Latvia: Tokorzvarhitjas


Latvian cuisine overall has been greatly influenced by its neighboring countries. Tokorzvarhitjas, or bowknot cookies, may have originated in Latvia, but the idea is basically the same whether the cookie is made in Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria or Russia.

The basis for this delicious treat is a sour cream dough that is rolled out, cut deep fried and sprinkled with confectioners sugar.

Sweden: Pepparkakor


There is no cookie that says "Christmas in Sweden" more than traditional Pepparkakor, commonly referred to as "ginger thins" or "gingernuts" in the UK. Although they are similar in taste to the United States' gingersnaps, they are very different cookies. Pepparkakor are generally spiced a bit heavier, with a smooth finish and are extremely thin -- approximately 1/8". Gingersnaps in the United States are usually drop cookies with crackes on the top and oftentimes a soft center.

Pepparkakor is an integral part of the Christmas feast in Sweden and is also used to decorate their Christmas trees. While you will usually see them in the shape of a heart, at the holidays they are also cut into pig and goat shapes. What? You don't know about the Christmas goat?

Swedish custom says that you should place a Pepparkakor in the palm of your hand. Then, make a wish. Using the index finger or thumb of your free hand, tap the cookie in the middle. Swedish tradition states that if the Pepparkakor breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true. If the Pepparkakor does not break into three pieces, well, you'll just have to enjoy eating the cookie in smaller pieces.

Thailand: Khanom Phing


The Portuguese have had an impact on the way Asians cook. This can be seen as early as the early 16th century when the Portuguese went abroad from Malaysia to nearby Thailand, then known as Siam. The Portuguese influenced an unexpected aspect of Thai cuisine: its sweets. By introducing the concept of using egg yolks and flour, ingredients integral to Portuguese dessert making, the Portuguese had an impact on Thai desserts that exists until today.

Real traditional Thai desserts contains only three main ingredients : flour, sugar and coconut. These three are mixed in different amounts and cooked by various methods such as bolling, frying, streaming, and grilling, to produce nummerous kinds of desserts. Almost 1,000 different desserts have been invented from only 3 main ingredients displaying great imagination and perseverance on the part of the Thai people.

United States: Apees


Apees (also known as A.P. or apeas) are a spiced butter cookie of German origins that are popular in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

History has is that the cookies got their name from the fact that they were a form of Anis Platchen (anise cookies) and they were stamped with A.P. on top of them to distinguish them from cookies made with carraway which were known as "seed cakes".

There were many bakers selling these on the streets in Philadelphia, and one of the most popular was Ann Page. Very quickly, the A.P. stamped on the cookies became associated with Ann Page. 

Poland: Chrusciki


Loosely translated, Chrusciki means “cookie” in Polish. They are also commonly referred to as "Angels’ Wings", although North Americans also refer to them as "Bow Ties". They are also known as Chiacchiere in Italy. These sugar-dusted sweets are associated with the pre-Lenten carnival in Poland. In the United States, they are generally served at Polish-American weddings and other festivities.

Russia: Kosh Tili


One of the smallest and least-known ethnic groups in Russia are the Tatars. They represent an area officially known as Tatarstan, 500 miles east of Moscow. Kosh Tili, which means "birds' tongues", is a traditional fried cookie treat prepared for holidays.

Puerto Rico: Mantecaditos


Historically, several countries have had an influence on Puerto Rican cuisine: Spain, Mexico, Africa and the United States.

Sweets are very much a part of the Puerto Rican cuisine, with custards, puddings and flans as some of the favorites. Mantecaditos are favorite cookies, particularly at the Holidays.

Ukraine: Varenyky


Varenyky (or vareniki in Russian) are stuffed dough pockets that are near and dear to the hearts of the people of the Ukraine, although variations are also found in Belarusian, Russian, Polish and Turkish cuisine. They are similar to Polish pierogi, Siberian pelmeni and Italian ravioli. Thte name varenyk simply means "boiled thing". To prepare them, filling is wrapped in a dough, boiled and then covered with butter or some type of oil.

