Norway: Fattigmands Bakkelser

Fruits and berries mature slowly in the cold climate. This makes for a tendency to smaller volume with a more intense taste. Strawberries, blueberries, lingonberries, raspberries and apples are popular and are part of a variety of desserts, and cherries in the parts of the country where those are grown. (If you've ever visited an Ikea store, you'll have a chance to try lingonberries cooked in several different ways!)

The wild growing cloudberry is regarded as a delicacy. A typical Norwegian dessert on special occasions is cloudberries with whipped or plain cream.

German and Nordic-style cakes and pastries, such as sponge cakes and Danish pastry (known as "wienerbrød", literal translation: "Viennese bread") share the table with sweet breads - "kaffebrød" (literally: "coffee bread", named for its accompaniment, not ingredients), waffles and biscuits. Cardamom is a common flavouring.

The Norwegians, like the rest of us, have many traditional cookies that cook mainly at Christmas: Sandbakels, Pepperkaker, Morkaker and, of course, Fattigmands Bakkelser.

My family doesn't have a Danish bone in their body, but Fattigmands Bakkelser was a cookie that we made every Christmas, sometimes flavored with Cardamom and sometimes with Cinnamon. I think my Dad liked the name of the cookie more than the cookie itself, as he always called them "Fat Man's Buckles"!

Fattigmands Bakkelser

10 egg yolks
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. cognac or other brandy
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In large mixer bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar about 10 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Stir in cream, cognac, cardamom and lemon peel. Mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Cover; chill at least 3 hours.
Heat fat or oil (at least 2 inches deep) to 375°. Divide dough in half. Roll each half very thin, 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick, on well-floured board. Cut dough into 4"x2" diamonds. Make 1-inch horizontal slit in center of each; draw a long point of diamond through slit and curl back in opposite direction.

Fry in hot fat about 15 seconds on each side or until light brown. Drain.

Store in airtight container. Before serving, sprinkle with confectioners' (icing) sugar.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies.

Indonesia: Kue Semprong

Literally translated, Kue Semprong means smokestack cookie. The Kue Semprong is a very thin, rolled (usually or sometimes flat to display the pattern of the cookie maker in this case an elephant on one side and a snail on the other) sweet cookie. The cookie dough is made and rolled out and then placed in the maker and trimmed. The cookie maker is then clamped using the fastener on the end and placed in a fire for a short time. When the maker is removed from the fire the cookie is immediately rolled and set aside to cool. They are light delicious treats and it is very difficult to stop eating them once you have started. These are also sometimes filled with chocolate or other sweets.

Kue Semprong (Love Letters)

1-3/4 cups rice flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten to a froth
1-3/4 cup thick coconut milk from 1 ½ coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds, washed and dried (optional)
Oil, for brushing

Mix rice four, sugar, cinnamon and eggs. Pour in coconut milk a little at a time and keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Add sesame seeds if desired

Heat Kue Semprong mold on a charcoal fire or stove and brush the inside with oil. Pour in 1-2 tablespoons batter and cover the mold. Turn the mould to distribute the heat evenly. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Shape the cookies immediately after cooking and while it is still hot and soft. You can roll it or fold it twice to form a quarter-circle.

Recipe courtesy of Yasa Boga at Indo Lists.

An authentic Kue Semprong iron is up on eBay for auction. Click here to see the auction.

Switzerland: Apfelküchlein

Switerland's cuisine is amazingly diverse. It incorporates cuisine many of their neighbors such as Italy, France and Germany.

When it comes to sweets, the Swiss utilize a variety of fruits in their recipes. All over the country, fruit is featured in many desserts from delicious fruit tarts to simplistic fresh berries and cream. This recipe for deep fried apple cookies incorporates the decadently sweet and tart flavor of apple cider that is in keeping with the Swiss tradition.

Apfelküchlein (Deep fried apple cookie)

4 or 5 tart apples (e.g. MacIntosh, Jonathan, etc.)
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup ground hazelnuts
½ teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
5 fl. ounces apple cider
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon of oil
Juice of a lemon
Oil (for deep frying)
Confectioner's or cinnamon sugar

Add flour, hazelnuts, salt, one tablespoon of sugar and the vanilla sugar to a bowl and mix well. Add apple cider and stir to combine. Mix in 2 egg yolks and one tsp of vegetable oil.

Set aside the dough to rest for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, peel and core the apples. Cut the apples in rings, each about ½ inch thick. Mix the lemon with 3 tbs of sugar. Toss the apples with the lemon mixture to keep them from browning and let them sit also for approximately 30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt to the whites of two eggs and mix until it is stiff. Carefully fold it into the dough.

Heat the oil in a frying-pan (or deep fryer) to 375 F.

