It has become an annual tradition at my household to choose the cuisine of a different European country each year as the theme of our holiday cooking. In the past, I have featured cuisine from France, Wales, Scandinavia, and Poland. This past year, in honor of my childhood best friend who emigrated from Romania, I wanted to do a deep dive into Balkan cuisine, aided by Inge Kramarz’s excellent 1972 The Balkan Cookbook. As a special treat for my friends and family I put together a Balkan cookie tin featuring a variety of Balkan cookies and candies to celebrate the holiday season. Without a doubt it was the “Hussar’s Kisses” which were the standout fan-favorites (the ones with the heavy dollop of raspberry jam in the photo). However, I thought I’d the full gamut of Balkan treats with you.
Hussar’s Kisses (Hungary)
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
1 lemon, grated
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup toasted, slivered almonds
- Combine flour, butter, sugar, lemon rind, and egg yolk.
- Roll into balls, dip balls in egg white and then roll in almonds.
- Place on a greased cookie sheet. Make a depression in center of ball and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.
- When cool, fill depression with jam of your choice.
Devil’s Pills (Hungary)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp grated orange rind
2 tbsp orange juice
1 cup almond powder
1/2 cup chopped candied citrus
1/2 cup grated bitter chocolate
- Melt sugar, orange rind, and orange juice. Add almond powder and candied citrus. Let cool.
- Form into balls and roll in grated chocolate.
Walnut Cookies (Yugoslavia)
1 cup icing sugar
2 2/3 cups flour
2 1/4 cups ground walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon, grated
1 cup unsalted butter
- In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, ground walnuts, vanilla, and lemon rind.
- Melt butter until hot and pour directly onto dry mixture. Knead together.
- Roll out dough into cylinders and wrap in wax paper. Chill for several hours.
- Slice dough into 1-2 inch thick cookies, place on greased baking sheet and bake in 300 degree oven for 20 minutes.
- Let cool, then sprinkle with icing sugar.
Balkan Style Almond Cookies
3 cups ground almonds
1 3/4 cups of icing sugar
1 egg white
- Knead together almonds, sugar, and egg white.
- Roll out into a sheet and cut out cookies.
- Bake on greased cookie sheet at 300 degrees until just set, but still white.
- While still warm sprinkle lightly with rose water.
Chocolate Candy (Romania)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup cocao
1 egg yolk
3 squares of dark baker’s chocolate, grated
- Mix together, sugar, butter, cocoa and egg yolk. Shape into balls.
- Roll in grated chocolate and chill.
Chocolate Marzipan (Yugoslavia)
1/2 lb ground walnuts
1/3 cup chopped almonds
3 oz dark baker’s chocolate, melted
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups icing sugar
- Combine all ingredients together and then roll out into two loaves.
- Roll loaves in icing sugar and let sit overnight. Slice into portions the following day and dredge in icing sugar.
Carrot Candy (Bulgaria)
1 lb carrots
1 lb sugar
10 dashes of orange bitters
- Peel and grate carrots.
- Cook carrots in sugar until wilted and dough-like.
- Add orange bitters and let cool.
- Form into balls and dredge in coarse sugar.