bows).

My Aunt
Mary Capaccio
While these cookies are traditionally enjoyed during Carnivale in Italy, here in the United States, my family and many other Italian-Americans enjoy them at Christmas and Easter. We also make them for weddings; and if you've ever been to an old-school Italian wedding, then I don't have to tell you about the mountains of cookies on trays provided by cousins, aunts, and grandmothers.

As a little girl, I felt very special when my beloved aunt Mary allowed me to help her with the "bow tie" making process in our family basement. Aunt Mary is gone now, and I miss her very much, but I think of her often, especially when I make these cookies. The smells, tastes, even the sounds bring back our time together in that chilly basement and the warmth of her spirit as she lovingly taught me how to fry up these festive treats.

And so this post is for her...
and for you!

May you cook with love 
and eat with joy, 
~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle's

Italian Bow Tie Cookies 

(aka Angel Wings)


To download this recipe 
in a PDF document 
(with step-by-step photos) 
that you can print, save, 
or share, click here.

Italian Bow Tie Cookies
"Angel Wings" by Cleo Coyle

Makes about 4 dozen cookies


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (+ ½ cup more for kneading and rolling) 
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt) 
2 large eggs 

4 tablespoons water (*see my note below) 
6 tablespoons butter melted and cooled
  (the melted butter must cool a bit or you'll cook the eggs)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract (or 2 teaspoons lemon zest) 
1 egg white for "gluing" the bows

*Note on the water: While my family uses water in this recipe, some bakers use alcohol instead. If you like, you can replace all or part of the 4 tablespoons of water with alcohol. Options include grappa, wine, brandy, Marsala, rum, anisette, and whiskey. 


Step 1 – Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and water very well. Add the melted (and cooled!) butter and whisk again. Finally whisk in the pure vanilla extract and lemon extract. (The lemon extract may curdle your mixture a bit, but continue whisking and you should be able to blend it smooth.) Now stir in the flour mixture that you set aside, a little at a time until a dough forms. 

Step 2 – Knead the dough: At this point, the dough should be formed but very wet and sticky. Using your hands, knead in the remaining ½ cup of flour, a little at a time, to rid the dough of stickiness. You want the dough to be soft and smooth and relatively dry, but be careful not to over-knead it. After a minute or two of kneading, you should be ready to roll—literally! (Note: I find a short resting period for the dough makes it easier to work with. If you have the time, allow it to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. You can use the time to clean up your kitchen. :))

Step 3 – Roll out the dough: On a well-floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thin layer—the thinner your layer, the crispier your cookies! You can even use a pasta rolling machine to do this job if you have one. 

Step 4 – Slice dough into ribbons: After the dough is rolled flat, you’re ready to cut. A fluted roller is traditional, and although I have one, I’m using a pizza cutter in my photos because most US kitchen have one. First neaten up the edges of the ragged dough by creating a large rectangle. Then slice the dough into long strips 1-1/2 to 2-inches wide. Slice these strips crosswise to get ribbons of about 4-inches in length. 

FYI - This rectangle of 24 ribbons represents half the amount
of the entire recipe. In other words, roll out a second rectangle
of another 24 ribbons and you've got your 4 dozen cookies.
OR you can wrap the other half of the dough in plastic
and save it in the refrigerator for another day.
Step 5 – Form ribbons into bows: Place a bit of egg white in the center of each small strip—this will act as glue. Pinch the centers together to form a bow. To really secure it, I fold that pinch over one more time; otherwise, it may release during frying. 

Step 6 - Fry the bows in hot oil (see a few tips below). Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out and allow them to drain on paper towels. While still warm, generously dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar on both sides, or drizzle with warm honey.

Cleo's tips for frying: 

* Rather than a deep pot, I like to use a large skillet for frying the cookies. I fill it with only about 1-1/2 to 2 inches of oil, and this works wonderfully (see my photos). Using the smaller amount of oil allows me to change the oil more often during the cooking process. Keeping the oil clean is important to the taste and look of the final cookies.

