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.

Bolivia: Tawa-Tawas

Bolivia has a diversity of geographical zones with varied climate, culture and food. Their cuisine incorporates a great variety of dishes, mainly meat, fish and poultry blended with herbs and spices. The diet also consists of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Some traditional dishes include Majao which is a rice dish with eggs,beef and fried banana, Silpancho meat served with rice and potatoes, Pacumutu, a rice dish with grilled beef, fried yucca and cheese, Saltenas and Empanadas which are meat or vegetable pies.

Popular desserts are cocadas, pukacapas, and Tawa-Tawas, or sweet fritters. What makes the Bolivian version unique is their use of cane honey in the final product.


2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup water or milk
2 cups butter or oil to fry
1 cup cane honey

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add butter and mix well. Add the beaten eggs and then water or milk, little by little, mixing very well after each addition until the dough is smooth.

Place the dough on a table, slightly sprinkled with flour, and knead it. Let it rest for ten minutes, covered with a dish cloth or towel.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, stretch it out until it becomes very thin (about a tenth of an inch). Cut the dough into small rhombus-shaped pieces, approximately 2" wide. Then cover them with a cloth. Repeat the process with the remaining half of dough.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat oil at a high temperature. Fry several pieces simultaneously. Once they are golden on one side, turn them over until they are golden on the other side too.

Remove the tawa-tawas from the frying pan, drain them and place them on a paper towels to absorb oil. Finally, place them in a tray and pour cane honey over them. If desired, sprinkle with fine sugar as well.

Yield: 60 two-inch rhombus-shaped tawa-tawas.

Cuba: Torticas de Morón

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area. Cuban cuisine has almost nothing in common with Mexican cuisine, which is a surprise for many visitors from the United States or Europe. It also differs from other Latin American cuisines and food traditions of the United States.

In a country where sugar has historically represented both the main agricultural and industrial endeavour, desserts are ubiquitous. The simplest sugar dessert is raspadura, which is pure solidified sugar can molasses. Criollo cooking usually resorts to very simple desserts made mainly with fruit and sugar, such as dulce de coco (ground coconut flesh boiled with sugar) or casquitos de guayaba (guava flesh boiled with sugar). Dulce de Guayaba, barra de guayaba or membrillo are names that describe one of Cuba's most ubiquitous dessert: Guava paste (made with guava, sugar and gelatine). Most Cuban desserts are tremendously sweet (usually, fruits and sugar are used in equal quantities for the recipe), and this has established the custom of eating these desserts along with salted cheese or cream cheese, that help reduce the perceived sweetness of these dishes. Other common ingredients in criollo desserts are cinnamon, lime and vanilla.

Torticas de Morón originated in the town of Morón, and is sold at bakeries as a popular snack item. The original is typically made with lard (although vegetable shortening seems to be a fairly common substitution) and the lime and rum flavors make its taste distinctly Cuban.

Torticas de Moron

3 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp lime zest
1 large egg
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp white rum
Guava paste (or regular jam, if unavailable)
Confectioners sugar, for serving

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer), cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in lime zest and egg, followed by lime juice and rum. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work, until dough comes together.

Divide dough into three portions and work with each one individually. Work with one piece of dough at a time, wrapping the others in plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/3" inch thick. Dust lightly with flour as you work to keep the dough from sticking. Use a lightly floured 2-inch round cutter to cut out circles of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Cut pieces of guava paste into dime-sized circles or squares, making each approx 1/4 inch thick (circles if your guava paste comes in rolls, as mine does, and squares if yours comes in a brick). Lightly press one piece into the top of each cookie.*Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

Bake for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are light gold at the edges. Cool on baking sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Yield: about 3 dozen.

*Note: If you don’t have guava paste, you can use jam. Simply make a depression in the cookie before you bake it, then fill with a spoonful of jam before serving.

With minor variations, recipe courtesy of Baking Bites.

Cambodia: Num Treap

A thousand years ago the Khmer Kingdom, which centered on Angkor, ruled an empire that included most of southeast Asia. Hence, many of the dishes made famous by Thai and Vietnamese kitchens have their roots in Khmer dishes from that time.

The Khmer recipes being revived today go back to the days before the introduction of the chili, so are subsequently much milder than most Asian food. The chili was unknown in Asia until the 16th century when it arrived with the Portuguese. Modern Khmer cuisine takes some of the best qualities from Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisines and blends them into a unique and delicious culinary experience.

Rice remains a main staple in current day cuisine, being eaten as often as three times a day with noodles as an alternative. The Great Lake (Tonle Sap) and the sea are still the main provider of protein in the Cambodian diet, providing bountiful amounts seafood and fish, although meats such as beef, pork or chicken are also eaten, albeit in much small quantities, and are usually sliced or minced and used more as a flavouring.

Fresh vegetables and fruit are also widely used as ingredients as are, lime juice and coconut milk and both fish sauce and fish paste (prahok), all of which give Cambodian food its unique flavour. Kaffir lime, galangal, turmeric, garlic, lemon grass, tamarind and ginger are common spices used in cooking and together create a subtle balance of salty, sweet, sour and bitter making it one of the world's most interesting, healthiest and balanced cuisines.

A typical Cambodian meal today normally consists of a soup, a salad, a main fish dish, vegetables and rice. Cambodian desserts are normally based on fresh fruits and sticky rice.

Desserts are typically puddings or other delicacies based on either bananas or rice. Num Treap, sticky rice with toasted sesame seeds, is a favored dessert in Cambodian cuisine.

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

1 cup sweet jasmine rice
1 cup water
2/3 cup coconut milk
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon banana or vanilla extract
4 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Place Jasmine rice and water in a saucepan bring to the boil then reduce heat; cover and cook very gently for about 15 minutes or until the rice is just cooked.

While the rice is cooking, place the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a large saucepan and cook over a medium-high heat until it thickens, stirring frequently.

Fluff the rice with a fork to separate. Add rice to the coconut sauce in the other pan, and mix well.

Spread the mixture into a shallow dish or baking pan and sprinkle sesame seeds on top, pressing them down with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to set for few hours.

Cut into squares after it cools for a few hours, and then serve.