Czech and Slovak heritage is of great interest to me, given my Father’s family roots. Late 2020, I participated in ‘Czech & Slovak Christmas’ offered through Global Slovakia Academy. It was a wonderful class, offering education of the Slovak advent and holidays, celebrations and food.
The Slovak Honey Cookies are traditional Christmas treats and I had to try them. They are very similar to our traditional Gingerbread cookies, using honey instead of Molasses. They are absolutely delicious and a new favorite for the holidays.
SLOVAK HONEY COOKIES
3 cups (400 g) plain flour
1 cup (140 g) icing sugar
4 tbsp (60 g) butter softened
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 tsp of gingerbread spice mix
3 tbsp clear honey
Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Line a baking tray with paper.
Sift together the flour, icing sugar, soda bicarbonate and spices.
Add butter and honey to the dry ingredients along with the eggs, and mix well to form a soft dough.
Wrap in a cling film and leave overnight in the refrigerator to chill.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of half a centimeter.
Cut out with your desired cookie cutter and place well apart on the baking sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Decorate with icing if you wish.
1 egg white
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Whisk the ingredients together until stiff peaks form.
Add more sugar if needed and have patience.
Spoon your icing into a sandwich bag, twist the bag tightly until the icing wedges into one corner, and then poke or cut a tiny hole into the corner. Make sure your cookies are completely cool before beginning to decorate.
2020 was quite the year, and Easter was no exception. During the lockdown, my daughters and I cooked different things and did a front porch, socially distanced food swap. We each ate our Easter Dinner in our own homes, different than our normal family gatherings.
The following weekend, our neighbor invited everyone in our cul-de-sac to partake in a Greek Orthodox Easter dinner. It was warm enough to gather outside, socially distanced, to celebrate this special day. For the potluck gathering, I made Koulourakia, Greek Easter Cookies. The cookies are a wonderful, orange-flavored butter twist cookie.
They were fun to make and similar in design to the Kringla I make at Christmas. The cookies are especially good with a hot cup of coffee. This year, Greek Orthodox Easter will be May 2, 2021. I may be inspired to make these yummy cookies once again!
KOULOURAKIA GREEK EASTER COOKIES
3½- 4 cupsall purpose flour420- 480 grams (3½ + ½ cup separated) 1½teaspoonsbaking powder 3/4cupgranulated sugar150 grams zest of 1 orange 1/2cupbutter115 grams, cubed, room temperature 2largeeggsroom temperature 1largeegg yolkroom temperature 1½teaspoonsvanilla extractpure 1/4cuporange juicefreshly squeezed 1/4cupmilkroom temperature 1teaspoonouzoor Sambuca (optional)
1egg yolk 1teaspoonwater 2tablespoonssesame seedssprinkled on egg wash
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Place rack in the center of oven. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Sift together 3½ cups flour and baking powder and set aside. The other 1/2 cup of flour is reserved in case we need to add extra flour (see recipe note).
In a bowl of a stand mixture, with the paddle attachment, whisk together the orange zest and the sugar.
Add the cubed room temperature butter and cream together with the sugar until light and fluffy. This can take up to 5 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
Add the eggs, one at a time beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition.
Add the egg yolk and again, beat well and scrape down the bowl.
Add the vanilla extract, orange juice, milk and ouzo (if using). Beat together for 30 seconds.
On low speed, add the 3½ cups of flour and baking powder. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Add a few tablespoons of flour if the dough is still sticky. (Optional: cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes).
With a medium sized cookies scoop, portion and roll into a 7-inch log.
Shape into desired shapes (braids, pinwheels, twists, etc…) Refer to pictures in the post.
Place on parchment lined cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 13 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. (This was too long in my oven. I baked for 11 minutes and probably could have done even less.)
Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to completely cool down.
Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 weeks. Cookies can also be frozen.
A Christmas tradition in our house is to make Kringla, typically flavored with Anise extract. My oldest daughter Megan, likes Kringla, but not the taste of Anise. Lucky for her, I was out of Anise extract and tried Almond Extract instead, and loved the results. I had to double the amount of extract to make sure the Kringla actually carried the almond flavor.
Kringla…hot chocolate…Kolaches (cherry and chocolate)…family gathered in the living room late Christmas morning…what a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas.
Our new tradition…Almond Kringla.
I usually double the recipe and freeze several to enjoy long after the holidays are gone.