* Be sure the oil is hot enough before you begin frying. A small drop or two of water should sizzle and dance on the oil. If it doesn’t, keep heating. 

* Test the oil with a small piece of the cookie dough. The dough should not sink for more than a few seconds. It should very quickly inflate in the oil and rise to the top. If it does not, again, your oil is not hot enough. Continue heating or turn the heat up a bit.

* You are watching for the cookies to puff up, float to the top of the oil, and fry up to a light golden brown and not dark brown. This distinction makes a big difference in taste and texture. Flip them once or twice. Don’t overcook them. * When the oil begins to turn brown and shows lots of sediment, it’s time to change it. Dispose of all the oil, wipe out the pan, begin a new batch with completely fresh oil and...

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Free recipe PDF
Click here to download
the free PDF of this recipe.

* * * * 

Photo Strip for Pinterest

* * *

Eat with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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  1. What wonderful memories.
    And, as always, amazing pictures showing each step.

    1. Thanks, Libby. This post was truly a labor of love. Always a pleasure to see you in the Kitchen. Have a great week...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. I am always nervous about frying things, but these cookies are so adorable they might tempt me to break out the hot fat! My husband's family is Polish, so I'm always looking for Polish recipes.

    1. Wendy - I grew up in Western PA with many Polish and Eastern European families. They called these "chrusciki" (croos-chick-ee). Slightly different shape but same idea of dough rolled flat, cut, fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. Excellent with coffee or tea and amazing when eaten still slightly warm. Thanks for dropping by today and enjoy the holiday season!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. I'd forgotten about these! Thanks for the memories. My grandmother used to make these every Christmas. She also made this other confection--perhaps you know the name of it. She formed dough into really small balls, piled them all on top of each other and then drizzled honey over the mountain of tiny treats. You pulled it apart with your hands to eat it.

    1. Peg - That's lovely to hear and what your grandmother made was struffoli. A few years back, Marc and I had a good time writing a scene with Clare Cosi trying to balance homemade struffoli on her lap during a wild ride from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island. It appeared in our first holiday-themed Coffeehouse Mystery, HOLIDAY GRIND, and it’s a recipe I hope to share here on the blog one day, too. It's wonderful to have those good foodie memories, isn't it? Especially around the holidays...

      Thanks for dropping in today, Peg, have a great week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. I should have said she fried the small balls of dough first!

    1. No worries, I knew exactly what you were describing - struffoli. We have an Italian family bakery just up the street and they sell these every Christmas season. Great to just put the platter down with a pot of coffee and share and enjoy!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Cleo, your photos are always so fabulous. These sugary little bows look delectable--I'm just not sure I have to talent to make them! Thanks for a great recipe ~

    1. Linda - aw, thanks for the nice words. The post and photos were a labor of love. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Mouthwatering! Thanks, Cleo. Love the lore of the cookies too.



    1. Making them brings back wonderful memories for me, MJ. So happy you dropped in today, thanks for the sweet comment, and have a great week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. Mary Jane took the word right out of my mouth – mouthwatering! Your photos are fabulous.


    1. I wish I could share the cookies with you right now, Krista. I'll put the coffee on. :) Thanks for the nice words and have wonderful week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. I might have to make some of those cookies soon. They look so tasty.

  9. Great recipe!!!! Luv the precise instructions & the pictures!! One question...can I refrigerate the dough? If so, how would I handle the dough before frying? Would I let it get to room temp?

    1. Debra - Thank you kindly, and in reply to your question. Yes, indeed you can refrigerate this dough. Be sure to wrap it well in plastic to keep it from drying out. I would suggest using it in 24 to 48 hours for best results. And, yes, allow it to warm up a bit before working with it. Most doughs become hard when refrigerated, and this dough will, as well.

      I hope that helps and I hope you enjoy the cookies!

      Warmest wishes,
      ~ Cleo Cleo Coyle on Twitter

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