Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Cookie Round-up



If you haven’t already started baking for the holidays, you’d better get busy!
Here are five of our favorite cookie recipes for you to consider for your Christmas dessert table:

#1. Kourabia, ala The Armenian Kitchen
Yield: Approx. 2 ½ dozen cookies

Kourabia
Ingredients:
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. Arak (or cognac, or whiskey)
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
Dash salt
Sliced blanched almonds
Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Directions:
1.    Using a wooden spoon, cream the softened butter until fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, mixing well.
2.    Beat in egg yolk and Arak.
3.    Stir the baking powder and salt into the flour. Gradually add the flour mixture into butter/sugar mixture. Stir with your hands until a soft dough is formed. (If dough feels too sticky, add a little more flour.)
4.    With lightly floured hands, pinch off pieces of dough and roll into 1- inch balls.
5.    Place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly and press a blanched almond slice in the center of each cookie.
6.    Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 20 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.


#2. Apricot Crescent Cookies
From the kitchen of Irene Guregian, Chelmsford, MA

Apricot Crescent Cookies
Ingredients:
2 cups sifted flour
½ lb. butter or margarine
1 egg yolk
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
One jar apricot preserves

Directions:
Cut butter into flour, using fingertips. Add yolk and sour cream. Mix well. Dough should be sticky. Shape into ball and sprinkle with flour. Wrap in waxed paper and chill several hours. Divide dough into 3 parts. Roll each section out to a large circle like a pie shell. Cut, as you would a pie wedge, into 12 sections or less. Mix nuts into apricot preserves. Place heaping teaspoon into large section and start rolling toward small point to make crescent-shape (using fingers) as you place on cookie sheet. Bake in 350 oven 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
Yield: approximately 3 dozen.

Nazook
#3. Nazook, The Armenian Kitchen style 

Ingredients for Dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons dry granular yeast (1 packet)
1 cup plain yogurt, room temperature
3 1/4 cups sifted flour (or more, if needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (such as Canola)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup shelled nuts, finely chopped, optional (walnuts, pecans, or unsalted pistachios are recommended)
¾ cup dried apricots, finely chopped, optional (raisins or currants may be substituted)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
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3 tablespoons melted butter (see steps #2 and #4 under ‘Preparation and Assembly Directions’)
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Glaze Ingredients:
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. plain yogurt
Directions for Dough:
1. Add yeast to the yogurt and mix together. Allow this to rest for 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and softened butter; mix with a fork or your hands until mixture is crumbly.
3.  To the flour mixture, add egg, vegetable oil, lemon juice and yeast-yogurt mixture, mixing well. Dough might be a bit sticky. If so, add a little more flour, but do not dry out the dough.
4. On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until no longer sticky. Form into a ball. (At this point, Armenians traditionally mark the top of the dough ball with a “+”, symbolizing a cross.)
5.  Wrap dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Filling Directions:
Mix the 1 cup of melted butter and flour until combined. Add sugar, chopped nuts (if using), apricots, raisins or currants (if using), vanilla and cinnamon. Stir until the mixture is smooth.

Preparation and Assembly Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and set aside.
3.  Remove dough from refrigerator; divide into 4 equal portions.
4.  Roll each dough ball into a rectangle. Brush with melted butter.
5. Spread 1/4 of the filling over each rectangle, leaving 1/2” border. Gently press the filling into the dough with your hands so that the filling sticks to the dough. Fold the edges in 1/2” over the filling.
6. Starting with the long side of the dough, slowly roll it into a long log shape, making sure the filling stays in place. Gently flatten with the log the palms of your hands.
7. With the seam-side of the log facing down, cut each log into 2” pieces using a serrated knife or a crinkle cutting tool.
8. Arrange each piece, seam-side down, on lightly greased – or – parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing the nazook at least 1 ½ inch apart from each other to allow for even baking.
9. Brush tops generously with the egg-yogurt glaze. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Place each nazook piece on a wire rack to cool completely.

Nazook is simply irresistible – especially when served with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
If you have any nazook left, you’ll be happy to know they freeze well.

 
#4. Armenian Cookies (Kahke)

Armenian Cookie (Kahke)
Ingredients:
 3 Tbsp. butter, softened
 ¾ cup sugar
 4 ½ to 5 cups flour (perhaps a little more)
 2 eggs
 ½ tsp. vanilla
 2 heaping Tbsp. baking powder
 ½ tsp. salt
 ½ cup warm milk

 Directions:
 1. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar, until blended.
 2. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and milk. Mix until blended.
 3. Add flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until a dough forms. At this point, gently work dough with your hands on a lightly floured surface. If the dough is too sticky, you might need to add a little more flour.
 4. Pinch off about a walnut-size piece of dough and roll it into a 6 inch rope. Shape into a circle (doughnut-shape) with lightly floured hands by pressing rope ends together. Continue this process until all dough is used.
 5. Place cookies on a lightly greased baking sheet.
 6. Place baking sheet on bottom rack in the oven. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
 7. Cool completely on a wire rack.
 8. Store in an air-tight container.


Tahini-Chocolate Truffles
#5. Tahini-Chocolate Truffles
Yield: approximately 24 pieces, depending on size

Ingredients:
2 cups tahini, (sesame seed paste) well-stirred
3/4 cup currants, plumped in warm water and drained
 1/2 cup dried plums, finely diced
 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
 Tamarind syrup (optional)
Approximately ¾ cup finely ground almonds for coating

Directions:
1.  Combine tahini, currants, dried plums and cocoa powder in a food processor and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too dry, add water one tablespoon at a time. You should end up with a workable, not too sticky, ball. Taste mixture for sweetness. If desired, add tamarind syrup to taste. (NOTE: The currants and plums aren’t as sweet as raisins and dates, so I added about 1 Tbsp. of the tamarind syrup.)
 2. Roll mixture into balls, about ¾ - inch to 1 - inch each.
My suggestion: these are quite rich, so smaller is better!
3. Place ground almonds in a separate bowl. Coat each ball completely with the chopped nuts. (These can also be coated with coconut, sesame seeds or ground pistachio nuts.)
4. Place coated truffles in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray and refrigerate until firm- about 1 hour – before serving.
5. Serve with coffee or tea. Take small bites and savor the rich, decadent goodness!
6. Storage: These keep well in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.

Special note: The tahini-chocolate truffles are very rich (have a beverage nearby!). It’s not sweet as one would expect a truffle to be. It’s got an earthy flavor from the tahini - not quite savory; not quite sweet. It has a delicious flavor that stands alone.

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