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.
3/4 lb. margarine or butter
3 1/2 c. flour
8 oz. cream cheese
pinch of salt
Solo filling of your choice, like Raspberry, Cherry, Almond, or Apricot
Allow shortening and cream cheese to soften before beginning. Mix cream cheese and butter; gradually add flour and salt. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Set out 1 hour before rolling out. Roll very thin (1/4″), cut, fill, and press seams closed. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.
I’ve never made kolaczki before, because as I’ve said before, my family has about as much cultural heritage as a piece of loose leaf paper. Though I have enjoyed these through the years. Fruit filling? Powdered sugar? Yes and yes.
Man Friend’s mother had this recipe, typed, that she would make at Christmas. She was nice enough to share it with me a few weeks ago.
I consider myself pretty good at the cookie baking. Every now and then, one challenges me. And these were challenging for me.
Here’s why–I have no sweet Polish or Hungarian or Czech grandmother to show me how to make these. I had two grandmothers, both lived a 1000 miles away, and while one definitely could bake, the only thing I ever saw the other make was a reservation. And I don’t remember really being around Granny (the baking grandmother) before Christmas. (Not that she made kolaczki…but she would make delish southern things.)
I had a heck of a time getting these to stay closed. After two trays and many words I wouldn’t want my children to say, I finally looked up a video on how to fold these. There’s water involved to have them stick together, and way less filling than I was hoping for.
And no, I took no pictures of my failures. But they were delicious just the same.
Now, one word on filling. Jam and preserves still seep out the cookie, so use the Solo filling. Also, as much as I love almond things, almond filling — at least in this cookie — tasted the way play-doh smells. And no one wants that!
Yeah, I took the lazy way out this time in putting this recipe up. But, I think there’s a lot of character here too. As I was with Man Friend at his parents’ home for his birthday and his mom and I talked about cookies, she pulled out this recipe and let me take a picture of it. She said (if I’m remembering correctly…again, there was some wine involved) that this was an old one she remembers her mother making. “I mean, this was typed,” she said to me.
For those of you that don’t know this, before computers, there were typewriters. You might see some with bearded men wearing skinny jeans at Starbucks. But before they were retro-cool like that, they were just…necessary.
Anyway, I made these and remembered the importance of reading ahead. More on that later.
First of all, this recipe starts with a pastry blender. If you don’t have one, you can use a couple of forks. You cut the butter into the flour, making tiny little crumbs of butter covered with flour, if you’ve done it right. You do the same thing for biscuits, some pie crusts, basically anything with high amounts of butter in it.
I cube my butter first, which essentially means I make a cut down the length of the stick of butter, then flip it on its next edge and do the same thing. Then I cut the stick like I would to get a pat of putter. Ouila. Butter cubes.
This recipe is called sour cream cookies for a reason. As you’d imagine, there’s sour cream in it. I love sour cream. It’s probably my favorite food. A half cup of sour cream and an egg yolk mixed together goes into the flour and butter crumbs. Butter’s also a favorite food; so far, this recipe has allllll the right moves.
Once it’s all combined, it goes into the fridge. I didn’t do overnight, nor did I split it into 4 different sections. When I was mixing together the fillings, it took me longer than I’d like to admit to understand that this recipe lists three different types of fillings. Not all together. Reading: it’s not for everyone!
I pulled it out of the fridge and rolled it to a 10 inch circle. Then I tried to put all of the brown sugar mixture in it on one go. Note: don’t do this.
When in the oven, some of the cookies expanded and unrolled and, while super tasty, aren’t quite what you are supposed to get.
Man Friend’s mother said these are almost like Rugalach cookies, and that was important when I was rolling them up. I used a pizza cutter instead of a fluted pastry cutter, mostly because it’s 2019 and even I don’t have a fluted pastry cutter.
I rolled them up like crescent rolls and put them on the tray.
And then I tried it with the other fillings. The one with apricot and nuts was exceptionally good, especially since I wasn’t planning on liking it. It’s definitely an old school filling.