The savory version of these are generally filled with cottage cheese or a potato and cheese filling and are topped with sour cream and sauteed onions. The sweet version of Varenyky are generally stuffed with fruit and served with sour cream and sugar. In Latvia, they glaze them with egg whites, bake them and then serve with soup; Mennonites generally bake and serve them with borscht; and the Polish boil them, fry them up in some butter and then top with bread crumbs.


Varenyky

12 tablespoons cold butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
14 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg yolk, optional
3 tablespoons granulated sugar or to taste
1/4 cup sour cream
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
granulated sugar
sour cream for garnish

Combine flour and 1/4 cup of sugar. Rub in butter until well combined and mixture is crumbly. Stir in the eggs (add a little water if necessary).

Form dough into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Wash blackberries and mash with a fork. Add cream cheese, egg yolk, 3 tablespoons sugar, sour cream, cinnamon, and salt.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out thinly on a lightly floured work surface. Use a round cookie cutter or rim of a drinking glass and cut the dough into 4" rounds. Place a spoonful of the filling in the middle of each circle. Moisten the edges of the dough and fold in half to enclose the filling. Pinch to seals the edges well.

To cook, drop into boiling salted water and cook until the dumplings are floating. Remove, drain and sprinkle with sugar. Serve with sour cream.

Lebanon: Nammoura



Nammoura is a traditional Middle Eastern sweet treat that everyone, especially the children, enjoys.

Nammoura

14 oz. Cream of Wheat
1/4 pound butter, melted
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cups sugar
16 whole raw shelled almonds
3 cups cold Atter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix well all ingredients except almonds. Pour into a 13 x 9-in. pan. Top with almonds (1 per serving, on center).

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden. Cut into squares or rectangles. Pour cold atter syrup over namoura immediately.

Yield: 1 tray.

NOTE: It is important to keep namoura covered to prevent dryness.


Atter Syrup

This is the standard syrup that most Arabs pour over all things sweet. This syrup is used for a number of Middle Eastern pastries and treats. It will keep for a very long time stored covered in the refrigerator.

3 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp rose water or orange blossom water

Dissolve sugar in water. Add lemon juice, bring to a boil. Stir occasionally until syrup slightly thickens (about 10 minutes). Add rose water towards end of cooking time. Let stand to cool.

Yield: 3 cups.

South Africa: Koeksisters


Koeksisters are a very sticky South African sweet. They originated from the Malayan slaves brought to Cape Province by the European settlers. The Malays made this deep-fried spiced sweet in round balls.

The Afrikaaner version is shaped like a short, fat plait. Koeksisters dough is divided into strips with a special koeksisters cutter. It’s then plaited and deep-fried. To finish, it is plunged straight from the hot oil into an icy cold sugar syrup.

Koeksisters


1-1/2 (to 3) cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs
vegetable oil for frying

For syrup:
1-1/2 pounds granulated sugar
1 pint water
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Heat sugar and water over medium heat. When mixture thickens, remove form heat. Stir in cinnamon. Cool syrup, then refrigerate.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Cut in butter. Beat the eggs. When dough comes together, form in to a ball.

Roll out dough between two pieces of wax paper until 1/4" in thickness. Carefully remove the top sheet of wax paper. Cut into rectangles approximately 2" X 4". Cut each rectangle lengthwise into three strips, keeping them joined at the top. (See illustration.) Braid the strips and twist the ends to seal.

Heat oil to 350F. Fry cookies, a few at a time until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dip hot cookies into cold syrup.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen

South Africa: Soetkoekies (Spicy Wine Cookies)



Soetkoekies are of Dutch origin and have been a favorite South African treat for many years, together with other traditional cookies such as crunchies and rusks. The Dutch colonised Cape Town in 1652 and rapidly established their cooking traditions at the Cape, so this is probably one of the older recipes still in use in South Africa.

Unsurprisingly, given their Dutch roots, there is a definite correlation between the ingredients and flavors of these cookies and Dutch Speculaas. The main differences between the two are the omission of the white pepper and cardamom from the Soetkoekies and the addition of the red wine. However, in appearance and texture they are quite different. While speculaas is made in shaped molds, soetkoekies are drop cookies. And whereas speculaas is quite crisp and crumbly, soetkoekies are deliciously chewy.

