Students, faculty and some of the super star lecturers from Cook ‘n Scribble’s fall’s BlogU intensive have put together a fabulous collection of recipes and reminiscences to add to your Christmas cookie repertoire. I’ve doubled every batch, am still baking and have long since run out of tins.
So bake on, Sistahs — and send in your favorites, too — The benefits of a sugar high at this time of year are wildly underrated. — Molly O’Neill
Bake On, Ye Slovaks of Upstate New York
Annette Neilsen lives and writes in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. Her mother’s Slovakian relatives, she said, recreated home when settling in their small town their small upstate town by keeping the home country traditions alive — Sokol gymnastics and theatrical performances, huge Sunday dinners after church and extensive holiday bake-a-thons.
Annette recently posted a piece about strudel-making on her blog, The Kitchen Cabinet. Her mother made cherry strudel, miniature cranberry nut cakes and bite-size kolacki with poppyseed, apricot or prune filling as well as these birds nest cookies for the holidays and her father still delivers plates of these tasties to neighbors for the winter holidays.
Annette adapted her mother’s traditional birdnest cookie in the recipe below, using hazelnuts — yum! — in place of the traditional almonds. She writes: “Our bungalow’s woodstove continued to smolder through Christmas Eve, so Santa’s cookies were traditionally left on the kitchen table with a glass of milk. My mother continued to bake for our big Christams Day meal. The dollop of local jam at the center of these rich Raspberry Hazelnut Cookies, looks a bit like St. Nick’s red nose.”
Raspberry Hazelnut Cookies
You can substitute chopped walnuts or pecans for the hazelnuts, and most any jam will work here, as long as you can strain out large pieces of fruit.
¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), plus 1 tablespoon
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 hard-cooked egg yolks, pressed through a fine mesh
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup raspberry jam
1/8 cup confectioner’s sugar
Yield: 24 cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease sheet pan with additional butter and set aside.
In a large bowl, blend room temperature butter with sugar, egg and egg yolks, vanilla and lemon peel. Add flour and mix thoroughly, lightly working into a smooth dough.
Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into 1 ½-inch balls; roll in bowl of chopped hazelnuts, making certain to lightly press nut pieces into the dough. Place each on baking sheet.
Gently, make an indentation in the center of each piece of dough with your thumb or end of a wooden spoon handle. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for five minutes and fill with approximately a teaspoon of jam. Place filled cookies on platter and use a flour sifter or small sieve to sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.