There’s no sugar in this dough, so the filling makes up for it. In the brown sugar, it’s evident. But in the apricot preserves it’s not as apparent. But there’s a good amount in there, which I was worried about.
However, I will also warn you, dear readers, to not try to use regular old strawberry preserves, straight from the generic aisle at the grocery store. I did. And those cookies looked like a homicide. I ate the evidence. There’s just not enough fruit in there to make the cookies hold together and not bleed. Bleed strawberry jelly, of course.
A sprinkle of sugar on the tops and they go in the oven. I would make these again, happily, and would do so knowing my kids won’t touch these with a 10 foot pole. Those are my favorite kinds. They just don’t know what they’re missing!
Whenever I do the December cookies, I’m always a tad jealous of families with rich cultural backgrounds who have some recipe or tradition that goes back to the old country, and it just isn’t Christmas without whatever it is.
My family, while cool and crazy (putting the “fun” in dysfunction), is about as cultural as a bag of microwave popcorn. Both of my parents are the youngest (or almost…my mom is the 8th of 9 kids) in their families. Three out of four of my grandparents were the youngest in their families. One of my grandfathers was born in 1888. (Seriously.) I do genealogy as a hobby, and I can tell you that my family has been in America a long, long time. Any cultural traditions from Ireland, England, Hungary, or Germany have long been lost.
However, I do know that I’m 50% Ashkenazi Jew genetically from my dad’s family. My grandfather converted in the 40s, and again, there’s no cultural influences from that side of the family either. Years ago when my beloved Aunt Barbara died, we went to her celebration of life and I met my Jewish relatives–cousins of my dad and aunt. And they were loud, talkative, bubbly, and tad strong-willed–just like me. I was like, “Where have you been all my life?!” Since then, I’ve been curious about this part of my heritage. When we moved this summer, we happen to settle in a part of the Chicago suburbs with a high Jewish population, and my kids are learning way more about our heritage than I ever have. (My daughter even went to a Bat Mitzvah a couple weeks ago, and holy cow, that party was bigger than my wedding!)
Making Hamantaschen today is my way of celebrating this part of my cultural heritage. Yes, I get the irony that I’m making a traditional Jewish cookie as the first day of my Christmas cookie baking. Life is full of these sort of juxtapositions.
The recipe for the dough was pretty simple. A stick of butter and some sugar, creamed together until creamy, and then an egg, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest.
Also, let’s take a moment to admire my new Kitchenaid bowl. I’ve been wanting another one for a few years, and finally decided to invest in one. Let’s not admire the mess around it. I made a batch of royal icing for other cookies and haven’t cleaned up the powdered sugar quite yet.
The lemon zest made this dough really pop. I actually zested way more than the 1 teaspoon needed and put the rest in a prep bowl for later use.
After I put the rest of the ingredients in, I put it in the fridge to chill. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of flour, but I ended up with 1 3/4 cups because with the 1 1/4, it looked like cake batter.
After being the fridge for about an hour, I took it out and rolled it. I also had to put Zelda (one of our cats) away because she kept trying to steal some dough. I don’t really blame her, as this dough is pretty amazing.
The recipe calls for using a round cookie cutter, and I don’t have one. I used a drinking glass instead, and I think it turned out okay, if not a little large. More on that later.
I only got about a dozen cookies, which should have tipped me off that I made them a tad too big. Hamantaschen are traditionally filled with poppy seed filling, which I bought. I also bought almond filling (my favorite), and I also tried a sweet canned pitted dark cherry and some fresh blueberry buttercream that I made for another recipe.
I filled the centers with about a teaspoon of filling and folded the dough around it. Traditionally, Hamantaschen is shaped like a tri-corner hat. I had to look up how to fold them, and I still didn’t get it quite right, but I don’t think it was too bad of an attempt.
Into a 400 degree oven they went for 10 minutes. The blueberry buttercream ones didn’t turn out, which I really didn’t think they would. But the rest seemed to. They ended up really big, so if I make these again, I will definitely make my circles smaller.