Traditionally, these cookies used to be decorated with red stripes using "rooi bolus" (a ferris-oxide mixture used as food colouring) as a coloring.




Soetkoekies (Spicy Wine Cookies)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs
1/4 cup red wine
1 egg white, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, brown sugar, and almonds and whisk together. Cut in the butter. Stir in the eggs and red wine.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place on cookie sheets about 2" apart. Dab tops with beaten egg white.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until brown around the edges.Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Malaysia: Durian Apom Balik




Malaysian sweets are often made with copious amounts of coconut and/or palm sugar. They are plentiful with street vendors hawking delicious treats all day.

"Durian" is the fruit of a Malaysian tree that can weigh up to 10 pounds. It has a brownish-green, semi-hard shell covered with thick spikes, and is slightly larger than a football. The creamy, slightly sweet flesh has a rich custardy texture. The seeds are roasted and eaten like nuts.

The fruit has an overpowering odor, similar to stinky feet. Durian has been described as "smelling like Hell and tasting like Heaven." Durian fruit is used in a variety of Malaysian sweets, such as candy, rose biscuits and cakes.

While the fruit is generally not available in the United States, you should be able to find the puree for this recipe at most Asian stores.

Durian Apom Balik

2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1-1/2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup durian puree (optional)
8 pandan leaves
2/3 cup thick coconut milk
1 cup water
3 eggs
a pinch of salt


Wash and blend pandan leaves with the water and strain out the juice.

Sift or whisk together the rice flour, plain flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, eggs and durian puree with the thick coconut milk. Stir till sugar dissolves.

Mix dry ingredients with 1 cup of the pandan water to make a smooth batter. Gradually add this batter to the egg mixture. Mix well and strain mixture.

Heat an apom balik mould or kwali (small wok) until hot. You can also use a small skillet or crepe pan for this purpose. Reduce the heat and grease slightly with oil.

Pour thin layer of the batter into the mould. Cook over low heat, uncovered, until bubbles appear on the top. Cover with a lid and cook until the apom balik turns golden brown. Remove from mould and fold the apom balik into half.



Recipe and photos courtesy of Rose's Kitchen.

Italy: Amaretti


Amaretti is the Italian name for macaroons, which means "little bitter things". Crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft inside, these small, domed shaped cookies originated in Venice, Italy during the Renaissance period.

Amaretti cookies are made from either ground almonds or almond paste, along with sugar and egg whites and can be flavored with chocolate or liqueurs. Oftentimes, two baked cookies are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam.

Traditionally these cookies were served with a sweet dessert wine or liqueur, but they are also wonderful with a bowl of ice cream, sherbets, or mousses. Another favorite way to use these cookies is to finely ground them and then add them to desserts (such as trifles) for added texture and flavor.


Amaretti Cookies

8 oz almond paste
1 cup superfine sugar
2 large egg whites
granulated sugar for dusting finished cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip.

Break the almond paste into small pieces and place in bowl of electric mixer along with the sugar. Mix on low speed until very fine. Add the egg whites in three additions, mixing well after each addition. Continue mixing the dough until very smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Fill the pastry bag with the almond mixture. Pipe 1-1/2 inch mounds onto the parchment paper, spacing about 1 inch apart. After you have filled the baking sheet with cookie mounds, take a damp paper towel and lightly press the top of each cookie to smooth out the surface (you want to smooth out the tip of dough at the top of each cookie caused from piping). Lightly sprinkle a little sugar on top of each cookie.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cookies have risen, are a deep golden color and have tiny cracks.

Remove from the oven and place baking sheet on a rack to cool. When cooled, gently peel cookies from parchment. If they stick to parchment, turn the paper over, take a damp paper towel and gently wipe the bottom of the parchment paper to loosen the cookie.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen


Adapted from Great Italian Desserts by Nick Malgieri

France: Madeleines



Guest contributor, Alicia Rohner

There are two legends associated with Madeleines, those delicious French treats.

Madeleines are almost always associated with the little French town of Commercy, whose bakers were said to have once, long ago, paid a "very large sum" for the recipe and sold the little cakes packed in oval boxes as a specialty in the area. Nuns in eighteenth-century France frequently supported themselves and their schools by making and selling a particular sweet. Commercy once had a convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdelen. Historians posit that the nuns, probably when all the convents and monasteries of France were abolished during the French Revolution, sold their recipe to the bakers.

According to another story or legend, during the 18th century in the French town of Commercy, in the region of Lorraine, a young servant girl name Madeleine made them for Stanislas Leszczynska, the deposed king of Poland when he was exiled to Lorraine. This started the fashion for Madeleines (as they were named by the Leszczynska). They became popular in Versailles by his daughter Marie, who was married to Louis XV (1710–1774).


Chocolate Madeleines

3 eggs
3.5 oz all-purpose flour
4.5 oz granulated sugar
3.5 oz dark chocolate (70 %, Valhrona)
4 oz butter
1 tsp baking powder

Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Sift or whisk the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until thickened. Reduce the speed and add the sugar gradually. Increase the speed to high again and beat until light and fluffy.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the flour and baking powder by hand. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate and butter mixture and blend, not overworking the dough. Place the batter in the fridge for a few hours before baking (minimum 1 hour).
Preheat the oven to 430 degrees. Fill madeleine molds 3/4 full. Bake for 7 minutes first so that they rise nicely, then reduce the heat to 350 F and continue to cook for 4 more minutes.

Note: These madeleines can be kept for a few days in an air-proof metallic box but are much nicer if eaten the day they are cooked.



Recipe and photos courtesy of La Tartine Gourmande.

You can purchase special Madeleine Molds at Crate and Barrel for $15.95 or at Williams-Sonoma for $22.00.

Mexico: Polvorones de Canela



Polvorones de Canela (Cinnamon Cookies)

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar plus 1 tsp cinnamon for dusting




Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Add the flour in gradually, mixing well after each addition. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or so in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into one-inch balls and then roll them in the cinnamon-powdered sugar mixture. Place on baking sheets approximately 2" apart.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Portugal: Raivas


Portuguese cuisine is characterised by rich, filling and full-flavored dishes and is a prime example of a Mediterranean diet. The influence of Portugal's former colonial possessions is clear, especially in the wide variety of spices used. These include piri piri (small, fiery chili peppers), as well as cinnamon, vanilla and saffron.

There are also Arab and Moorish influences, especially in the south of the country. Olive oil is one of the bases of Portuguese cuisine both for cooking and flavouring meals. Garlic is widely used, as are herbs such as coriander and parsley.

This recipe for a favorite Portugese treat, Raivas, uses cinnamon as its main flavoring. They are a specialty of the Beira Litoral region of Portugal.



Raivas (Cinnamon Butter Cookies)

2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon (more to taste if desired)
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbs sweet, unsalted butter
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream the flour and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the flour and cinnamon together. Beat the eggs into the butter sugar mixture. Add the flour to the butter mixture gradually, mixing well after each addition.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, and knead once or twice until smooth. Do not over handle this dough, or it will be tough. Form dough into a log and divide into 6 equal pieces. Divide each of these into four pieces -- one piece for each cookie.

Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Roll each piece of cookie dough into a long thin snake on the floured surface. Join it into a circle, and set it on the covered cookie sheet. Then push the sides of the circle into the middle, making squiggly shapes.

Bake six to a sheet, for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack.

Yield: 24 cookies

Recipe adapted from Maria deLourdes Modesto's Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa, c Editorial Verbo, Lisboa/Sao Paulo, 1982

Scotland: Shortbread



Scotland is known for many things, their Shortbread being one of them. While Shortbread was traditionally made with fine oat flour and butter, the recipe has been updated to use wheat flour, sometimes mixed with rice flour.

The importance of butter in this recipe has never changed, however, and the flavor of the finished product absolutely relies on it. You would never see a Scot substituting margarine in this recipe. And there's never any salt in genuine Scottish Shortbread, so be sure to use sweet, unsalted butter.

The word "short" in Shortbread means that it contains a lot of shortening (butter), which makes it break and crumble easily. This is the sign of a good Shortbread.


Scottish Shortbread

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup rice flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter in a mixing bowl until soft. Add sugar gradually and mix well. Soft or whisk together the flours. Gradually add to the butter mixture, mixing well.

Spoon the dough into a 9-inch, ungreased pie pan and use the back of a spoon to press it down smoothly and evenly over the bottom of the pan. With the tines of a fork, make rows of fork pricks on the dough approximately every 1/2 inch.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a light golden-brown. Remove from the pan and cut into 8 wedges. Remove from the pie pan and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 8 pieces

Spain: Almendrados


Almendrados, almond-lemon macaroons, which date from the 15th century or earlier, are cookies made of ground blanched almonds, lemon zest, egg and sugar and are left out to dry for a day before baking.

“We have found examples of these cookies from 1491,” said David M. Gitlitz, professor of Hispanic culture at the University of Rhode Island. After the expulsion of Jews from Spain, he said, a Jew who was passing as a Christian “was accused by the Inquisition of buying almond cookies from the Jewish quarter in Barbastri in Arag√≥n.”

Almendrados

2 cups whole blanched almonds, plus about 30 almonds for decoration
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Using a food processor equipped with a metal blade, grind 2 cups almonds very finely. Add 3/4 cup sugar, the egg and lemon zest, and pulse to make a cohesive dough. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner. Place remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.

Pinching off pieces of dough about the size of a walnut, roll them first into balls, then into sugar. Gently press an almond point first into top of each cookie, so that half the almond can be seen. Arrange cookies one inch apart on baking sheet.

Bake until cookies have barest hint of color but still remain soft, 8 to 10 minutes. (Cookies must be soft when removed from oven to avoid excess hardening when they cool.)

Cool completely, and store in an airtight container.

Yield: About 30 cookies.

Egypt: Zalabia


Zalabia are puffy fritters soaked in syrup that are popular in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. The dough is usually colored red or yellow to express joy and happiness, and the fritters are sometimes sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon.

In Lebanon, it is preferred to dip their Zalabia in halvah, a mixture of ground sesame seeds and honey. In some places, Zalabia is still called by its medieval name, Luqmat el Qadi, which means "judge's mouthfuls".


Zalabia

For the fritters:
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
1-1/4 cups milk
3-1/2 cups flour
vegetable oil

For the syrup:
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups water
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange flower water

For the top:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110 degrees) and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Place in a warm spot for about 20 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy. While the yeast is activating, heat the 1 cup water and the milk until it is warm -- not hot. Remove from heat. When the yeast mixture is ready, stir the milk mixture in to the yeast mixture.

Sift or whisk the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to the flour, stirring constantly. Cover the bowl with a warm, damp cloth and set it in a warm place for one hour.

To make the syrup, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the rose water and orange flower water. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate.

After one hour, the dough should have risen and will be bubbly. Stir the dough until the bubbles are gone. Cover again with a warm, damp cloth and set it back in a warm place for one more hour.

Pour enough oil into a heavy saucepan or wok until the oil is at least 1-1/2" deep or heat a deep fryer. Place over medium heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. Drop the dough into the hot oil in teaspoonfuls, making about four fritters at a time. When they become golden brown on one side, turn them over to brown on the other side. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels.

When you are finished frying the fritters, dip each fritter into the cold syrup.

In a small bowl, mix the topping sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the fritters.

Israel: Hamantaschen (Haman's Pockets)


Hamantaschen are a traditional sweet of the Purim holiday. Purim takes place in the early springtime and celebrates the deliverance of the Jews long ago in Persia from the plotting of the Persian prime minister, Haman. The cookies represent Haman's triangular-shaped pockets which were filled with silver coins given him to massacre the Jews.

These cookies are baked using poppyseed, prune or apricot fillings and are also known as "Haman's Hats" and "Haman's Donkey Ears".


Hamantaschen (Haman's Pockets)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
one 10-oz can poppyseed filling, lekvar (prune butter) or apricot butter


For the top:
1 egg
1 tbs cold water

In a large bowl, mix together the vegetable oil and sugar. Add the 2 eggs and mix until well blended. Add the vanilla extract and combine.

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the egg mixture, mixing well after each addition. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or cover bowl and place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour. Roll out the dough until it is approximately 1/8" thick. Cut out as many circles as you can using a round cookie cutter or rim of a drinking glass. With a spatula, transfer six of the circles to the baking sheet. Put a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each circle.

