AlfajoresOnce I'd made the kids' favorite Christmas cookies, I still only had four types. And I was still missing the kids. It occurred to me that they're off celebrating Christmas in new places, getting their own stories they'll someday share with their own kids. I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself, missing out on their adventures.
ŮlySo I'm making a second cookie for each kid. One from the place where they're celebrating Christmas this year.
ŮlyGrace is spending Christmas in Prague. Actually, it's her second Christmas in the Czech Republic; she was there when she was four as well. It's been fun reading about her time there, as it's helping her remember bits and pieces from that holiday so long ago. When we went there in 1991 it was still Czechoslovakia. I have fond memories of seeing Prague under a veil of snow, and the men selling carp on the squares.
ŮlyWe spent the actual holiday in the Moravian town of Kromĕřiž, where Pavel's grandmother Růža lived. When we got to her house, she (and her boyfriend, Strýc) had prepared plates and plates of cookies. They were stored on the marble stairs to their attic. The grandest of these cookies were the Ůly. The name means beehive; the cookie is a three-part affair, with a cookie base, a nut and sugar hollow hive, and pastry cream inside. After I wrote a story for Gourmet about the cookies, my husband's family sent me Růža's Ůly mold. I meant to try them every year after, but never managed. Until this year.
AlfajoresSimon is in Punta Arenas, Chile. That's at the very tip of South America. If I didn't know how much he loves his family I might take it personally, him running off to the end of the earth. Before he went, there was a lot of subterfuge at our house. His girlfriend didn't know he was coming, which meant he had to make up excuses about why he wouldn't be on skype or facebook for two days while traveling (he told her he had a two day job washing dishes on Mt. Hood). I helped his cause by asking Caro for recipes for Christmas cookies they make, so I could surprise Simon with them at Christmas. Sneaky, no?
AlfajoresShe sent on a recipe for Alfajores. These seem to be enjoyed across South America, or at least in Peru, Argentina, and Chile. Recipes in books and on the internet differ in the cookie flavorings, some with Pisco (the Peruvian and Chilean brandy), others with citrus. Some are rolled in coconut. But they all share one thing: Dulce de Leche sandwiched between the two cookies.
MostaccioliAnd Francesca, our youngest, is in Caserta, Italy. I had thought I finally had an excuse to buy a pizzelle iron. Turns out pizzelle are not eaten across Italy. A little research, and some help from Eleonora at Aglio, Olio, and Peperoncino pointed me to two choices for a Christmas cookie from Campania: Struffoli and Mostaccioli. Struffoli, a pile of deep fried pieces of dough bound with honey, are tempting, and maybe I'll make them next year with Francesca (I'm looking forward to that!).
MostaccioliI went with the Mostaccioli. I found a couple of recipes in books, and many online. In the end I used a recipe at The Perfect Pantry adapted from a recipe of Nick Malgieri's. I changed this recipe slightly, using all honey instead of honey and molasses. I also made the glaze with 2/3 cup of confectioners sugar, and the grated zest and juice of a Meyer lemon. I find there's something spicy, clove-like about these lemons, and they complement the chocolate spice cookie quite nicely.
MostaccioliSo I'm done with my baking. My kids are off in the middle of their own adventures, and I'm truly happy for them. I suppose it's a little pushy of me, co-opting their Christmas cookies. Oh well. I'm looking forward to next Christmas, when, hopefully, we'll all come together again. Who knows what new Christmas cookies we'll be eating then?
And now I'm off to enjoy my Christmas--Pavel and I need to get down to the business of eating cookies and drinking eggnog.