Dip one apple ring at a time into the dough and fry it immediately in the oil on both sides until it is lightly brown. Let the oil drain on a rack or paper towels.

Sprinkle confectioner's or cinnamon sugar evenly over the cookies while they are still warm and serve them immediately.

But they will also taste good when they are cold, especially if you serve them with some warm vanilla sauce.

Iraq: Klaicha

Iraqi food is rich and diverse, incorporating spices typical of Arabic cooking, such as saffron and mint. Extra food is usually cooked in case of surprise visitors, while expected guests are treated to many elaborate dishes. People eat their evening meal around 8:00 p.m. Most cooking is done on gas or paraffin-oil stoves, though in the cities, people often own microwave ovens to help shorten cooking time.

For dessert, people enjoy some of Iraq's local fruits, rice pudding, Turkish Delight, date or sesame cookies, or baklava - a pastry made with honey and pistachios layered between filo sheets.

Klaicha (Iraqi date cookies)

3 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. unsalted butter (1 cup)
3 tsp orange flower water or rose water
1/4 cup water
8 oz pitted dates
2 Tbsp butter

Sift flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into pieces and rub flour with fingertips until distributed evenly. Blend orange flower water or rose water with water and sprinkle onto flour mixture. Mix to a firm dough and knead lightly untl smooth. Rest dough for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop dates. Place in a pan with the butter and heat gently until dates soften, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

Roll dough into balls the size of a large walnut. Flatten a ball of dough in the palm of your hand and place a tsp of date filling in the center. Mould dough around filling and reshape into a ball.

Press ball into a carved mold similar to a tabi and place on an ungreased baking tray. Alternatively, place on a tray, flatten slightly and press tines of a fork obliquely around sides and across top, giving pastry a slightly conical shape.

Bake in a preheated moderately slow oven (170 C or 325 F) for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on tray - pastries will become firm and crisp on cooling. Store in a sealed container when cool.

Alternate shaping: Divide pastry into 3 equal portions and roll each portion into a rectangle 1/2" thick and 4" wide. Put one-third of the date mixture, shaped into a long roll, along one edge of pastry and roll up to enclose filling. Press edges and ends to seal and place rolls joint side down, on ungreased baking sheet. Decorate top with pastry crimper or any other means to make a design. Bake as for Klaicha above, cool and slice at an angle to serve. Store in a sealed container.

Egypt: Kahk bi Loz

Almond Bracelets are a favorite at engagement and wedding parties in the Middle East, as well as during the traditional ritual bath of the bride. This custom is still common in rural areas, where the female relatives assess the bride’s potential to be a good wife and bear children easily. The bride-to-be listens to this commentary (hopefully positive) while she bathes in scented water and while trays laden with sweets are passed around for everyone to enjoy.

Kahk bi Loz (Almond Bracelets)

5 cups almonds, ground
2-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 egg white, stiffly beaten
Orange blossom water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix almonds and sugar together. Add the egg white, stiffly beaten, to the amond/sugar mix. Add just enough orange blossom water to make a firm, dryish paste.

Knead the paste well and roll into thin sausages approximately 5" long. Bring the ends together forming bracelets the size of a small napkin ring. Decorate with a few blanched almonds if desired.

Arrange the bracelets on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. DO NOT allow the bracelets to color or brown or the taste will change.

Remove carefully from the cookie sheets once they have cooled.

Source: The New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking by Claudia Roden, Knopf, NY NY 20001

Romania: Salam de Biscuiti

Romanian cuisine is diverse, blending the dishes of the several traditions which it has come into contact with, as well as maintaining its own character. It has been greatly influenced by Balkan cuisine but also includes influences from the cuisines of other neighbours, such as Germans, Italians, and Hungarians.

The truth is, that Romanians like to eat. And they eat a lot and well. I think man can evaluate the richness of a foreign culture by appreciating the richness of its cuisine. The multitude of combinations, the richness of the tastes, the variety of first courses, second courses and deserts, the constant "must do's" and the doors open to imagination and invention are speaking for themselves. I can assure you, the Romanian cuisine is one of the tastiest and most appetizing.

Sweet salamy it' s an old recipe, my mother used to make it often. I said make, because no cooking is involving. It's an easy recipe because it can be done with more, or less ingredients or even put anything else you like into it, just be creative. This is how I use to do it and I can assure you that is very tasty.

Pofta buna! Bon appetit!

Gina Enescu, Guest Contributor

Salam di Biscuiti (Sweet Salamy)

1-3/4 cups (400 gr) biscuits or vanilla wafers (coarsely crushed)
1 cup + 2 tbs (250 gr) milk
3 tbs cocoa
1/2 lb (200 gr) Turkish delight
2 fiole rum essence/extract/flavoring
1-1/3 cup (300 gr) walnuts, chopped
2/3 cup (150 gr) butter
6 tbs powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (200 gr) sour cherry (from cherry liqueur)
1 grated coconut

For a richer flavor, toast walnuts in the oven for a short time or saute in some melted butter. Set aside to cool.

