Christmas baking is a part of holiday tradition in many countries. Cakes, muffins, rolls, cookies, marzipan and chocolate figurines appear in large numbers on bakery store shelves and in our kitchens and dining rooms. And every Christmas baking has its own story…
In the human diet cookies appeared almost simultaneously with bread – about ten thousand years BC. We can say that the history of baking in general and baking cookies in particular is a culinary history of mankind. Of course, first cookies were very different from those to which we are accustomed, no doubt.
Cookies were prepared from different types of flour. People living in Europe were using wheat flour for their biscuits, while people of the Far East and South used rice flour. Only later people began to use oat, corn and other types of flour for their biscuit baking. Cookies are dessert that has taken its place on our table long ago and since the inception variety of cookie types has been growing all the time. It is impossible to count all existing kinds of cookies, but surely everyone can easily find some kind to his liking.
As a Christmas gift, I like to give a jar of cookies to my friends and neighbors. This year I have decided to make a mélange of cookies from around the world. The first cookies on my list are Russian mushroom cookies “Gribochky”. After all, today is Russian Monday. It was a wonderful tradition to bake mushroom cookies back at home in St. Petersburg. This year I have baked them with my kids – it was fun! My children enjoyed playing with the dough and chocolate and they smiled all the way. If you like something unique for your holiday cookie jar – these “mushrooms” are for you!
Makes about 24 mushrooms
For the dough:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1-2 Tbsp. orange/lemon juice or milk, (more if needed)
- red food coloring (optional)
- confectioners’ sugar for dust (optional)
- 4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.
To make the cookies, over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, corn starch and salt, and set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla, egg and sour cream and continue beating until blended, 1 to 2 minutes more, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until blended.
With floured hands, shape the 1/2 dough into 24 mushroom caps/balls (about 0.7oz each) and place them on the prepared sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Shape the rest of the dough into 24 mushroom stems, (about 0.5oz each). You can put the ‘caps’ on one sheet and ‘stems’ on another. I used 4 baking sheets.
Bake two sheets at the time, until the cookies are just beginning to brown, about 10-12 minutes, switching the pans and rotating a half turn halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes. Repeat with two more baking sheets.
Place the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl. Place over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan. Heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.
While the cookies are warm, poke a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Spread chocolate over the bottom of the cap. Dip the tip of a stem in chocolate, and press lightly into the hole. When the chocolate sets, they will hold together. Repeat with remaining pieces.
To make the glaze, in a small bowl, mix together the confectioners’ sugar and orange/lemon juice until smooth. Stir in one drop of food coloring at a time until the desired shade is reached. Glaze the mushroom caps with sugar glaze and let it dry.
Dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar shaken through a sieve.