Editor’s Note: Kathy Harrison, preparedness maven, is also a fantastic cook! Every year, her very large family gets together, and what she calls the “cookie wars’ break out! This year, she’s got an international surprise in store for them, and she shares the recipe and story with us.
My husband has a big family. There are nine brothers and sisters and 22 nieces and nephews. We have long since stopped counting the cousins, second cousins and assorted hangers-on that joined the family as boyfriends or girlfriends and refused to leave when the relationship dissolved. It’s that kind of warm, inclusive bunch.
Because of the size, we began a family tradition of having one large Christmas party each December to bring everybody together. There are years when the number tops 80 so a private home is out of the question. We rent a space and have the meal catered which takes the stress off of everybody. Well, all but the cookie stress. You see, we don’t order dessert. Instead, each family brings a big box of cookies. We eat some with our after dinner coffee. The rest are boxed up and taken home.
As you can imagine, there is a certain, shall we say, competition for the very best cookie. Nobody is bringing anything pedestrian. You won’t find a plain oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies anywhere. We cooks all search out unusual and delicious recipes, hoping to wow the compe..I mean our sister-in-laws.
I feel like I have a bit of a leg up on the rest of the family cookie bakers. You see, we raise pigs. And along with bacon and ham, chops and roasts, I get a huge supply of fat. It takes some time and it’s a messy process but each year I render a couple of gallons of gorgeous, creamy, white lard.
If you are worried about the fat, read some of Sally Fallon’s books about the place of good fats in our diets. I’m not claiming you should be drinking it as a beverage but I do believe that lard has a place in a healthy diet. I use it in pie crusts, biscuits and in cookies. Lard makes a wonderful dough with a superior flavor and workability.
This year, I plan to use lard to knock the socks off at the Harrison Family Christmas with a Bulgarian Maslenki Cookie. My new daughter-in-law is from the Ukraine and I have been researching Northern European recipes and found this one. I made a batch and it made a Maslenki believer out of me.
This recipe makes a lovely dough that is easy to shape and, unlike cookies made with butter, it doesn’t spread when baked. This is a rolled dough. I cut mine out with a two-inch round cutter. I did find that the cookies got softer with some keeping time so I plan to make the party batch a few days prior as I like them better that way.
3 eggs (large ones)
¾ cup of sugar
1 cup of lard. (Get organic lard. Please.)
4 cups white flour.
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon vanilla
For topping: A good quality jam (a variety of different colored jams makes a lovely platter)
Beat your eggs really well and add the sugar a bit at a time. This will take a good five minutes with an electric mixer and a bit longer with a hand mixer. Melt the lard, then let it cool as it will cook the eggs if added when still very hot.
Add liquid lard to the egg/sugar mixture in a slow stream.
Combine the dry ingredients, making sure that all the lumps are broken up. Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/lard mixture to create a stiff dough.
Divide this dough into 3 balls. Refrigerate any you are not working on, especially if your kitchen is warm. Roll out dough into a sheet about ¼ inch thick. Cut out the dough circles.
In half those circles, use a small cutter (the top of a colored marker works well) to poke out a hole. You can reroll the tiny circles with the next batch of dough. Place cookies on sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes and cool completely on a wire rack.
When the cookies are completely cool spread the whole cookies with a layer of not-too-sweet jam and top with a cookie that has the hole cut out of it. This lets the jam peek through. You can sift some powdered sugar over the top if you like. Make sure the cookies are completely cool when you add the jam. Otherwise the jam will melt, the tops will slip off and you will have a dreadful mess. (I have never done such a silly thing. I just think I should warn you that could happen.) If you are pressed for time you can roll the dough out a bit thicker and just press a divot in the center with your thumb to hold the jam.
I find that this is a good place to use some of the unusual jams I make. Rose petal and elderberry are not as popular with my kids as plain raspberry jam but I do love to make the fancy ones.
There are a lot of competitions I am destined to lose. I’ll never be rich. My house will never be anything but a big, shabby farmhouse and I’m still driving the same old car I was driving eight years ago. At the end of the day I know no one will ask where I got my dress or who my hairdresser is, unless, of course, the want to avoid said places.
But they may just say that, by golly, Kathy can make a great cookie. That works for me!