This year for your Christmas baking, why not try these traditional holiday cookies from different parts of the world.
Greece – Melomakarona
- FOR THE COOKIE DOUGH
- 1 1/2 cups of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- juice of 1 orange
- 4 tablespoons of brandy
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 cup of Vermouth
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cloves
- 6 cups of all-purpose flour
- FOR THE FILLING
- 1 cup of white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
- FOR THE SYRUP
- 2 cups of honey
- 2 cups of sugar
- 2 cups of water
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- FOR TOPPING
- 1/2 cup of sesame seeds
- Dissolve the baking soda in the brandy.
- Combine the ground cinnamon and cloves in a bowl and mix well for the dough.
- Combine the ground cinnamon and cloves in a bowl and mix well for the filling.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the oil and sugar for about 5 minutes. Add orange juice, brandy with baking soda, baking powder, combined ground cinnamon and cloves, and Vermouth. Continue beating and add two-thirds of the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, beating on low speed until well blended. Change to dough hooks, or use hands when needed.
Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, kneading with hands at the end. Dough is ready when it no longer sticks to the hands, about 5 minutes of kneading (the dough will be oily).
Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl.
Use a handful of dough to make each cookie, forming into a log shape. Flatten it out, place a small teaspoonful of filling in the center and close the cookie, sealing the filling inside, in a long oval shape (see photo). Continue until all dough and filling is used.
Preheat oven to 355°F (180°C).
Place cookies well spaced on a lightly greased or nonstick cookie sheet (or on baking parchment paper). Bake at 355°F (180°C) for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned.
Make the Syrup: The cooled cookies will be dipped in hot syrup, so don’t start the syrup until the cookies are cooled. Combine all syrup ingredients in wide pot (like a deep frying pan) and boil gently for about 15 minutes. Remove the stick of cinnamon. Leave the syrup on the stove over the lowest heat possible during dipping.
Put in cookies (as many as will fit on the bottom in one layer) into the hot syrup and use a spatula if needed to hold them down for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Once the cookies have been soaked, remove them with a slotted spoon, letting excess syrup drip, place on a large serving plate in layers, sprinkling each layer with sesame seeds before adding another layer on top.
Melomakarona are not refrigerated. Cover them well with plastic wrap or store in tins so they don’t dry out, and they’ll last for several days – if they aren’t eaten by then.
Yield: about 3 dozen Melomakarona Cookies with Sesame Centers.
Poland – Kolaczki
1 cup butter or margarine, softened 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 1/4 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt thick jam or canned fruit filling (apricot or prune)
Mix butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and salt. Add in fourths to butter mixture, blending well after each addition. Chill dough until easy to handle. Roll dough to 3/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out 2 inch circles or other shapes. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make a “thumbprint” about 1/4 inch deep in each. Fill with jam. Bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly browned on edges.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.
France – Palmiers
150 g ready-made puff pastry, rolled thinly and cut into a square 100 g sugar 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1 rolling pin 1 spoon 1 baking tray lined with greaseproof paper 1 knife 1 tray
Step 1: Mix the sugar and spice Add the cinnamon to the sugar and mix them together.
Step 2: Coat the pastry Take the pastry and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the top. Then gently spread it out with your hands Finally roll the rolling pin over the surface to press the sugar in completely. Turn the pastry over and do exactly the same thing on the other side.
Step 3: Fold the pastry Fold the longest sides of the pastry inwards by about 2cm, and flatten with the rolling pin. Fold both sides over once more, sprinkle again with cinnamon sugar and roll. Lastly, fold the pastry up completely and roll the rolling pin over for the last time.
Step 4: Slice the pastry Cut the folded pastry into thin strips, making at least 20 individual palmiers. You can discard the untidy ends. Then turn them onto one side and place them on a tray. Put the tray into the fridge and chill for 15 minutes.
Step 5: Bake the palmiers at 390F Remove the palmiers from the fridge and arrange them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave about 2 to 3cm between each one as they will expand and open up to form their ‘palm like’ shape. Don’t leave too much space as they’ll spread out too much. Then place the tray in the centre of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Serve Take the palmiers out of the oven, and transfer them to a plate to cool down. Serve with tea or coffee at breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
South America – Alfajores
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar 2 large egg yolks room temperature
1 large egg room temperature
3 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¾ cup dulce de leche Powdered sugar
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed. Mix until light and fluffy, about one minute. Wipe down edges of bowl and continue beating, while adding egg yolks, egg, brandy, and vanilla. Mix until well combined, about one minute. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. Whisk until light and fluffy. Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter mixture, and beat until combined. Repeat with remaining flour. When done, wipe down sides of the bowl, and beat dough for 30 seconds. Your dough will be soft and pliable. Divide it in half, pat into a disk, and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Chill for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place racks in the middle of oven. On a lightly floured surface, working with one disk at a time, use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a circle, an 1/8 inch thick. With a floured 1 ½ to 2 inch, round cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place cookies ½ inch apart on buttered cookie sheet. Gather remaining dough, pat into disk, chill (if necessary), and repeat. Bake cookies until lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. If baking more than one sheet of cookies at a time, switch baking sheet half way through. Set cookies to cool. Allow them to rest 5 minutes on the baking sheet, before moving them to cooling racks. When cookies are completely cool, about 30 minutes, begin making sandwiches. Flip half the cookies so that the bottom side is up. Dollop the center of each bottom with a generous ½ teaspoon dulce de leche. Spread out dulce de leche, maintaining a narrow edge of cookie. Top with another cookie, making sure that the bottom of the cookie is again touching the caramel spread. Finish cookies with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Makes 40 cookies