PASCALE’S KITCHEN: Cookies, cookies, cookies

Ultimate cookie recipes.

Cookies  (photo credit: PR)
(photo credit: PR)
Every year when we turn the clocks back and the days become shorter, I return to my perpetual search for the ultimate cookie recipe. In my mind, there is no better comfort food with which to welcome the coming winter.
Over the years, I’ve organized this cookie quest into a number of types of cookies: crunchy, spicy, fruitfilled, healthy, decadent and traditional.
I love to prepare a few different kinds of cookies – sometimes from new recipes – and store them in large containers so that my family has a variety to choose from when they get the urge for something sweet.
One of the reasons that cookies are preferable to cake is that they can be prepared ahead of time and keep for a couple of weeks. The best way to store cookies is inside a sealed plastic bag that is then put inside a metal box. They can keep in this fashion up to two weeks. In theory, if you keep them in an airtight glass jar, they could also last this long; but in my experience, any time cookies are in plain sight, they don’t last more than a day or two before they get gobbled up.
My mother, grandmother and aunts always kept cookies in decorative tin containers, and I have distinct memories from when I was a little girl of how they would hold these boxes against their tummies, as they struggled to open them, and would then offer us a taste from the box’s delicious contents.
Below are a number of different cookie recipes with which we can welcome the coming winter. There are traditional Tripoli cookies my mother-in-law, Gita, used to make; date-filled cookies; and Argentinean alfajores
Each family in Tripoli has its own secret traditional version of these cookies and its unique way to make them. Below I’ve included Gita Rubin’s wonderful, easy-to-follow cookie recipe.
Makes 70-80 cookies 4 eggs 1½ cups sugar 2 packets vanilla sugar 300 gr. margarine, melted Zest from 1 lemon Zest from 1 orange ¾ tsp. ammonia 2 packets baking powder 1 kg. flour, sifted In a bowl, add eggs and sugar, and beat until sugar has completely dissolved (can use electric mixer). Add the vanilla sugar and mix well.
Add the melted margarine, zest, ammonia and baking powder. Gradually add the flour while mixing (sometimes you don’t need to use all the flour – depends on how much gets absorbed).
Let the batter sit in the fridge for 90 minutes or overnight. After you take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 30 minutes before mixing again.
Preheat oven to 180°. Take a bit of batter and knead it between your fingers (even if it’s hard, it will soften while you knead it). Create a cylinder that is 1-1½ cm. thick and then close it into a ring that has a 6- to 7-cm. diameter. Make the rest of the cookies in the same way. Place the rings on a greased tray and use a knife to make crisscrossed slots on the cookies. Bake for 20 minutes until cookies turn golden brown.
Store in hermetically sealed containers.
Ammonia is the ingredient that makes the cookies so crispy. If you cannot find ammonia in baking or spice shops, replace with another packet of baking powder. The texture of the cookies, however, will not be exactly the same.
You can use canola oil, margarine or Mazola, or ½ cup of olive oil with Mazola for baking. Each type of oil will make the texture a little different.
You can swap the flour for glutenfree flour. You might need to add more liquid.
These round cookies are filled with dates and nuts and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are found in Egyptian, Kurdish, Iraqi, Turkish, Spanish and Balkan communities.
Makes 50-60 cookies Filling: 500 gr. date spread or squashed dates 100 gr. walnuts, chopped 1 heaping tsp. cinnamon 2-3 drops citrus concentrate (optional) 2 tsp. oil Dough: ²⁄3 cup water 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 tsp. rose water ½ cup oil 3½ cups flour 1½ cups semolina 1 packet baking soda 200 gr. butter or margarine, at room temperature, cut into cubes Topping: ½-¾ cup powdered sugar Put the dates in a bowl with the nuts, cinnamon, citrus concentrate and oil. Mix with a spoon until smooth.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add liquids and then the dry ingredients and butter. Mix on medium speed with a dough hook until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 3 hours.
Take a little bit of the dough and roll into a ball. Form an indentation in the middle with your finger and fill with date mixture. Close dough around date mixture and roll back into a ball. Flatten cookies a little with the palm of your hand. Using special tongs, pinch the cookies and make small indentations.
Spread the cookies on a greased baking tray and bake in an oven that was preheated to 170° for 25-30 minutes or until they’re golden brown.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with half of the powdered sugar. Let them cool and then sprinkle with the other half of the powdered sugar.
These Argentinean cookies are filled with butterscotch cream and then rolled in coconut flakes. They can be stored in the freezer for an extended period of time.
Makes 30 cookies 200 gr. butter at room temperature 2 eggs ½ cup sugar 1¾ cup cornstarch 1¹⁄3 cups flour, sifted 1 packet baking powder Butterscotch filling: 4½ cups milk 1½ cups sugar 1 tsp. baking soda 1 Tbsp. quality vanilla extract ½ cup milk 2 Tbsp. cornstarch 1 tsp. butter Topping: 100 gr. coconut flakes In the bowl of an electric mixer, add butter, eggs and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the cornstarch, flour and baking powder.
Mix until smooth.
Sprinkle a little flour on a work surface and roll out dough. Cut out circles using a cookie cutter or cup with a diameter of 3-4 cm.
Place the cookies on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 6 minutes in an oven that was preheated to 180°. Cookies should remain white.
Pour 4 cups of milk into a pot. Add the sugar and cook over low flame for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the baking soda and vanilla. Mix well. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the ½ cup of remaining milk. Pour into the milk-and-sugar mixture and cook while stirring. The mixture should thicken within a few minutes.
Add the butter and mix. Let cool.
Let cookies cool. Place half of the cookies on a work surface with their flat side facing up. Place 1 tsp. of butterscotch on cookies and then cover with a second cookie.
In a small bowl, melt 2 tsp. of butterscotch with the help of hot water and mix well.
Pour the coconut flakes in a separate bowl. Take the sandwich cookies and roll them first in the melted butterscotch and then in the coconut flakes.
If you’re in a hurry, you can purchase a 500-gr. jar of ready-made butterscotch spread.
You can swap the flour for gluten-free flour. No need to alter amounts.
If you’re in a hurry, you can purchase a 500-gr. jar of ready-made butterscotch spread.
You can swap the flour for gluten-free flour. No need to alter amounts.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.