Monday, June 27, 2011
Practically Polish Cookies (a.k.a Kolacky Cousins or Hard-Boiled-Egg-Yolk-Cookies!)
Don't let the name frighten you, these rich little cookies are nuggets of tasty Eastern European goodness! Their name may be strange but, believe it or not, the process that led to their creation is even stranger. Sometimes even I'm surprised at the unusual things that come out of my kitchen...and the desperate lengths I'll go to to bake when the whim takes me.
Not surprisingly, I'm most creative when the cupboards are nearly bare, or at least sporting sizable bald spots. This time, I had to find a recipe that used minimal sugar and called for hard-boiled egg yolks. I have an abundance of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge and have been slowly eating my way through them, but I'm not overly fond of the cooked yolks so I scoured the web for ideas, beyond the usual egg salad and a few unusual sauces, and came up with these little gems.
To be honest, this was one of my more difficult searches. I turned up a lot of duds before I stumbled upon something called kruche ciasto polskie, or 'Polish crumbly dough.' There seem to be hundreds of variations, as is often the case with heritage recipes (a name I like to use for recipes handed down through the generations orally or by example), so I took inspiration from eight or nine different places and came up with a recipe that took into account the ingredients I had on hand.
Creating a recipe is an exciting process, because you never know exactly how the finished product will turn out. My first batch came out a little too bland, which accounts for the addition of the cinnamon-sugar (plus, I was out of regular sugar). After tasting the modified cookies, I realized just how similar they were to my favorite Czech kolacky - and you can't have koalcky without filling, so I added jam. It just so happened that I still had some of my peach jam which, with its faintly almond flavor, was a perfect choice. I also made a few with North Carolina Apple Butter, but the peach were by far my favorites!
Polish Crumbly Dough Cookies (Hard-Boiled-Egg-Yolk Cookies)
makes about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large hard-boiled egg yolks, mashed
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Generous handful of cinnamon sugar (optional)
Jam, jelly or filling of choice
Preheat oven to 350 ° F. In a large bowl, beat coconut oil, cream cheese and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Pass the egg yolks through a sieve over the dough, or crumble between your fingertips and beat into the dough until well incorporated. Stir in vanilla (and almond extract, if desired). Gradually add the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in cinnamon sugar to taste - dough should be dry and slightly sweet.
Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Press thumb into center of each dough ball and fill depression with filling of choice. Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges begin to crack and cookies brown slightly. Allow to cool before serving. Cookie make an excellent accompaniment to a mug of hot tea.
A few notes: Perhaps because of the egg yolks, or my use of wheat flour, the dough is very crumbly so you have to be a little patient with it. I warmed it between my hands before rolling into a ball and pressing my thumb in the center. If your dough is so hard at to be unworkable, you may want to add an additional uncooked egg yolk or a raw egg - a few recipes I found had this variation.
These cookies are very thick and somewhat doughy - it's this texture and the slight tang from the cream cheese that reminded me of kolacky. For a dessert, they're surprisingly substantial (although, most Eastern European fare is designed to stick to your ribs) and eating a few before lunch left me too full for 'real' food. Don't let their rustically wholesome and unassuming appearance fool you, they're incredibly addictive!