janradder: (Default)
In the Netherlands, speculaas are a traditional cookie made each St. Nicholas Day. To make them, you need something called a speculaasplank, which is a hand-carved wooden mold. This is mine:

It belonged to my Dutch great-grandmother, and I believe it could be close to a hundred years old now (though I could be wrong -- either way, it's old). If you don't have a speculaasplank, you can use a ceramic mold or even roll the dough out and use a cookie cutter. Anyway, here's how to make them:

1 cup softened butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 t grated lemon zest
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 T cinnamon
3/4 t ginger
1 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
1/8 t baking soda
2/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds
vegetable oil for molds
flour for dusting molds

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients (except oil and flour for dusting molds, of course). Slowly beat in dry ingredients until just blended. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

And now is where you start to wonder why you ever started making the damn cookies . . . )
janradder: (Default)

(The picture isn't mine, by the way, but this is how they should look)

Of all the dishes and cookies I make for Christmas, chrusciki (hroos-CHEE-kee) have to be the biggest pain of ass of them all. Mixing up the dough for the cookies is easy enough. It's rolling them out thin enough that's the problem. But when you make them right and the chrusciki literally melt in your mouth, it makes all the trouble almost seem worth it. This recipe comes from my grandmother, who got it from her mother, who got it from their next door neighbor in Union City, CT, Mrs. Karaba.

6 egg yolks
6 t sugar
2 t sour cream
1-1/2 oz. apricot brandy (or plain brandy if that's all you have)
2 cups flour

Beat yolks and sugar, add cream and brandy. Add flour and mix until workable. Cut the dough in half. Leave one half under a damp cloth and put the other on a board dusted with flour.

Now here's the hard part: roll it to within an inch of its life and then keep rolling it some more. Don't stop until it is as close to paper thin as is humanly possible (leave it too thick and they're no good).

When the dough is as thin as you can get it, cut it into long thin strips (about 3 inches long). Cut a slit in the middle of each strip and pull one end all the way through it so that you have something that approximates wings. Fry the strips in fat (or vegetable shortening) about 5-10 seconds on each side (don't let them brown). Drain the cookies on paper towels. Right before serving, dust them with powdered sugar.

Jan Hagels

Nov. 22nd, 2009 01:56 pm
janradder: (Default)
No,not a person -- a Dutch cookie. In Dutch, they mean (loosely) Johnny Hail. They were my Opa's favorite, and are quite easy to make.

1 c butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 c flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1 egg white
1 t water
8 oz. sliced almonds
rock sugar

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Beat butter sugar and egg yolk until fluffy, then stir in flour and cinnamon. Spread the dough across the bottom of a jelly roll pan. Beat egg white and water until frothy and spread over the top of the dough. Sprinkle almond slices and rock sugar on top of the egg whites. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, slice into small squares or diamonds while still hot, and let the cookies cool in the pan before removing.
janradder: (Default)
Today the boys and I mixed up a batch of pfeffernüsse dough. It's currently chilling in the fridge -- we'll bake them tomorrow. This is always the first of the Christmas cookies I make since they get better with age (they're kind of hard at first, but they soften as they sit in the canister, and the spices get a bit stronger). Here's the recipe (from a book called Christmas Cookies: Classic Recipes):

3 1/2 c. white flour
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground cardamom
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 c. softened butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
powdered sugar

Mix the first 9 ingredients in a bowl and set it aside. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the molasses and egg. Slowly add the flour/spice mixture and beat at a low speed until the dough forms (you'll have to scrape the sides a lot -- the dough is fairly dry. Also, you'll have better luck with it the slower you add the flour mixture). Shape the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (you supposedly can leave it for up to 3 days but I've never tried).

Preheat oven to 350˚F and grease the cookie sheets. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls (if you've left it in the fridge for longer than 30 minutes, let it warm up for about 10 minutes before rolling them into balls -- the muscles in your hands will thank you) and place them about 2 inches apart on the greased cookie sheets (you'll have enough dough to make about 5 dozen cookies or more)

Bake 12-14 minutes (or until golden brown). Cool cookies on racks and dust them with sifted powdered sugar.


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