February 28, 2012

Spicy Lithuanian "Mushroom" Cookies

The title makes these cookies sound savory, but they are a combination of warm spices, sweet citrus and honey topped with the crunchiness of poppy seeds. Delicious. And utterly cute.

The past several years I've thought about making a batch of Lithuanian cookies for my grandfather around March 4. This year I put my excuses aside, scrounged the Internet for a defunct blog (She Spills the Beans) that held a Lithuanian honey spice cookie recipe and gave my 5-month-old his trusty tablespoon. (I've found it's much easier for me to bake when he's entertained, and he grabs my mixing bowl less if he's already holding onto something of his own.)

These cookies were baked with love for my grandfather, and the care package containing them is already on its way to Texas. My grandfather is pure Lithuanian, and he often joked with me about being forgotten with St. Casimir's day in the shadows of the ever-popular St. Patrick's Day.I hope the mushroom-shaped cookies bring him the luck of the Lugans until next St. Casimir's day.

So, I raise my mushroom cookie in honor of my grandfather: Sveiks!

Spicy Lithuanian "Mushroom" Cookies
 1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cloves
1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh orange zest
2 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp. milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Heat the honey in the microwave using a glass measuring cup, and then stir in the sugars, butter, egg, spices, and grated zests.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl.  Add the honey mixture alternately with the cream or milk, stirring with a wooden spoon until blended.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board or pastry cloth.  Knead the dough, adding flour to the board as often as necessary to prevent sticking, for 5 or 6 minutes, until the dough is easy to handle and not at all sticky.  It should be firm enough to hold the impression of your finger.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into four equal parts.  Make mushroom “stems” from one-quarter of the dough by shaping into four rolls, each about 12 inches long and about 3/8 inch in diameter.  Cut into 1-inch lengths.  Shape one end of each piece into a point with your fingers.  Place the stems on their sides 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for about 7 minutes until firm.  Cool on wire racks.

Make “caps” by shaping remaining dough into 3/4-inch balls.  Hold a ball in the palm of your hand and make an indentation about 1/2 inch deep in each with the handle of a wooden spoon, twisting it in and out.  This is where the stem will later be inserted.  Place the caps, indented side down, on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom.  Cool on wire racks. 

Combine powdered sugar and water together to form a thick icing.

Enlarge indentations in caps if necessary with a small pointed knife.  Dip one end of each stem in frosting and insert in caps.  Dry the cookies, cap side down.  Dip the top of each cap in frosting, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl.  While still wet, sprinkle the frosted caps with poppy seeds. 

Place the cookies, stems down, into a cooling rack where they may dry undisturbed for several hours or overnight.  Pack in airtight containers and allow the flavor to mellow for three or four days before serving.

Makes about three dozen cookies.

No comments: