What you need: (Original recipe adapted by Aparna from A Baker's Tour by Nick Malgieri)
All purpose flour/Maida - 1.5 cups
Warm water - 1/2 cup
Active dry yeast - 1 1/4 tsp
Unsalted butter - a little less than 2 level tbsp, cold and cut into small pieces
Lemon zest - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Sugar - 1/3 cup
Dissolved the yeast in warm water and keep aside, covered for about 10 minutes until frothy.
Mix the maida, salt and butter together in a large mixing bowl, until crumbly. Add the lemon zest and yeast mixture. Knead to a smooth, pliable dough. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, turning over so that the dough is well coated with oil. Cover and keep aside until the dough rises. This dough doesn't really double, but looks puffy, and when you pinch out a small bit, the inside looks like a honeycomb. Punch down the dough, transfer it to an airtight container or cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or for upto 24 hours. Mine was in the fridge for close to three hours.
Shaping the cookies
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out into an approximately 6 inch square. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into four strips of roughly equal width. Cut each strip further into six pieces, making 24 pieces in all.
Roll each piece into an approx. 5 inch rope. Sprinkle a little sugar on your counter top and roll the rope on the sugar, taking care to coat the dough on all sides uniformly. Make a loop with the rope, crossing it over before the ends.
Place the torcettini on an ungreased baking pan, leaving an inch between them. Keep aside for 15-20 minutes until they rise a little.
Bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees centigrade for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely and store in an air tight container at room temperature.
Note: The original recipe asks that you bake the cookies in a pan lined with parchment paper. However, after reading comments from others in the group about how the caramelised sugar from the bottom of the cookies made them stick to the parchment, making it difficult to remove, I decided to bake them directly in the pan. The cookies could be removed easily from the pan once they had cooled.
These are crisp on the outside the day they are baked, but become softer from the next day. I actually liked them better the day after they were baked.