A few weeks ago, as I went through yet another box on our slow tread towards getting the house completely packed up, I found a little cache of recipes written in Steph’s grandmother’s creaky cursive.
After going through the pile and chucking the ones which were clearly labeled as from “Channel 9” or “Regis and Kathy Lee”, I whittled them down to just a few which held possibility. These were labeled with people’s names like Sue and Myrtle, and contained mostly a list of ingredients and a temperature for the oven. A tasty riddle awaits in each card!
I decided to start with “Sue’s Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies,” a layered bar cookie.
I started off by mixing together the dry ingredients and then cutting in the butter. I also put the butter on the stove to melt so it would be cooled by the time I started mixing the topping
I mixed together the egg yolk and water and added that to the mixture. In order to get the flour mixture to more of a shortbread consistency, I added three more tablespoons of water.
I pressed the dough into a greased 9”x9” pan and docked it with a fork before putting it into a 350 degree oven.
While waiting for my ten minutes, I mixed up the topping. I whisked up the eggs and sugar and then drizzled in the cooled, melted butter. After adding the vanilla, I chopped up walnuts and mixed them in.
When I pulled out the shortbread, I immediately sprinkled a cup of chocolate chips over the crust and waited for them to melt.
If you are a little impatient, you can also stick the pan back into the oven for a moment. However, I just waited for a couple of moments and sipped my tea before using an offset spatula to spread them smooth. Then, I poured the topping over and put the whole thing back into the oven for another twenty-five minutes, when the top had a thin crust and was golden and bubbling around the edge.
I allowed the cookies to cool almost completely (an hour and a half) before cutting them.
I cut them into sixteen, but could definitely have gone all the way to thirty-two to create little bites of layers.
The combination of the unsweetened crust, chocolate, and pecan-pie-like topping creates a buttery sweet taste of home. I could only eat one at any given sitting. That evening, I used them as the dessert with company, and there were no crumbs left on any plate. They were easily eaten with a fork, which is why, when I make them again, I’ll cut them much smaller so they can be popped into mouths in a single bite.
I can see why the original recipe writer called them “Christmas Cookies” with the prevalence of potentially pricy ingredients such as chocolate and nuts. Plus, the multiple stages of baking cause the sort of extra effort people tend to put forward during the holidays. However, a quick search of the internet revealed that the “Yugoslavian” part had been really erased from this version. The other recipes I found online added sugar and sometimes nuts or spices to the crust, added a layer of jam with or instead of the chocolate, and turned the egg topping into a merengue.
As we ate them ourselves, Steph suggested that adding a layer of raspberry jam as a welcome addition along with the chocolate. I liked the unsweetened crust so that the sweetness wasn’t as overwhelming, so I don’t think I’d add any sugar to that section. The ease of the egg mixture deters me from trying out the merengue since I love that baked custard pie crispness when I bite into the cookie (plus, I don’t really like the texture of a baked merengue).
Give them a shot and let me know how it goes!
Recipe: Sue’s Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies
1 1/4 cups allpurpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg yolk, beat well
2-5 tablespoons water
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
To make crust, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until the mixture looks like sand with small pea-sized pebbles. Combine the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water well and add to the mixture. Add additional water as necessary until the mixture sticks together to form a dough. Press that mixture into a greased 9″x9″ pan. Use a fork to dock the dough and place in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes.
While the crust is baking, mix together the eggs and sugar until well-blended. Drizzle in the melted butter, whisking continually. Add the vanilla. Stir in the chopped walnuts.
After removing the partially baked crust from the oven, sprinkle it with the chocolate chips. Allow them to melt and spread into a smooth layer. Then, pour over the topping.
Slip back into the 350 degree oven and continue baking for 20-25 minutes, until a crust has formed and the top is golden and bubbling around the edge.
Allow to cool in the pan for about one and a half hours and then cut. Allow to finish cooling and enjoy!