20 December 2013

Paul's Kifli Cookies

I had so many tasty holiday recipes I wanted to try this month, cookies to bake and new recipes to share with you readers. Instead, this month has been pretty much a disaster. We have been in a family spate of loosing things (wedding rings! check books! though the former was luckily dug out of a trash can full of coffee grounds).

We learned this week that we have to move out of our home because of a major mold problem, which had caused some health issues, and that we had to move immediately (tomorrow actually). Moving, in case you didn't know, is pretty terrible. We've lived in our home for a year and a half and we love our neighborhood, I know all the shop owner's names and I finally figured out the donut guy's schedule. Also, moving five days before Christmas, and one day before you leave on your Christmas holiday, with no advance notice, is pretty stressful.


In a twist of humor, the only available place for us to move to is a palatial residence which is a former embassy. So tomorrow we'll be taking up residence in a mansion replete with hand-painted murals of galloping horses, tile work, a hammam, lemon trees, and more chandeliers than anyone should ever have. The one piece of bad news is that the home does not currently have internet.


Luckily, we did have time to make a few cookies in the past few weeks. Several years ago Paul embarked on a project to make kifli cookies, a Hungarian delicacy with a myriad of spellings. He settled on a recipe, and has been making it for the past few years. It involves a delectable cream cheese dough wrapped around a jam or nut filling. We had saved a carefully hoarded jar of cream cheese just to make these cookies. Paul had to stop me from eating massive quantities of dough, and we got to share cookies with some of my coworkers. I like that we are starting to build a family repertoire of cookies, and that one day maybe people will remember us fondly every year for our holiday kifli cookies. It's a good reminder of all that things that make a family and a home that have nothing to do with four walls or perfectly wrapped presents.


Paul's Kifli Cookies
This recipe was written by Paul and is therefore probably far more thoroughly thought-out than my usual recipes! Makes about 3 dozen.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
⅜ cup granulated sugar
1 cap-ful of vanilla extract

For the filling: Your favorite jam or spiked walnut frangipane (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Whisk the flour, salt, and spices together in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Cream the cream cheese, butter, and sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy, about 10 minutes using a hand-held electric mixer. Cream in vanilla extract.
3. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and cream cheese in two batches, stirring until just combined after each addition. The dough will be quite soft but should not be sticky.
4. Divide the dough into two equal squares. Wrap each square in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour until firm. The dough will keep for several days in the refrigerator or can be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to a month.
5. When the dough is thoroughly chilled, liberally flour a work surface, a rolling pin, and one of the dough squares. Roll out the dough into a ¼-inch thick square. (You can also roll out the dough between two pieces of wax paper.) Use a sharp knife, pastry or pizza cutter to cut the dough into four equal strips lengthwise and then four equal strips crosswise, creating 16 small squares. Repeat with the remaining dough, or working in batches, move onto the filling.
6. Spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon of jam or frangipane filling in the center of each square. (If using frangipane, it’s best to use slightly less filling because the frangipane will expand during baking.) Pinch together two opposite corners of each square, and then fold the resulting point over to one side.
7. Arrange the cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly.
8. Dust the cooled kifflies thoroughly with powdered sugar sifted through a fine mesh sieve. Cookies may be stored in an airtight plastic container in layers with parchment paper between each layer.

Spiked Walnut Frangipane Filling

½ cup finely ground walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon Amaretto or rum (or your favorite nut extract)
1 egg white, stiffly beaten
Stir together ingredients with a fork.

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