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My family has been baking the Czech Rohlíčky, or Crescent Cookie, every Christmas and holiday since I can remember. This ground nut cookie is a staple in many regions. Europe and even Mexico have their own versions: the Italian Wedding Cookie, the Mexican Wedding Cookie, the Russian Tea Cake, or the Linzer Cookies.. They use anywhere from a 2:1 to 1:1 ratio of flour to nuts, which results in a very fragile crumbly cookie. They can be thinly rolled out and cut like the Linzer, or simply rolled into a ball and baked like the Italian Wedding Cookie. If you have never sampled any of these versions, the consistency is similar to the Scottish Shortbread, but not as buttery.
One thing most of these recipes have in common, is that they usually call for ground almonds. In the case of the Rohlíčky, many recipes call for hazelnuts too. My family has always used either ground walnuts or pecans in most of our cookie recipes. Which tree nut should you choose? The pecan and walnut have a slightly higher fat content than the almond, but the almond has a higher protein content. I think the walnut and pecan actually provide a little more flavor than the almond, but any tree nut would work since their flavor isn’t overpowering.
Also, the only flavoring usually added to any of these cookies is vanilla extract; however, my mother’s recipe also called for a tablespoon of water. While rummaging through my kitchen cabinets, I came across various bottles of bitters, which is just an alcohol base infused with botanicals or fruit. One I hadn’t used yet was Plum Bitters. I decided to substitute the water with the bitters. The flavor isn’t intense, but it does add a little hint of plum to the recipe.
Once again, I based my recipe off the typed copy from my mother’s binder. I did find another version of this recipe in The Czechoslovak Cook Book by Joza Břízová, which calls for an egg yolk to be added and much less butter. It also suggested the option of filling the ball of dough with candied fruit. I know that many Americans are not fans of candied fruit, but I think another viable option would be to chop up a dried fruit (i.e. apricots) to add a punch of flavor to this cookie.
Like the Mexican Wedding Cookie, you start with a ball of dough. As always, I like to use my handy melon baller, which scoops about 2 teaspoons of dough. This is just about the right amount you need for these cookies. I scoop them out and place them on my lined sheet all at once, before I roll each individual cookie. The method I have found works best is to first roll the scoop into a nicely formed ball, then roll the ball into a rope about the length of your little finger. If you roll it between your palms with your fingers pointing in the same direction, you will get an uneven roll, but if you have your palms perpendicular to each other the rope will be more even.
Make sure you leave enough room between each cookie on your cookie sheets, as they will puff slightly. You want to bake them in a low oven until they become slightly brown on the bottom. The confectioners sugar can be sifted over the cookies when they are warm, but I prefer to do this right before they are served. I have found that when you dust with confectioners sugar when the cookie is still warm, it will be absorbed into the cookie and you may have to apply more later.
I hope you enjoy this latest cookie recipe from my kitchen.
Rohlíčky or Crescent Cookie
- 1/2 pound butter or margarine
- 5 tbl sugar
- 1 tbl plum bitters
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups ground walnuts or pecans
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line your cookie sheets with a silpat or parchment paper.
- Bring your butter to room temperature. Cream together butter and sugar.
- Blend in vanilla and plum bitters.
- Sift together the flour and salt, and stir into butter mixture
- Add nuts and mix thoroughly.
- Take about 2 teaspoons of dough, about the size of a small walnut, and roll between your palms to form a short rope.
- Place on cookie sheet and form a crescent.
- Bake about 20 minutes, until the bottom of the cookie is lightly browned.
- Cool cookies and dust with powdered sugar right before serving.
- You can substitute any other juice or liquor for the plum bitters, you can increase the amount of vanilla or just use water.
- Replace the walnuts or pecans with almonds or hazelnuts. If you have a tree nut allergy, try using sunflower seeds. You can also try pumpkin seeds (pepitas), but the color of the seed will change the color of the cookie.
- Add spices, such as cinnamon, vanilla or cardamom into your powdered sugar.
- Replace 1/4 cup of the sifted flour with sifted cocoa powder.
- You can easily replace the butter or margarine with plant butter to make this recipe vegan.