Boil milk with small pieces of Turkish Delight until the candy starts to melt and reduces in size. Remove from heat.

Add 1/2 of the cocoa, 1/2 of the biscuits/vanilla wafers and 1/2 of the walnuts plus 1/2 of the rum essence/extract/flavoring. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the butter with 5 tbs powdered sugar and 2 egg yolks. Combine with the first mixture.

Add in the rest of the rum essence, cocoa and biscuits/vanilla wafers. Add in the rest of the walnuts and sour cherry. Whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Blend into the mixture.

Sprinkle some powdered sugar and shredded coconut ona large piece of plastic wrap. Put the dough in the middle and roll it up in the plastic wrap, forming it so it looks like a salami. Refrigerate in the plastic wrap for 6 to 7 hours.
Remove plastic wrap and cut into 1/2" slices.


China: Hang Geen Beng

Very few cattle are raised in China, so dairy products such as milk, cheese and butter are hard to come by and rarely used in traditional Chinese dishes. They do raise pigs and so they generally will use the pork fat or lard as a substitute for the butter. As a matter of fact, pork is so prevalent in the Chinese cuisine that it is commonly referred to as simply "meat".

Hang Geen Beng (hahng geen bee-EHNG), traditional Chinese Almond Cookies, are a traditional treat found in bakeries across China as well as Chinese restaurants around the globe. Like many Chinese dishes, these crisp, tasty treats do use lard. You can substitute vegetable shortening, but the the taste won't be nearly the same. Many people also use butter in this recipe. Cookies made with butter tend to not be as crisp as those made with lard or shortening, and the crispness of these cookies is what makes them so good. (I've also seen these called Hang Yen Bang. Beats me who's right!)

Hang Geen Beng (Chinese Almond Cookies)

2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup lard (or vegetable shortening)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp almond extract
1 tbs cold water
4 dozen whole, blanched almonds

1 egg yolk
1 tbs water

Sift the first four ingredients together into a large bowl. Cut the lard (or vegetable shortening) in with a pastry blender, or rub it between your fingers until the mix is very crumbly.

In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg with the almond extract. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and combine. Add in the tablespoon of cold water and use your hands to quickly form a firm ball of dough. Cover in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets.

Remove dough from refrigerator and form into 1-1/2 inch balls. Place the dough balls on baking sheets and flatten gently with the bottom of a glass. Press one whole almond into the center of each cookie.

For the glaze, mix one egg yolk with one tablespoon of water. Using a pastry brush, brush some of the glaze over each cookie.

Bake approximately 12 minutes or until the cookies are very lightly browned. Remove from oven and baking sheets and cool in wire racks.

Yield: 4 dozen

Nicaragua: Rosquillas

The Cuisine of Nicaragua is as diverse as its inhabitants. It is a mixture of criollo style food and pre-Columbian dishes. When the Spaniards first arrived in Nicaragua, they found that the Creole people present had incorporated foods available in the area into their cuisine.

Despite the blending and incorporation of pre-Colombian and Spanish influenced cuisine, traditional cuisine changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast. While the Pacific coast's main staple revolves around local fruits and corn, the Caribbean coast's cuisine makes use of seafood and the coconut.

A favored treat in Nicaragua is the Rosquilla. Similar to an Italian biscotti, the Nicaraguan rosquilla is designed to be accompanied by a hot cup of coffee. Its plump shape facilitates an easy drop, and a well-made rosquilla is best eaten after floating in your coffee for 30 seconds or so.

Approximately half a ton of rosquillas from Jinotega travel to ExpoNica in Miami each year, from the Rosquillera Pampa. Probably three times that amount travel to the States and Europe via Nicaraguan travelers, stuffed in two- and three-pound bags, and stashed in luggage for distribution to expat family members.


3 lbs. queso seco or Mexican Cotija cheese
3 lbs. masa
4 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. lard from beef
2 Tbs. lard from pork
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grate the cheese finely. Mix it with the masa. Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing until combined.

Shape into small donut shapes, about 1 to 1-1/4 inch in diameter. Place on cookie sheets.

Bake until they get a little color. Take them out of the oven and cool.

Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Return cookies to the oven and bake until they are crispy. (Can dust with confectioners sugar if desired.)

Yield: 100 rosquillas

Note: The masa should be the one used to make tortillas, not tamales. If you can only get masa harina, then prepare the masa harina as if you were making tortillas and then weigh it to get to 3 pounds.

Special thanks to Ligia for submitting this recipe. Recipe from 50 Años en la Cocina authored by Angelica de Vivas.