Moisten the edges of the circles with cold water. Pick up the sides of the circle and bring them up and together to form a triangle or pyramid. Pinch the edges together so that there is only a very small space open at the top. Repeat with the remaining circles.

In a small bowl, beat one egg with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Use a pastry brush to brush this mixture on each cookie, coating evenly all over.

Bake for 18 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

Burma (Myanmar): Mok-Si-Kyo (Coconut Fritters)


In Burma, a sweet dish is usually served in the middle of a meal because the Burmese feel that it is a nourishing way to eat. They generally end up their meal with fruit, especially mangoes. Pastries, such as Mok-Si-Kyo (Coconut Fritters), are saved for snack-time.

Burmese pastries and sweetmeats are often made with coconut, nuts, raisins and are sometimes tinted with food coloring.


Mok-Si-Kyo (Coconut Fritters)

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rice flour
pinch of salt
pinch of baking soda
1/3 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut
1/12 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1-1/4 cups water
oil for frying

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt and baking soda. Add the coconut and brown sugar and toss well to combine. Add the water and mix until well blended.

Pour 1 inch of oil into a wok or deep fryer and place over medium heat. Heat the oil until you can see soft movement on the surface of the oil.

Drop 1 tablespoon of the batter into the hot fat. When the fritter browns at the edges, turn it over. Fry until both sides are browned. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Note: Try not to let the oil get too hot or the fritters will fall apart as they cook.

Japan: Yokan


Most little cakes, or kashi, made in Japanese homes are mixtures of bean or potato paste and sugar, thickened with agar-agar. Agar-agar is made from seaweed and is a cross between gelatin and cornstarch in the way it makes foods thicken and firm.

In Japan, finished squares of Yokan (which look very much like our American chocolate fudge), are wrapped in cherry leaves and served as a sweet indulgence with a cup of tea.

Yokan (Sweet Azuki Squares)


First Step:
1 cup red azuki beans*
cold water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

Second Step:
1 stick agar-agar* (approx. 1" x 1" x 11")
2 cups cold water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt

First Step: Put the red azuki beans in a bowl and cover them with cold water. Let them soak overnight.

The next day, drain the water off of the beans and put them in a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan. Fill the pan 3/4 of the way full with cold water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat. Simmer for approximately 1-1/2 hours or until the bean shells break open and the beans become soft. If too much water boils away or is absorbed by the beans, add additional boiling water. Drain the beans in a colander.

Run the beans through a food mill or push them through a coarse strainer with a wooden spoon. Put the strained beans back into the saucepan and add the salt. Add the sugar gradually and mix well.

Set the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste becomes very thick and leaves the sides of the pan clean when you stir. Remove pan from the heat.

Second Step: Put the cold water into a clean saucepan. Break the agar-agar stick into the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the agar-agar has melted, add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Pour through a fine strainer into another clean saucepan. Add the salt and the bean paste and stir until smooth. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring every minute or two, for approximately 20 minutes or until the mixture becomes thickened and looks something like a chocolate pudding.

Pour cooked mixture into baking pan and allow to sit until completely cool. Cut into 1-1/2" squares.

*You can buy both agar-agar and red azuki beans at Asian or health stores.

Iran: Nan-e Berenji



Nan-e Berenji (Cardamom Rice Cookies)

For Syrup:
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tablespoon rose water*

For Batter:
3 egg yolks
1 tbs sugar
1 cup clarified butter or ghee*
1/2 cup corn oil
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3 cups rice flour
2 tbs poppy seeds or roughly chopped pistachios

Combine the sugar and water in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes, being careful not to let the mixture boil over. Remove from the heat, add the rose water, and set aside to cool. This syrup should be room temperature and not too thick. Set aside 1 cup and bottle the remainder for future use.

In a warm mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon sugar and beat well, until creamy.

