|From top to bottom: |
Husaren-Krapferln (Cavalry Puff-balls) Marillenringe (Apricot Rings)
Vanillekipferln (Vanilla Crescents)
|Lady Martha is a hands-on cook|
When I was growing up in Montreal, an English cousin of mine came out to Canada to attend McGill University. Although not initially planned, Simon ended up moving into our house and taking over the basement and staying for the duration. He became a complete member of the family doing things like volunteering to be a rifle instructor for my class of adolescent boys and other thankless tasks. Later he would serve as my best man. Along the way, Simon met Martha, a completely charming young woman who had come to Canada from her native Innsbruck, Austria. They married, had two tow-headed daughters and, much to the surprise of many, decided to go back to England. His family was there and Simon had assumed his hereditary baronetcy. Henceforth he was to be called Sir John Stracey. Martha, in turn, became Lady Stracey.
All these years later, although we don't often see each other, we remain close. And not just Christmas-card close. We regularly exchange emails and keep up with each other’s comings and goings. So you can imagine how pleased I was when Her Ladyship and Sir John offered to share their superb Austrian Christmas cookie recipes with all our Chewing the Fat readers.
|Her Ladyship's cookies will come|
in Sir John's handcrafted wooden boxes.
Here’s the description that will go out with every gift:
And here are recipes for the three wonderful cookies Simon so kindly photographed fresh from the oven of the Sussex home. The commentary is entirely his and her Ladyship's.
Recipe for Marillenringe (Apricot Rings) from the Stracey Family Cookbook
Recipe for Husaren-Krapferln (Cavalry Puff Balls) from the Stracey Family Cookbook:
Cavalry Puff-balls (actually untranslatable in any way that makes a grain of sense). Ground-almond-based short pastry, baked as little dented cannon balls, dusted with sugar, into which a percussion cap of glistening Ribiselmarmelade (red currant jam to you) has been lovingly plopped.
To make approximately 50 pieces, sieve 200g (7 oz, half a pound will do) all purpose flour into a large bowl, add 100g (3 1/2oz, or a quarter pound) of icing sugar, 30g of Vanilla sugar (if you can’t get the packets, make your own from icing sugar infused with vanilla pods), 150g (5-6 oz) of finely ground almonds or hazelnuts (our preference is almonds, skin on), and 2 egg yolks. Cut 150g (5-6 oz) very cold unsalted butter into small pieces and sprinkle on the mixture. Cut the butter into the flour mix with a pastry cutter or two knives, and knead the whole lot until it becomes a stiff but workable uniform pastry.
If the pastry is so dry that it is unmanageable (depends on your flour, the climate, the freshness of the nuts) then add a tiny splash of cream to loosen it. Don’t go overboard; vigorous kneading is better than creamy slop.
Make the pastry into a large ball and wrap with aluminium foil, or leave it in the bowl covered with cling film (Saran), and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to rest.
Roll out the pastry into a 2 cm (3/4”) diameter sausage, and cut it off into lengths of about a finger’s width. Roll these pieces into balls.
Place the balls on a butter-greased (or non-stick) baking sheet and lightly press the top of each one. Then make the percussion cap dent in the top of each flattened ball with the handle of a thick wooden spoon, or equivalent weapon.
Bake in a preheated fan oven 150-160°C (300 – 320°F) or in a regular oven about twenty degrees higher, for about 15 minutes, until they just take on a light golden colour.
After baking, allow them to cool for 10 minutes and dust them evenly with icing sugar.
Warm some red currant jam in a small saucepan until nearly boiling. This is much less sweet than the jelly commonly found in the US, so please look for the jam. If you have to use jelly, reduce it slightly so that it will thicken when cooled. With a teaspoon, fill each percussion cap dent with the warmed jam, which should cool to a glistening dome.
Bombs away !
Recipe for Marillenringe (Apricot Rings) from the Stracey Family Cookbook
Apricot Rings (the Austrian version of Jammy Dodgers). Discs of lemon zest flavoured shortcrust pastry, topped with pastry rings, and dusted with powdered sugar, into which a blob of the best Apricot Preserve has been lured.
To make approximately 40 pieces, sieve 300g (10oz) all purpose flour into a large bowl, add 120g (4 ½ oz) icing sugar, a prise of salt, the grated zest of half a lemon, a packet of vanilla sugar (about 10g, or make your own from icing sugar infused with a vanilla pod), and the yolk of one egg. Cut 200g (7oz) very cold unsalted butter into small pieces and sprinkle on the mixture. Cut the butter into the flour mix with a pastry cutter or two knives, and knead the whole lot until it becomes a workable uniform pastry.
If the pastry is so dry that it is unmanageable (depends on your flour, the climate, size of egg, moisture in the lemon zest) then add a tiny splash of cream to loosen it. Don’t go overboard; vigorous kneading is better than creamy slop.
Make the pastry into a large ball and wrap with aluminium foil, or leave it in the bowl covered with cling film (Saran), and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour to rest.
Preheat a fan oven to 150°C (300°F), or a regular oven about twenty degrees higher.
Roll out the dough to about 3mm thick (about 1/8”) and cut it into 5-6cm (2”) rounds. Cut out and remove the middles of half of the rings with an apple corer, 2-3 cms (3/4 - 1”) diameter.
Bake for about 12 minutes, until a rich golden colour. Allow to cool for ten minutes.
Warm some apricot jam, the best quality you can find, in a saucepan until nearly boiling.
Spread the larger rings with a thin layer of the warmed jam. Dust the punched out rings with icing sugar. Sit a ring on top of each base disc, and fill the small hole with jam. This should cool to a glistening, slightly domed shape.
Recipe for Vanillekipferln (Vanilla Crescents) from the Stracey Family Cookbook: (Adapted from the Wiener Mehlspeisen Cookbook written by Adelheid Beyreder (anyone called Adelheid has to make up for it somehow)
These delicious cookies are a sine qua non at Christmas time, so you will just have to grit your teeth and exercise great patience while forming them. The dough has a mind of its own and, unbaked or cooked and warm, will break into crumbly pieces just to spite you. As it is the festive season, you will restrain yourself from bringing a rain of curses down upon it, smiling sweetly and humming a merry tune while you work.
For approximately 60 pieces:
|The Grinder is an integral|
part of this operation
Finely grind 200 gms Almonds with the skins on.
Weigh out and sieve 250 gms strong white all purpose flour onto the work surface (use Rauchmehl in the green packet, if you are in Austria).
Add 50 gms icing sugar.
Sprinkle on a prise of salt.
Cut 200 gms of cold flaked or chunked unsalted butter into the mixture. (Option: modern folks would process this phase of the short pastry with a whizzer, but don’t let your mother know I said so because she swears it won’t work.)
Knead the mixture quickly into a dough ball (Oma’s special secret: add a little full milk or, better, cream to make it pliable but firm), cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Divide the dough and roll into “sausages” about 2 cms in diameter and 10 cms long, while smiling sweetly and singing merrily.
Cut into 1 cm thick discs, and bully each one (gently!) into a tapered noodle, pointed at both ends, and then entice the cigars into a horseshoe (croissant) shape. Sing lustily, as required.
Bake in 150° preheated fan oven on unbuttered baking sheet about 15 minutes to light beige colour. You will have to experiment here. Write down your settings and time: _________________
Mix 100 gms of icing sugar with 2 packets of Vanillezucker (if you are in Austria), or make up in advance about 130 gms of vanilla (icing) sugar in a jar with a split pod.
Carefully turn the still warm Kipferln (Big Chorus here. Tutti!) in the vanilla sugar and stack them on a plate to cool. Cover. They usually improve over the next day or two.