Peru: Alfajores de Manjar Blanco

There is no doubt that Alfajores are native to South America, and each country has their little spin on this delectable delight. In Argentina, they use Dulce de Leche as the filling for these cookie sandwiches. Dulce de Leche is a caramel made from reducing sweetened condensed milk.

In Peru you will find both Dulce de Leche and Manjar Blanco being used in the creation of this cookie. Manjar Blanco (loosely translates to "white food") is an incredible cross between a caramel and a pudding and can be considered the paler cousin of Dulce De Leche. The main difference in the two is that Manjar Blanco is made from whole milk rather than condensed milk.

In Bolivia, Manjar Blanco is the traditional filling for the Alfajores. However, they prepare their Manjar Blanco just a bit differently. The Bolivian style Manjar Blanco is thickened further with rice flour and occasionally you will find other flavorings in it such as vanilla, cinnamon and/or rum.


1-1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ground almonds
3 cups flour

Manjar Blanco Filling:
5 cups whole milk
1-1/8 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Prepare the Manjar Blanco filling. Put the milk, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan and let it come to a boil. Continue to boil the mixture, stirring occasionally, until thickened, approximately 45 minutes. The Manjar is ready if you put a bit on a plate and it does not run.

2. Cream butter with confectioners' sugar until fluffy.

3. Stir in remaining ingredients.

4. Wrap and chill 30 minutes (if you leave it longer, just let it warm up to the point of being able to be rolled out).

5. Roll dough out to 1/4" thickness. Cut in 2 1/2" circles and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. They won’t expand much, so you can place them pretty close together.

6. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

7. Cool cookie sheets between batches and cool cookies on wire rack.

8. When cookies have completely cooled, carefully spread some manjar blanco on one cookie and top with another cookie.

9. Dust tops with confectioners' sugar and enjoy immediately.

TIP: Best enjoyed if served immediately. Traditional alfajores are crispy, and these (although they will still taste delicious) will soften as they set.

Yield: 4-5 dozen cookies

Recipe and photo submitted by guest contributor, Adrienne , with special thanks to a friend of a friend of hers who is native to Peru.

Russia: Pryanik

Russian honeybread has been made since the 9th century, at which time they were made with rye-flour, honey and berry-juice. Over time, some other natural indigenous ingredients like local roots were added to flavor these cookies. When trade first began with the Middle East and India (12th-13th centuries) these sweet recipes were kicked up with a variety of spices – popularly with cloves, ginger, citrus fruits, pepper, nutmeg, badian, mint, anise, ginger and many others and hence these cookies were referred to as “pryanosti” meaning they were well-spiced.

Today pryanik are available in many flavors, shapes and styles. They are commonly seen as pressed cookies or painted cookies – the latter of which are painted with white, rose or chocolate icing or are decorated with berries, nuts or candied citrus peel. They can also be filled with jam, sandwich-style.

The myriad styles of pryanik are generally always served with tea and coffee, and they have that wonderful spiciness of a gingerbread cookie, perfect for when the weather is getting colder (I guess since I live in New Orleans, our coldest weather probably never approaches that of Moscow in the summer, but I still enjoy cold-weather treats!)


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

1. Sift the flour, baking soda and spices into a medium bowl.

2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and thick.

3. Heat the honey in a small saucepan over low heat until it liquifies. Stir the honey and vanilla into the beaten egg mixture.

4. Mix in the dry ingredients to form a stiff dough.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

6. Butter two cookie sheets. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Use your favorite cookie cutter to make cookies, and whatever size your cookies are, use that as a guide for how far apart to place them, expecting them to double in size.

7. With a pastry brush, give the cookies just a little honey on top.

8. Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until just golden, rotating the sheets halfway through for even baking.

9. Cool on the sheets until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to racks to finish cooling.

10. In a bowl, add 1-2 tbs water to the confectioners’ sugar and whisk together to form a paste. Decorate your cookies when they’ve cooled and enjoy.

TIPS: These cookies are great with different spices, and I even have tried adding cayenne, so feel free to be creative. Toppings also vary throughout Russia so try adding your favorite nuts or berries if you are so inclined. I also *highly* recommend taking out about 2-3 cookies when they’re only halfway baked, putting them in a bowl with apricot jam and cool whip, and not telling anyone else about it – it was heaven.

Recipe, photos and post courtesy of our guest contributor, Adrienne, with special thanks to her Russian friend, Constantin.

Italy: Biscotti con Pignoli

Although many people think of biscotti only as the double baked, hardened treats that we dip in our coffee or tea, biscotti is actually a generic Italian term for "cookie".

Roman pastry shops abound with pastries, cakes, cookies, and confections made with almonds. Some of the world's best almonds come from nearby Sicily and they are widely used throughout Italy. It is no wonder then that Biscotti con Pignoli (pignoli cookies made with almond paste), originated in Sicily. The sweetness in these cookies is very subtle, and the chewiness of the cookie works well with the crunchiness of the pignoli.

