Makes about 5 dozen


I have flavored these crispy cookies in many ways over the years, but this combination of lemon and vanilla keeps them light tasting, even though they are fried. You can fry the cookies ahead of time, but dust with the confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Once you’ve scraped the vanilla bean, store it in your sugar canister to make vanilla sugar or freeze it to flavor a custard based dessert another day.


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working the dough
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Combine the butter, granulated sugar and salt in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the milk, egg and yolk, brandy, lemon zest and juice. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean with a paring knife. Process until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour and process in pulses until the dough comes together. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and pulse a few more times to mix thoroughly.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly into a soft smooth ball. If it is sticky, knead in more flour in small amounts. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill for 30 minutes to an hour. (You can keep it refrigerated up to a day, but let it return to room temperature before rolling).

Cut the chilled dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Flatten the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to a rough square shape, approximately 16 inches square. Trim the edges of the square and with the fluted cutter, divide it into 16 strips, about 1 inch wide. Cut across all the strips in the middle to form 32 ribbons, each about 7-inches long (though they shrink after you cut them).

One at a time, tie each ribbon into a simple overhand knot. If necessary, stretch the ends gently so they’re long enough to knot. Place the knotted crostoli on a sheet pan lined with parchment as you work, leaving room between them so they don’t stick to each other. Roll out the second piece of dough; cut and tie ribbons the same way.

Meanwhile, pour vegetable oil in a large pot to a depth of about 3 inches and heat to 350 degrees F. Fry the crostoli in batches until cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per batch, letting the oil return to temperature before frying the next batch. Drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Let the crostoli cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar in a fine strainer just before serving.