Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cats' Eyes Cookies

This recipe is, as far as its ingredients and initial procedures are concerned, the same as for Harlequin. And so it is sometimes convenient to make both kinds of cookies at the same time. These work well for children (and grown ups) who would enjoy apricot layer cookies, but without the walnuts that are in Harlequins.


150 g sugar (5 1/2 oz)
300 g butter (10 1/2 oz)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
400 g all purpose flour (14 oz; plus some additional flour for dusting the workspace)

Mix together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the egg, baking powder, and flour. 

Make the dough into a big ball, then divide it in 4. 

Put it in the refrigerator, covered with a paper towel, for 30 minutes or until it is cooled, but not crumbly. Take 1 ball out and stretch it on a floured work top with a rolling pin and make a rectangle 5mm (about 1/5 of an inch) thick. Try not to use a lot of flour, since that will change the consistency and the taste

Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. Place them all evenly on a lightly greased baking tray.

After they are on the baking tray, use a thimble to cut holes in the center of half of the circles.

Gather up the dough left behind from cutting around the large circles as well as the holes, and combine it back into a ball. Place that ball in the fridge and take an already-cooled ball from the fridge to work with next. Keep going like this until you are done with all the dough, including the leftovers.

Bake them at 350° F/180° C for 10 minutes or until they are lightly brown. Let them cool for just a minute, and then pushing them gently with your finger, transfer them to a cooling rack. Once one batch is cooled, you can stack them to make room for the next batch. 

Using a spoon, place apricot jam on the cookie circles without holes.

Then place a cookie circle with a hole on top.

You'll probably end up with around 50 assembled cookies, more or less, depending on the thickness of the dough.

Dust the assembled cookies with powdered sugar.

Enjoy! These cookies should stay fresh if kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, even for a couple of weeks. But if you like them crunchy, eat them sooner rather than later, since the jam will soak into the cookies over time.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Vanilla Walnut Crescents

From all the cookies I have tried making, these are among the best from a variety of perspectives: they are loved by everyone, the favorite of many, and relatively easy to make. The recipe is based on one that I found in a Romanian cookbook by Silvia Jurcovan, Carte de Bucate (Bucuresti: Editura Tehnica, 1983, p.437).

The quantities and temperatures given must be followed precisely - they are not "more or less." For that reason (and not just because the metric system is more widely used) I will give the quantities in grams. 

250g All-purpose flour
200g unsalted butter
100g finely-ground walnuts
 70g powdered sugar 
   1 packet vanilla sugar
Plus roughly another 100-150g of powdered sugar to coat the cookies in after they are baked.

Vanilla sugar is not widely used in the United States, but most international stores sell it. If you don't have it, you can substitute by adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence in the dough. 

In a large bowl combine the butter, 70g sugar, and vanilla sugar together until the mixture is fluffy. Then add the flour and walnuts and mix them by hand until the dough sticks together.

Place the bowl with the resulting ball of dough in the refrigerator, covered with a sheet of wax paper. It should stay in the fridge for half an hour or until it is hardened. Then remove the dough from the fridge. Break off pieces and shape them into golf ball sized balls. Then put most of them back in the fridge to stay cold, taking just a couple at a time to work with.

On the wax paper, roll each ball with your hands until they are lengthened into long sticks.

Cut the sticks into pieces 2" in length.

Curve the pieces into crescent shapes and place them on a baking tray (in most cases you will need to lightly grease the baking tray with butter).

Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Place one baking tray with the crescents in the oven for 10-12 minutes. They should be lightly brown, as seen in the picture below.

After removing them from the oven, do not let them cool for more than 2-3 minutes. Then move them gently with your finger to ensure they do not stick to the baking tray. They are very fragile while warm! 

Roll each cookie through powdered sugar until it is evenly coated and place it on a serving tray.

They taste better after they have cooled, but once you know how good they are, it can be hard to be patient!