I have been making these cookies for over 40 years, and I still can't get enough of them. I always keep a bag of pignoli in my freezer just in case I get a craving!

Biscotti con Pignoli

3 cups almond paste (not marzipan), coarsely crumbled
1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup pine nuts

Pulse almond paste in a food processor until broken up into small bits, then add confectioners sugar and salt and continue to pulse until finely ground, about 1 minute.

Beat together almond mixture, egg whites, and honey in electric mixer at medium to high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place pine nuts on shallow plate. With lightly floured hands roll dough into 1 inch balls. Coat balls in egg whites, shaking off excess, then roll in pine nuts, pressing lightly to stick. Arrange balls on cookie sheets, and flatten slightly to form a 1-1/2 inch round.

Bake cookies until golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, place on parchment paper and set aside to cool.

TIP: If you like a the cookies a bit sweeter, you can dust them with confectioner's sugar when they come out of the oven.

Iran: Nan-e Nokhodchi

The number seven has been sacred in Iran for thousands of years as it is said to represent the "Seven Eternal Laws" which embodied the teachings of Zarathushtra. Iranians prepare a table or sofreh on a rug with a variety of foods. Traditionally, these seven symbolic items are displayed on the ceremonial table set for the Persian New Year, each representing one of the seven angelic heralds of life: rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty.

On the same table many people place seven special sweets because, according to a three-thousand-year-old legend, King Jamshid discovered sugar on Nowruz (the word candy comes from the Persian word for sugar, qand).

These seven sweets are noghls (sugar-coated almonds); Persian baklava, a sweet, flaky pastry filled with chopped almonds and pistachios soaked in honey-flavored rose water; nan-e berenji (rice cookies) made of rice flour flavored with cardamom and garnished with poppy seeds; nan-e badami (almond cookies), made of almond flour flavored with cardamom and rose water; nan-e nokhodchi (chick-pea cookies), made of chick-pea flour flavored with cardamom and garnished with pistachios; sohan asali (honey almonds), cooked with honey and saffron and garnished with pistachios; and nan-e gerdui (walnut cookies), made of walnut flour flavored with cardamom and garnished with pistachio slivers.

Nan-e Nokhodchi

1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tsp. finely ground cardamom
1 tbs. rose water
4 1/2 cups fine, roasted chickpea flour, sifted 3 times
4 tbs. unsalted, slivered pistachios for garnish

Combine oil, sugar, cardamom and rose water in bowl, and mix for 2 minutes until white and creamy. Add chickpea flour all at once, and mix for 1 minute until dough is no longer sticky. Dust work surface with chickpea flour, knead dough 2 minutes by hand and flatten dough on surface until 6 inches square and 3/4-inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap, place on plate and let rest for 1 hour in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Unwrap dough. Use cloverleaf cookie cutter, and cut out dough. Place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving 1 inch between pieces to allow for spreading. Decorate each with a slivered pistachio. Place sheet on rack in center of oven.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cookie bottoms are light golden. Remove cookies from oven, and allow to cool.

Recipe courtesy of the Vegetarian Times.

Hungary: Kifli

When foreigners think of Hungarian cuisine, goulash and chicken paprika naturally spring to mind. However, traditional Hungarian food doesn't stop at these two tasty dishes. The food of Hungary has a long history with many influences - including those from neighboring Slavic countries, Germany, Austria, and France. Paprika, Hungarians' favorite seasoning, is used generously, though mild paprika is more commonly used than is spicy paprika.

Hungarians have inherited dessert recipes and other sweet concoctions from all over Europe. Somloi galuska is a decadent sponge cake containg rum sauce, vanilla cream, and chocolate syrup. Dobos torta is another unbelievably rich sponge cake topped with caramel. Those with sweet tooths will also enjoy doughnuts, strudel, and other sweet pastries and cakes that have become integral to Hungarian dessert cuisine. A favorite is Kifli which means 'crescent moon' Hungarian, a fitting name for these crescent shaped sweets.


Step One: Mix together 1/4 cup milk (warmed to 110 degrees), 1 tbs yeast, 1 tsp sugar and set aside. Ensure it does not clump.

Step Two: Using a pastry knife, mix together 3 cups flour, 1 cup butter (cold) and a pinch of salt. Add 3-1/2 tbs sugar and 1/2 tsp baking powder.

Step Three: In a separate bowl, beat 3 egg yolks. If the yeast mixture from Step One has begun to froth, add to the egg yolks. Mix in 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

Step Four: Mix the wet ingredients together with the dry ingredients. The dough should have the consistency of peanut butter cookie dough. Add flour if sticky. Knead well and let stand 2 hours in a warm place.

