Knotts or Gumballs are knotted and shaped biscuits. The recipe comes from The Reverend Henry Fairfax, rector of Bolton Percy near Tadcaster, who took over the compilation of a receipt (recipe) book, which his wife, Mary Cholmeley, brought with her on their marriage in 1626. He added to this original collection of culinary and medicinal receipts and compiled an index.
Henry Fairfax’s Recipe From 1626-1635
Take 12 Yolkes of Egges, & 5 Whites, a pound of searced Sugar, half a pound of Butter washed in Rose Water, 3 quarters of an ounce of Mace finely beaten, a little Salt dissolved in Rose Water, half an ounce of Caroway-seeds, Mingle all theise together with as much Flower as will worke it up in paste, & soe make it Konttes or Rings or What fashion you please. Bake them as Bisket-bread, but upon Pye-plates
Knotts Or Gumballs Biscuit Recipe
- 500 g Plain Flour
- 160 g butter
- 1/2 tbsp rosewater
- 200 g sugar
- 5 egg yolks beaten
- 2 egg whites beaten
- 2 tsp caraway seed
- 1/2 tsp ground mace
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the sugar glaze (optional)
- 250g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp water
Beat the butter with the rosewater, then cream with the sugar. Beat the egg whites, then the yolks, add the yolks to the whites, then the seeds, salt and spices, whisk, then add in the butter and sugar and whisk it thoroughly.
Add the wet ingredients into a bowl with the flour then work it into the flour to make a stiff dough. Leave the dough to rest for fifteen minutes covered in the fridge. Turn out the rested dough onto a floured work surface. Cut into similar sized pieces, big enough for each shape.
Make into long rolls about 5 mm in diameter, and form into knots, rings, or plaited strips (or roll flat and cut out heart shapes etc.) before baking on a lightly greased baking sheet for 20-30 minutes at 190 C. These can also be baked on a bakestone or flat griddle (or a ‘pie plate’).
Sugar Glaze Note: Tudor and Stuart biscuits were often given a sugar coating or glaze, and this works well with these biscuits. It is important when working with this icing to keep it covered as much as possible as it dries out very quickly. If the icing is too runny it will run over the sides of the cakes; too stiff and it won’t spread nicely. So, for the right consistency first test the icing by lifting your spoon and letting the icing drip back into the bowl. The proper consistency is when the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface for about 5 seconds before disappearing. It will stiffen up a little more when left.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg white with the water until combined. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as this ‘royal icing’ hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use. Drizzle or spread the icing over the biscuits.
Knott and Gumball Shaped Biscuits: It is best to decide on the shapes you are going to make beforehand, draw some knot patterns or print some off that you find etc. and use them as a helpful guide.