Monday, December 9, 2013

cookie memories

Last year my husband was raving about his favorite Christmas cookie.  It was a cookie that his late Grandmother made every year.  To hear him talk about it, she made tin after tin of these and they were everyone's favorites.  He was able to ask his Dad a few questions about the recipe. Turns out no one had the recipe and Grandma likely never used one after doing it from memory all those years.  But I was told that the dough was made with cream cheese that it was a Russian cookie.  It was rolled with walnuts in the middle and coated with powdered sugar.

Going on this information, I did a little research and was able find quite a few recipes that matched this description.  Turns out this cookie is very common and there is a version of it in Germany, Russia and Poland.  It's called a kolacki or kolacky, which essentially means cookie.

I set to work last year attempting to recreate this special memory for Justin.  Last year he got a little misty biting into the Polish Kolackis I made.  They tasted like the best of his childhood Christmas memories and I couldn't have been happier.  He packaged them up in a air tight container because the longer they sat and softened, the more they tasted just right!

The Polish Kolacki has joyfully been added to our Christmas cookie line-up and I made them a little bit earlier this year so Justin can enjoy them and "age" them throughout the next two weeks so they are just right for him.

The dough is very simple to make and the walnut filling is basic as well.  The challenging part of this cookie is the assembly.  I believe it's supposed to be more rolled and tube-like than the ones I am making.  I found baking them at a higher temperature prevented the dough from flattening a bit but I'm still working on the presentation.  They sure taste good!

Super excited for Justin to get home from work today and have his special cookies waiting for him.

Sara's attempt at recreating Grandma's Polish Kolacki recipe
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (1/8 at high altitude)

Walnut Filling
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar (1/4 brown ¼ white)
2 cups ground walnuts
1 tablespoon butter

Dash of vanilla
Pinch of salt

Powdered sugar for rolling/dusting

Walnut Filling: In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cook over low heat just until the butter has melted. Cool before using or store covered in the refrigerator and rewarm slightly when ready to use. 

In a large bowl, mix butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, and add to butter mixture, blending well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. 

Heat oven to 370 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust work surface with equal parts granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar. Take dough out of refrigerator and roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a pizza or pastry wheel, cut into 3-inch squares. 

Place a rounded teaspoon of filling  at one corner and roll away from you (no need to tuck in the ends). Place seam side down on the baking sheet and shape into a crescent. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake 12 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Cool completely and store covered. Dust with confectioners' sugar when ready to serve. 

I regret not making notes about this recipe last year.  I'm certain I discovered these things last year but since I didn't write them down I had to discover them all over again.  

The dough gets sticky very quickly and you need to use powdered sugar on your work surface instead of flour.  

The thinner you can get the little squares, the better.  I also like working with

2 inch squares better.

Use a very small amount of walnut filling because it oozes out of the ends.  

Definitely bake them with the seam side down or towards the side. If you don't the corners spread open.  

Some of my ugly first attempts today.  Could have been avoided with notes from last year.

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