Step Five: Divide the dough into 5 equal sized balls. Sprinkle sugar on a board, put a dough ball on the board, and roll out into a circle about 12 inches across. Flip the dough over and put more sugar on the board. Cut like a pizza into wedges about 1-1/2 inches at widest. Put Lekvar plum jam on each wedge and roll into into a cylinder from wide edge to point. Roll in sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet at 325 F for 15 min until golden brown.

Tip: If you do not want to or cannot order Lekvar jam, you can use apricot or other jam or a combination of ground walnuts, milk and sugar.

Recipe courtesy of Professor Mark Csele's Baba!

Nigeria: Shuku-Shuku

Nigeria has such a variety of people and cultures that it is difficult to pick one national dish. Each area has its own regional favorite that depends on customs, tradition, and religion. The different foods available also depend on the season. The "hungry season" is before the rains arrive in March, and the "season of surplus" follows the harvest in October and November.

Fruits, however, are enjoyed year-round. A large part of Nigeria lies in the tropics, where many fruits are available. Some of the popular fruits are oranges, melons, grapefruits, limes, mangoes, bananas, and pineapples.

Nigerians enjoy many different snacks that are eaten throughout the day. Some examples are fried yam chips, boiled groundnuts, and meat pastries. Akara, which is a puffy, deep-fried cake made with black-eyes peas, is sometimes eaten with chili dip. Other snacks are kulikuli (small deep-fried balls of peanut paste), suya, a hot and spicy kebab, and a few sweets like chinchin (fried pastries in strips) and shuku-shuku.

Snack foods are an important part of a child's diet. Fresh fruits (mangoes are a favorite to many), fried bean cakes, cookies, or candy are commonly sold by street vendors. Snacks provide an opportunity for children to eat on their own, without having to share with siblings.

Shuku-shuku (Coconut Cookies)

1 medium coconut (grated & squeezed) (or 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut)
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup caster sugar (or superfine sugar)
1/2 cup self-rising flour

Preheat oven to 350 degree.

In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, egg yolks and sugar. Form into small balls of about 1 inch in diameter.

Roll each ball in flour and place on an oiled baking sheet. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and store in an air tight tins .

Recipe courtesy of

Syria: Barazeh

What Syrian food lacks in variety, it makes up for in delicious, fresh flavours and savoury spices. Damascenes are tremendously proud of their local food and are not big consumers of the food of other cultures - Chinese or Mexican, for example. There are a few ethnic restaurants in the large hotels, but most of the restaurant you'll see in Damascus serve Syrian food.

Damascus has an amazing array of sweet shops, and many of them stay open quite late to offer goodies to the "after dinner" crowd. You'll see a lot of slices of quite elaborate cake - gateaux - and small round balls that look like shiny doughnuts. These are baklawa which taste like doughnut balls soaked in honey. Another dessert which is more likely to be served at home, for a special occasion is RuzHalib - a rice pudding served in an enormous pan, which everyone attacks with spoons! Yallah! Bring your toothbrush to Damascus, the sweets will make your teeth ache!


1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. water
2-1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup water
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped pistachios (optional)

Scatter the sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven until a light golden brown. Combine the honey with the (1 tbsp.) water and use to moisten the sesame seeds. Spread in a saucer.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and sugar. Cut in the butter, as if you were making pie crust dough. Gradually add the (2/3 cup) water until the dough is smooth.

Form balls of dough the size of walnuts and dip one side of each ball into the sesame seed mixture to coat. The bottom side may be very lightly touched to the pistachios. Place on greased baking sheets, sesame side up.

Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Recipe from "The Arabian Delights Cookbook" by Anne Marie Weiss-Armush

United States: Nestle Toll House Cookies

Like hamburgers and apple pie, nothing says the United States better than chocolate chip cookies. I am relatively certain that there is not a mother in the United States who hasn't baked these treats for or with their kids at least once.

The original Nestle Toll House Cookies were invented by Ruth Wakefield back in the late 1920's. She and her husband owned a tourist lodge named the Toll House Inn. Ruth prepared all of the meals for her guests at the Inn and gained notoriety for her desserts. One of her favorite recipes was for Butter Drop Do cookies.

The recipe called for baker's chocolate and one day Ruth found herself without the needed ingredient. She substituted a semi-sweet chocolate bar cut up into bits. However, unlike the baker's chocolate, the chopped up chocolate bar did not melt completely, the small pieces only softened.
As it so happened the chocolate bar had been a gift from Andrew Nestle of the Nestle Chocolate Company. As the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe became popular, sales of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate bar increased. Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield struck a deal. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its packaging and Ruth Wakefield would have a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate.

Original Nestle Toll House Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated [white] sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts (if desired). Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE in preheated 375-degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

TIP: If you like your chippers chewy, bake for 8 to 9 minutes. The centers will still look slightly wet and the edges will be golden brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 to 3 minutes.

