Like many other people, my memories of holidays past are intrinsically wrapped up with the smells, sights and flavours of the food my family eats at this time of year. Christmas Eve is the sight of my mother's Québécois Tourtière, or the Red Herring Salad which pays homage to my paternal grandmother's Baltic roots. Christmas morning is the smell of my sister's Blueberry Muffins in the oven, and the crunch of toasted Stollen, which we make together every year. Boxing Day means a feast of Dim Sum. But only one dish can wrap all the feelings of the holiday season into a singular flavour: my maternal grandmother's Christmas cookies. Every year she travels to our home, bringing with her two well-worn cookie tins, the contents of which must be carefully rationed between children, grandchildren, friends and cousins. Her Brown Sugar Shortbread are the real are crowd-pleasers; these are the cookies that are legendary in our family, that my sister and mother so painstakingly try to replicate on their own. But I've always preferred the humble Komish Broit, nestled neatly in their tin and enrobed in cinnamon sugar. Crumbly and addictive, this is my favourite flavour of Christmas.
In an effort to remain somewhat PC, I've called this recipe Komish Broit like my grandmother's original one. But in full disclosure, I'll admit that in my family these are simply known as "Jewish Cookies", much to the amusement of my Chanukah-celebrating pals. They claim there's nothing whatsoever authentic about them, though that's never stopped anyone from helping themselves, I've noticed.
The recipe itself is simple and brief, as you expect those handed down by previous generations to be. It calls for "about" three cups of flour, and asks you to turn your oven to "the lowest temperature". Normally this would frustrate me, used to measuring by the gram as I am. But at Christmas, it's okay to give over to a slight bit of anarchy, especially when the result is this delicious.
For the cookies:
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sifted flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1. First, prepare a rectangular cake pan (I use a 9x12", but thereabouts is fine) by greasing and flouring the sides well, and lining the bottom and two sides with baking parchment. Also line a large cookie sheet with parchment and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/175ºC.
2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk together the rest of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. It will help if you have a dough whisk for this, but a wooden spoon and some elbow grease work just as well.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and spread out as best you can with a spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until firm to the touch and light golden brown in colour. Remove the cake from the oven and turn the heat down to 75ºF/25ºC.
5. Let the cake cool in its tin for at least 20 minutes. Carefully turn out onto a cutting board and peel away the baking paper. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice off the four outer edges, and cut the remaining cake into 32 rectangular cookies, of about 2x6cm each. (I also like to slice off the very top and bottom of each individual cookie, making all surfaces "inside cake only". This does create a lot of waste, but it's worth it for evenly-shaped and -textured cookies. To minimize guilt, you can turn the cuttings into "sweet breadcrumbs", to be used on ice cream or in all manner of crisps and crumbles.)6. Mix together the remaining cinnamon and sugar on a large plate. Carefully roll each cookie in the cinnamon sugar, coating all sides, before removing to the lined cookie sheet. Leave enough room between the cookies for the hot air to circulate between them.
7. Return cookies to the oven for 4-5 hours, until completely hard and crumbly. Allow to cool before packing away in an airtight tin. Cookies will keep for weeks.
• See more Holiday Guest Posts here
(Images: Ele of Kitchenisms)