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Sending out a holiday cookie SOS? Here are five lifesavers.
CNN photojournalist John Bodnar is a second-generation Slavic-American whose grandparents emigrated from Eastern Slovakia, and his mother’s Carpatho-Rusyn ethnicity is the prominent influence for his cultural and family traditions. Previously, he wrote about haluski, holupki and paska.
I’ve always enjoyed the Slovak food my mother and extended family prepares. We eat these dishes at every family gathering: weddings, funerals and holiday celebrations. We eagerly approach the buffet display to find the holupki and haluski that usually occupy the first few trays, but at the end of the tables are the treats.
Cookies and cakes dominate that section, but the pastry that has always delighted my palate is the kolachi nut roll. Kolachi (sometimes spelled "kolache") is the name often given to a standard type of Slavic dough-filled pastry. Our kolachi is rolled dough filled with a walnut mixture, but other families fill theirs with a poppy seed mixture.
My aunt Eleanor was always celebrated as the one whose recipe held the quality edge over the other family members'. Obviously, this unofficial title has been disputed, but I concede that hers had a slight advantage in my childhood memories.
But Eleanor’s health eventually left her unable to make the delicious kolachi. As her health was failing, she insisted that her daughter Renee learn her kolachi recipe and carry on the tradition and her legacy. My cousin Renee embraced her mother’s challenge, and carries, in my mind, the title for making the best kolachi nut roll.
Sugar cookies in every seasonal shape - from snowflakes to Christmas trees, stars to Santa hats, snowmen to holly leaves - overcrowd the dessert table this time of year. Even Santa is crying "Uncle!" for a little variety by the time he reaches St. Louis.
This year, try adding a little New York attitude to the traditional cookie swap with black-and-white cookies, a staple of New York bakeries and deli counters.
More cake-like than cookie-like, this oversized sweet is downsized into a fantastically festive treat by pastry chef Stephanie Teekaram of Kutsher's Tribeca in, where else, New York City.
"Seinfeld" fans might remember the baked good being forever immortalized in the episode, "The Dinner Party."
"The thing about eating the black-and-white cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite," said Seinfeld. "Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate, and yet, somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved."
In this season of good tidings, peace and goodwill toward all, harmony vis-à-vis a cookie is a welcome addition.
While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.
Haul out the cookie tins - 'tis the season for baking! In honor of December 4, National Cookie Day, here are some tips for the ever-popular cookie exchange:
- Form a group of participants. Make sure the people swapping cookies are committed to doing so. (It’s not as much fun otherwise!)
- Establish a date for the swap as early as you can, before the holidays get hectic.
Everything tasted better when my grandma was around.
Growing up, we didn't get to see my dad's side of the family all that often, but I noticed at some point that all the food we ate in Grandma Kinsman's presence was exponentially more delicious. Later on, I came to realize that it wasn't due to some special grandmotherly mojo, but rather that she used real butter rather than margarine, and my family shopped accordingly when she was in town.
No matter the ingredients, I was predisposed to enjoy her cooking. I loved her and she loved me, her weird, short-haired, misfit granddaughter, even if the rest of the world wasn't inclined to. Seldom did I feel that love so strongly as when her yearly shipment of holiday cookies arrived.
Like your Oreos with a far-out twist? The hundred-year-old brand paid homage to today's Mars Curiosity rover landing with an installment of their Daily Twist campaign featuring a split-open cookie with red-dyed cream and tire tracks to mimic the impression left by the craft on the planet's surface.
Recently, I shared a family story on Eatocracy about our attempt to get back our family tradition: the befana cookie. My Grandmother passed away before we learned how to make them. We took these special cookies for granted.
My brother tried many different combinations of ingredients. He researched with other members of the family, the internet, even conversations with cousins in Italy to try to make them Nonna's way. But, finally, he achieved cookie perfection.
I couldn't disclose the secret recipe for fear of Bernardini excommunication. It has now become a family legacy. When the story was re-posted this year, I quickly from the learned from the comment section that that legacy turned into a fatal flaw. So many people were very disgusted with me.
As a form of penance, I want to post another recipe that we do share throughout the year: sugar cookies.
5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
A few years back, when people heard the words “gluten-free,” the words “tough” and “tasteless” also came to mind. Now, with so many options available in stores and restaurants, gluten-free is kissing its drab reputation goodbye.
Mastering the art of gluten-free baking is easy with a few simple tips to ensure great texture (no cardboard here!) and flavor.
Just in time for the holiday cookie season, Whole Foods Market's gluten-free guru Lee Tobin offers five tips for gluten-free cookies that are good enough to bring to your next holiday party, or even offer up to Santa ... if you're nice enough to share them.
Five Tips for Gluten-Free Cookies: Lee Tobin
What a sweet start to the season! Our colleagues at CNN.com HQ in Atlanta went spatula to spatula in an all-out brawl for holiday cookie supremacy.
Staffers cast votes using dollar bills to indicate their favorites, and all cash went toward the Adopt-a-Family drive, buying gifts for two families of five this year - a mother and her four children, as well as a refugee family from Bhutan.