Iceland: Hálfmánar

It takes special people to not just endure but embrace the dark winters, spewing volcanoes, and the isolation that are facts of life in Iceland. Indeed, resilient Icelanders have an utterly sunny outlook, with one of the longest life expectancies and highest standards of living in the world. Ever since the Vikings, Iceland's first inhabitants, set foot on this enchanting island in the 9th century, the people of Iceland have been hard at work successfully making this rugged country a hospitable and overwhelmingly desirable place to live.

Food plays a large part in Icelandic Christmas festivities and there are several local culinary traditions to be honoured over the holidays. The fun starts in early December, when families congregate to bake several types of Christmas-cookies to be eaten over the course of the coming month. An average household will usually produce around three to ten different sorts of cookies, although later years have seen an increase in the circulation of store-bought ones. One of the favored traditional cookies is Hálfmánar, or Half Moon Cookies, so-called because of their shape.


2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
½ tsp hartshorn powder (available online at King Arthur's Flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
Cardamom essence to taste
Rhubarb or other jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together sugar, baking powder, hartshorn powder and flour. Add soft butter and mix until crumbly. Add egg, milk and cardamom essesnce and knead until smooth. Store in a refrigerator until cold through (overnight is usual).

Flatten with a rolling pin and cut out cookies with a glass or circular cookie cutter. Put about a teaspoonful of jam in the center of each cookie, fold cookies in half and press edges together with a fork. Arrange on a lightly floured baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden.

Recipe adapted from Icecook, a blog about Icelandic food and cuisine.

France: Gaufrettes

Gaufrettes are a French delicacy which have become very popular with top chefs. They are cast on an aluminum iron that makes a wafer with tiny waffle-like design of rich butter dough. The gaufrette, delicious on its own as a cookie, is traditionally served with wine on festive occasions.

There are at least three different foods called "gaufrettes." One is waffles - Belgian waffles are called gaufrettes. Another is waffled french fried potatoes, which are called "pommes gaufrettes". And then there is this thin, almond flavored cookie similar to a pizzelle.


2 egg whites
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
4 tbs butter, melted and cooled

Beat egg whites until very stiff; fold in sugar gradually, then add vanilla and salt. Sift flour into egg whites and fold in melted and cooled butter.

Drop spoonful in center of preheated gaufrette iron, close iron, and bake on top of range, first on one side, then the other. Use medium heat for baking. Never allow your iron to stand on a burner with highest heat. You can also use an electric waffle iron or pizzelle iron to make these cookies.

When wafer is golden-colored, remove from iron and allow to cool. If tiny wafers are desired, put a very small portion of batter in opposite ends of the iron. By shaping the wafers while still warm, one can make rich, delicious cones for ice cream or other fillings.

Yield: 7 or more large wafers (or approximately 14 small wafers)

Recipe courtesy of Sweet Celebrations Bakeware.

Israel: Mandelbrodt

Israel's diverse population makes its cuisine unique. People from more than seventy different countries, with many different food and customs, currently live in Israel. Many people began arriving in 1948, when the country, then known as Palestine, gained its independence from Great Britain. At this time, large numbers of Eastern European Jews hoped to establish a Jewish nation in Israel. They brought traditional Jewish dishes to Israel that they had prepared in countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Russia. The Palestinians, most of whom were of Arab descent, enjoyed a cuisine adapted from North Africa and the Middle East.

Mandelbrodt, which literally means almond (mandel) bread (brodt), is a twice-baked hard bread similar to Italian biscotti. It is more common in Ashkenaz (European) Israelies rather than Sefardi (Middle Eastern and others).


3 eggs, beaten
½ cup sugar
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup finely chopped, blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place eggs and sugar in large mixing bowl, and use egg beater or electric mixer to blend well.
Add flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and almonds and mix well to blend. Pour into loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool before using knife to slice into ½-inch-thick pieces.

Reduce oven heat to 200°F.

Place slices side by side on cookie sheet and return to oven to dry out. Bake for about 20 minutes on each side until very dry and lightly toasted.

Keeps indefinitely when stored in an airtight container.

The Netherlands: Jan Hagels

Jan Hagel (yan HAH-ghle) cookies are a traditional Dutch holiday sweet. They are very thin, light and flaky. They are also known as Hollanders, Janhagels, Janhagel Cookies, Dutch Almond Cookies or Sugar Hail Cookies.

Jan Hagel - Johnny Hail - is Dutch for ‘an unruly mob’ or ‘rabble,’ with hagel in the sense of ‘multitude’ or ‘swarm.’ In the cookie, the rock sugar resembles hail.