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or more to suit your taste)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups flour
Beat egg and sugar together. Add anise extract, melted butter, buttermilk and 1/2 of sour cream.
Mix 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with remainder of sour cream and let sit for about 5 minutes.
Mix together flour, baking powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.
Mix together flour mixture alternately adding egg mixture and sour cream mixture. Dough will be very stiff and you will need to finish mixing with your hands.
Chill dough overnight. Remove 1-2 cups of dough at a time so the dough remains chilled. Take a small piece of dough (size of a small walnut) and roll into a ball and then into a pencil shape. Shape the dough into a pretzel shape and place on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven and then on top rack of oven for 2-3 minutes. Bottom of Kringla should be golden brown–tops may not be brown. (I have found that every oven is different. Mine tends to run hot so I decrease the amount of time on the bottom shelf to 3 minutes.) In a convection oven, I’ve found 5 minutes on the middle shelf to be sufficient.
Cool and store in airtight container. Great warm with butter and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
Guests were coming for lunch on Saturday…what to make for dessert…
The Ghiradelli White Chocolate chips were calling my name. Normally one thinks of White Chocolate with Macadamia nuts but why not pecans. I baked these yummy cookies from the Ghiradelli recipe with delicious pecans. They are slightly addictive so the remaining cookies are in the freezer for a quick dessert another time.
WHITE CHOCOLATE PECAN COOKIES
Yield: 5 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups unsifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (11 oz. bag) white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy.
Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and beat well.
Blend in the flour, baking soda and salt.
Stir in the white chips and nuts.
Drop by teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheets (or lined with parchment). Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Adapted from Ghirardelli Macadamia White Chip Cookies recipe on the back of the Ghirardelli Classic White Chips package
Italian Tony’s Market in the Denver area makes wonderful Pignoli. Pignoli cookies are an Italian American confection, similar to a macaroon and topped with pine nuts. This week I was in search of a recipe I could make them at home. There were many wonderful recipes but this recipe was my final choice. They were fantastic!
12 ounces almond paste
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil; lightly grease the foil.
Mix almond paste and granulated sugar in food processor until smooth.
Add confectioner’s sugar and 2 egg whites; process until smooth.
Whisk remaining 2 egg whites in small bowl.
Place pine nuts on shallow plate. With lightly floured hands roll dough into 1 inch balls. Coat balls in egg whites, shaking off excess, then roll in pine nuts, pressing lightly to stick to dough.
Arrange balls on cookie sheets, and flatten slightly to form a 1 1/2 inch round.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes (watch carefully because each oven and baking pan is different) until lightly browned. Let stand on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Peppermint Buttons are a relatively new family favorite, brought to us by former neighbor. Several years ago Pam shared this recipe with us during one of my Holiday Cookie Exchanges (I must have another one some year soon). It’s easy, refreshing, and soooo yummy.
1/2 cup browned butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
1/2 cup coarsely crushed hard peppermint candies
To browned butter, place butter in an 8 to 10 inch frying pan over medium heat until lightly browned, 5-10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and cool.
In a bowl with a mixer, beat butter with sugar until well blended. Then beat in egg white and vanilla.
In another bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Add to butter mixture. Stir then beat until well mixed. Stir in crushed peppermint candies.
Drop dough in 1/2 tsp portions 1 inch apart onto buttered cookie sheets.
Bake in 350F oven until tops of cookies begin to look slightly cracked and are deep golden, 8 to 10 minutes. If using more than 1 pan in oven, switch pan positions halfway through baking.
With a wide spatula, transfer cookies to racks to cool. If hot cookies start to break, slide a thin spatula under them to release, let stand on pan to firm, 2-5 minutes, then transfer to racks.
Last fall I was attending a gal pal gathering and Forgotten Cookies were served. How in the world have I gone through life without EVER tasting one of these. They are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. They also solve my cookie-baking dilemma of leaving them in the oven too long.
Wouldn’t this be a great recipe when your child remembers to tell you at 9 p.m. that you are supposed to bring cookies to school the next day? Mix them up the night before, pop them in the oven, and TA-DA…they are ready for you in the morning. Hmmm…maybe breakfast that day, too, after all, it does have eggs…
2 egg whites at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until they hold stiff peaks.
Add salt and vanilla. Stir well. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
Cover cookie sheet with foil and grease with butter or margarine. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the foil. Put in oven then turn the oven off. Leave overnight in oven with door closed.