December 14: Meringue Cookies

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Note: I got behind because of illness.. Now that I can at least sit upright for more than a few hours, I am catching up. But with that, these are going to be more bare-bones than in the past.

Snowflake Meringue Cookies
(from The Spirit of Christmas Cookbook, Volume 4)

Ingredients:

4 egg whites
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. almond extract
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. cream of tartar
decorating sugar

Directions:

1. Cover baking sheets with waxed paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add powdered sugar, almond extract, cinnamon, and cream of tartar; beat until very stiff.
3. Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip. Make snowflake design. Add decorating sugars.
4. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

I think these may be my kids’ favorites all around. They ask about them more than another cookie. When they smell the batter in the air, suddenly they are three obedient kids who get along fabulously and do any chore I ask of them.

I did something a little different this year. At the end, I put a little gold or white sprinkle pearl at the top of them, just for a little pizazz. And they stuck!

So maybe when these disappear, my kids will at least feel fancier as they snarf them down.

December 1: Oreshki

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Well folks, here we are again at the start of another December. I’m proud to say this is my 15th year doing this crazy cookie thing–it may not have always been documented, but it’s always been baked!

Before I get into today’s cookie, the kick-off cookie, the cookie that starts it all (you get the picture), I want to let you know of a style change I’ll be making. Instead of putting the recipe at the end of the post, I’ll be putting it at the start. Why? Because I’ve *also* scrolled through cooking/baking pages looking for the recipe, just like you do, and it’s annoying. While I hope you stick around and read my color commentary on the cookie at hand, I want to make sure you get what you need out of this first.

Oreshki (from Alonya’s Cooking)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter softened
  • 6 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • FILLING:
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter softened
  • 1 14oz can dulce de leche
  • 1 tsp sour cream

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the filling first, as it needs time to set; beat together the filling ingredients and refrigerate until needed.
  2. TO MAKE ORESHKI: In a medium bowl beat the eggs and sugar until pale and frothy; set aside.
  3. In a separate small bowl beat the butter until smooth then add the mayonnaise and mix to combine. Set aside.
  4. Dissolve the vinegar with baking soda and set aside.Sift together the flour and cornstarch into a large bowl.
  5. Add the egg mixture, butter mixture and soda mixture and beat everything together until a soft dough forms.
  6. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour before handling.
  7. Once dough is cold enough to work with; scoop out 1 teaspoon full of dough into each oreshki mold.Lightly mold in the dough into the cookie iron.
  8. Cover mold with the lid and bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 30-35 min or until golden.
  9. Invert cookies onto a tray and continue to work with remaining dough chilling the dough in-between the handling.
  10. Cool cookies completely before filling.
  11. TO ASSEMBLE ORESHKI: Fill each cookie half with the filling mixture and combine the cookie halves to form a walnut shape cookie.
  12. Refrigerate shells and serve cold at all times. Enjoy!

Okay, now to the good stuff.

So I have a very cool grocery store within walking distance of my house. (Not that I walked there, no, it’s December and I’m not in the South anymore.) It looks boring enough from the outside, like most grocery stores do. However, inside it’s like an international vacation without ever pulling out a passport. They have Asian things, they have Hispanic things, they have Kosher and Hebrew things, and they have Russian and European things.

On this last point, there are a lot of countries in Europe represented here, but there is more Russian/Eastern European things in this grocery store than anything else. (And yes, I know Russian is in Asia.) There’s a large Russian/Eastern European population near where I live…though I don’t know if I’d know this without help of this grocery store.

My point is, they have cool stuff there in other languages that look amazing. I saw these a few weeks ago and haven’t stopped thinking about them.

They looked like walnut shells, but baked, and apparently you fill them with things. As I was contemplating Googling that exact phrase, I saw the name Oreshki on the package and instead Googled that.

I literally saved myself hours in doing that.

I found a number of recipes for this cookie, generally considered a Slavic cookie, and in all of them, the recipe talks about getting a special pan to make these cookie shells. In fact, every recipe I saw talked mostly about how to prepare the cookie part of this, and the filling was mainly an afterthought.

I brought out my Santa mug to soften my first butter of the season.

As I already had the cookie handled, I went straight to the filling. (Though I’m now intrigued with this pan and it’s on my Amazon list.)

Once I found a recipe I thought I could handle, I assembled the filling. In this case, it was literally three ingredients: Dulce de Leche, butter, and sour cream. All things I love.

Mix, chill, and plop.

Or so I thought. I mixed. I chilled. And I plopped…and then discovered I put too much filling in each and had to scoop out a spoonful from half my shells.

Live and learn.

Once I was able to assemble these cookies without a Dulce de Leche lava trail, I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and put them in the fridge. This recipe says specifically to keep them there. I have no problem with keeping these cold, but I live with 2.5 teenagers (my youngest is 12 and a half). Things in the fridge tend to disappear quickly, without a trace, and with no one taking responsibility for the disappearance.

Therefore, these will live safely in the trunk of my car.

Welcome to December 2018!

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So we’ve made it to the end of this crazy year. A lot has changed for me this year–I have graduated from grad school (with TWO masters degrees), packed up the kids and cats and moved 1000 miles to the suburbs of Chicago, and somehow found a job in my field. 

When people ask me what I do for fun, I have to think. I’ve been so used to not having time for hobbies, that I’m lost when this question is asked. However, I realized that this is what I do for fun. I bake cookies. I look for complicated or classic recipes. I collect sprinkles. (Seriously. I think I have a problem.) 

I have been doing this crazy 24 days of cookies thing officially since 2004. I started posting my recipes on Facebook in 2008, and created this website in 2012. I’ve gone through a lot of sugar, a lot of butter, and a lot of my sanity. 

So welcome to this leg of my yearly journey. This year, I’m going to do something different and have at least 50% new recipes. Please tell me what you think, and if you’re following along with me. I love to hear from all of you!