Jan Hagels

10-1/2 oz Flour
6 oz. butter
5 oz. sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
5 oz. rock sugar (or sanding sugar)
2 egg whites
Chopped nuts (optional)

Mix the softened butter with the sugar, cinnamon, salt and the white of one egg until the mixture is creamy. Sift the flour on a board or countertop and put the butter mixture in small dabs all over the flour. Knead it into a smooth ball. Let the dough cool in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Put the rock sugar (kandij) in a tea towel and pound it until it is about the size of rice grains.
Grease a cookie sheet and put the dough on it, rolling it out into a thin layer. Brush it with the remaining egg white and sprinkle it with the rock sugar. You can also sprinkle chopped nuts if desired. Cut - but do not separate - the dough in strips of approx. 1-1/2 inches wide and 3-1/2 inches long.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let the baked cookie cool off and then break at pre-cuts for individual cookies.

Yield: Approximately 50 cookies

Recipe courtesy of

Greece: Kourabiedes (Clove Cookies)

Kourabiedes, traditional Greek cookies, is one of the two kinds of cookies that are traditionally consumed in large quantities in Greece during the holiday season. The other is Melomacarona. Kourabiedes (kou-ra-bi-ETH-es)', is the plural of the word Kourabies (kou-ra-bi-ES).

Legend has it that these buttery shortbreads were crescent-shaped during the Turkish occupation of Greece, in deference to the Turkish flag. However, while crescent-shaped kourabiedes can still be found, after Greece regained independence from Turkey people in many parts of the country resumed making them in thick slabs, balls or shaped like little pears. No holiday or special-occasion feast would be complete without them, and they are usually on hand to offer to guests.


2 cups unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tbs brandy
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups flour
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1 lb confectioners sugar (for coating)

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup confectionrs sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating continuously. Add the brandy and vanilla. Blend in the almonds and flour, one cup at a time, with a wooden spoon or your hands. Use just enough flour to get a firm dough.

Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Shape the dough into balls, approximately 1inch in diameter. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten them slightly and then placed on greased cookie sheets.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. While they are still hot, roll each cookie in the confectioners sugar and return to the cookie sheet. Repeat this step once more so that there is a thicker coating of the confectioners sugar.

Place the coated cookies on a platter, liberally sprinkling each layer and the bottom of the platter with confectioners sugar. Let cool.

To store: Kourabiethes will keep for several months if stored in airtight containers. Make sure there's a dusting of powdered sugar on the bottom of the container, then layer cookies as above, each layer with a covering of sugar. Wait one day after baking to cover with an airtight lid.

TIP: Try using ouzo or scotch instead of the brandy. You can also use almond extract rather than the vanilla extract.

Yield: Approximately 30 cookies

Germany: Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen cookies are a German tradition consumed all around the world. German Lebkuchen was probably the first cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. Certainly without Lebkuchen it wouldn't be Christmas in Germany (where 85 percent of the billion or so annually consumed are devoured between October and December), just as it wouldn't be Christmas in France without the Buche de Noel or in England without plum pudding.

Food historians generally agree the art of crafting small baked goods into fancy shapes began as a Christmas tradition in Medieval Germany. Lebkuchen (gingerbread) was a highly sophisticated art. The legal right to make these products was carefully protected, and they were sometimes used as Christmas decorations.

Though Lebkuchen is made everywhere in Germany, there is no question that the best and most celebrated is made in Nuremberg, where as early as 1395 a bakery devoted to the delicacy opened and where during the Middle Ages a Lebkuchen Baker's Guild was established. It was only natural that production of Lebkuchen first centered there. Situated on the intersection of ancient trade routes from the Orient and surrounded by imperial woods which were home to the bee gardens of the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg had all the spices and honey it needed to cultivate a Lebkuchen industry.

Authentic Lebkuchen is traditionally baked on a wafer base and may be formed into all shapes and sizes, though bars, as in this recipe adapted from German Life magazine, are obviously the easiest version to make. But even using this simple approach, it is essential that the dough be refrigerated overnight to develop the proper flavor and texture.

German Lebkuchen

1 cup honey
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel
1/4 cup finely chopped candied citron
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon allspice
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
32 whole blanched almonds, toasted
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat honey and brown sugar over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture is thin. Let cool until only slightly warm and whisk in the egg.

Add raisins, chopped almonds, candied fruit, lemon peel, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and the allspice and mix well. Sift together flour, soda, and salt and stir into honey mixture 1/2 cup at a time until all ingredients are combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Divide dough in half and press evenly into two buttered 9-inch square pans. Brush surface with milk and bake for 30 minutes until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. While warm, score each pan into 16 bars, pressing a whole almond into the center of each.

Combine powdered sugar, remaining 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and vanilla and brush evenly over bars. Let cool completely before cutting. Store in a tightly covered tin. Do not store in plastic bags.

Recipe courtesy of German Life Magazine.