In another mixing bowl, combine the clarified butter, oil, cardamom, and rice flour. Mix well for a few minutes then add the egg yolk mixture and mix a few seconds. Add the 1 cup syrup from created earlier and knead well for a few seconds, or until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. This will create a snow-white dough. Allow the dough to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Take a spoonful of dough, roll it into a ball the size of a hazelnut, flatten it slightly, and place it on the cookie sheet. Repeat, leaving 2 1/2 inches between each ball. With a fork or the edge of a cookie cutter, draw geometric patterns on the cookies and sprinkle them with poppy seeds or chopped pistachios. You may also use a cookie press (readily available in most cookware stores) to stamp a design in the dough.

Place the cookie sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake the cookies 10 to 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the cookies should be white when they are done.

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool. Lift the cookies off the baking paper carefully: They crumble very easily.

Arrange the cookies in a pyramid on a footed cake dish.


Recipe from Najmieh Batmanglij's A Taste of Persia,

Ireland: Oatcakes


Farms all over Ireland grow the traditional oats, so it is no wonder that it is a favorite cereal there. Irish oatmeal is a hardy breakfast dish, and Oatcakes are eaten throughout the day.

These unleavened cakes known as strones in Ulster and bannocks in Scotland were historically set to bake on little stands placed directly over glowing coals in the fireplace.

Oatcakes are hard and crunchy and will certainly give your jaws a workout! They are delicious served with some butter, jam, honey or cheese.


Oatcakes

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1-3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle baking sheets lightly with flour.

Into a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda. Add the rolled oats to the bowl and toss well.

Add 1/4 cup boiling water to the oatmeal mixture and mix well. Mix in the vegetable oil. If the dough is too dry and will not hold together, add 1 more tablespoon of boiling water. Divide the dough into two equal parts.

Sprinkle a pastry board lightly with some rolled oats. Working with one portion of dough, roll it out on the pastry board making it as then as you can while keeping the shape as round as you can.

Using a sharp knife, cut the round into 8 wedges like a pie. Transfer the wedges to one of the baking sheets with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining dough portion.

Bake approximately 25 minutes or until centers are dry and edges are lightly browned.

Remove from the baking sheets and eat right away. They are also good eaten cold or lightly toasted.


Makes 16.

England: Coventry Godcakes


The city of Coventry in Warwickshire is the source of a type of pastry cake called Coventry Godcakes. These cookies are given by godparents to their godchildren for good luck on New Year's Day, Easter or the child's birthday. Their triangular shape and three slits on top are said to represent the Holy Trinity. Traditionally, the Godcakes varied in size according to the wealth of the godparent.

Godcakes also have a second meaning. A god cake (or jam puff) is a Warwickshire name for the triangle of grass at a road junction - created as the road splits to go left and right.


Coventry Godcakes


Puff pastry
Mincemeat
1 egg white
Granulated or sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Roll out the well-chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface.

Cut out the pastry into squares (4 inches per side). Place a teaspoonful of mincemeat in the middle of your pastry shape. Don't be too generous, otherwise the mincemeat will squidge out when you press the pastry together.

Moisten the edges of the pastry with a little water, and fold the other half of the square over to form a triangle. Press the edges of the triangle to form a seal

Cut three slashes in the top of your Godcakes. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for approx. 15 minutes, or until golden and well puffed up. Cool on wire rack.

Recipe courtesy of Anna at Baking for Britain. Be sure to visit her blog for a lot more information on Coventry Godcakes, not to mention other delicious delights from the UK.

Jamaica: Arrowroot Cookies


There are many unusual foods grown on the tropical West Indies island of Jamaica: The "star apple" known here in the United States as "ugli fruit", cashew nuts, allspice and arrowroot.

Arrowroot is the root of a plant that grows throughout the islands and is usually ground into a powder to use in cooking and baking. It's easier to digest than other starches (which is why babies are usually given arrowroot cookies to munch on) and makes nice, light cookies.


Arrowroot Cookies
2 tbs butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup arrowroot
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl until soft. Add the sugar and mix well. Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl and then add them to the butter mixture. Mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl or piece of waxed paper, sift together the arrowroot, flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, mixing well until combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board until it is 1/4" thick. Cut out cookies with small cookie cutter and arrange on baking sheets.

Bake 6 to 7 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove from oven. Let cookies sit for one minute and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes approx. 7 dozen.