Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Cookies - Julie's Kolacky

Before I start talking about Christmas cookies (and btw, I love this week's theme!) I want to shout out to Helen Kiker...

Congrats, Helen! You won a copy of The Gift of Murder anthology from Barb Goffman, our guest blogger on November 29th.

Barb will be sending you your book! Enjoy!

And now... Christmas Cookies!

My mom did not like to bake cookies. She made delicious home made meals all the time, and had no problem coming up with desserts such as cheesecake, pound cake, and brownies, but no cookies. When I asked her why she told me that she always had bad luck with them. Mind you, my mom came from French-Luxembourg-Belgian roots and her father had been a chef. She could make all sorts of wonderful treats, but no cookies.

When I first joined my husband’s family—even before we were married—I was expected to join in the cookie swap. Heck if I knew what to do! My mom stepped in at that point…even though she didn’t make cookies herself, she had loads of recipes she’d collected and based on those she'd enjoyed, she suggested a couple.

I gamely jumped in and made some bizarre Spritz cookies that first time. I didn’t realize that dough was meant to be cookie-gunned (I didn’t even know what a cookie gun was at that point!). So I went a little artsy and formed the dough into Christmas shapes by hand. Not exactly my finest moment.

As time progressed, I tried some other recipes. Every year now I make Spritz (with a gun!), frosted gingerbread, Italian cookies (an Italian friend shared the recipe and I love these with coffee), and Kolacky - the traditional Polish cookie - which I will share with you below. My mom had about four Kolacky recipes in her stash and I’ve tried every one.

The one that follows is one that I’ve doctored a bit over the years. I added a little, simplified it a little. I like this particular recipe the best of all the ones I have on file. As long as it’s well chilled, the dough holds together well for rolling out. The other recipes I have fight me as I roll, and I’ve noted each of them with my personal commentary: “Dry and crumbly. Avoid.” and “Make this recipe only if you’re nuts in the head.” I had to do that because I realized I accidentally made the wrong recipe two years in a row. Ugh.

This one is super simple. The rolling/cutting/filling takes a little while, but is totally worth it. And, if I do say so myself, this recipe makes some awesome kolacky. Home made is always best. The kind you buy in the store are generally thick and doughy with minimal filling. Mine are thin and small, with lots of filling. Mmm… just the way we like them!

Kolacky (ko-LAHCH-kee)

4 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
4 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
Filling of choice

Bake at 425 for 8 -10 minutes

The original recipe didn't call for vanilla flavoring, and only required 1 Tbsp of sugar. I changed those, and I like the change. I've never substituted margarine but then again, I'm not a fan of the stuff, so I probably never will.

You can halve this recipe, if you like. I used to double the recipe for Christmas, but that's too much for my Kitchenaid mixer to handle at once, even with a dough hook.

The original recipe provided step by step "add this" "cream that" etc. I just put all the ingredients together in the mixer's bowl and hit "on." Turns out just fine.

You do want to chill the dough for several hours and preferably overnight, before rolling it out. That makes the rolling so much easier.

I roll these out pretty thinly, less than a 1/4 of an inch, for sure. And then I cut them into small squares. I don't stress if they're off size or off shape.

I've tried to show, in the photo at the right just how thin I get them. In our family, we like 'em like that. They crisp up a bit better that way.

Solo is my favorite brand of filling. Always great, always dependable. I'm pretty sure my Busia (grandmother on my dad's side) used Solo, too. There are plenty of popular kolacky flavors including prune, poppy seed, cream cheese, and lemon. In our house we stick to apricot, raspberry and strawberry.

I've used only apricot filling in the pictures because I only made one tray for this posting. I'm freezing the dough until we get closer to Christmas. The problem with these is that they disappear very quickly and if I would have made my husband's favorites - raspberry and strawberry - these would be gone in a flash. Apricot is my kids' favorite flavor (and mine too). I have to tell you, every time I pass the tray at home, I have a tough time sticking to my low-carb vow. Bad time of year to go low-carb, lemme tell ya!

Here I've added the filling to my little squares using the two-spoon method I'm sure you're all familiar with. You'll note I didn't skimp. I probably go through 3/4 of a can per sheet of kolacky. Again, my family prefers a heavy fruit to dough ratio.

At this point is when I feel they make the transition from dough and fruit to kolackies.

I pull up opposite sides of each cookie to form a little blanket. To me, this is the true kolacky shape, although you'll see varieties - squares with double-blanket sides and plain round ones. I like these. Plenty of space for the fruit to ooze.

Don't grease the pan, the cookies are buttery enough. Bake them at 425 for about 8 - 10 minutes. Sometimes I turn the pan around in the oven after 5. Watch them, and when the edges start to brown just a little bit, they're done.

Let them cool (I prefer them at room temperature over straight from the oven) and then dust them with powdered sugar. Don't store them in sealed containers, but leave them out to crisp up in the air. Yum.

But don't turn your back. The moment you do, sneaky fingers will come in and snatch them up.



I plan to send out a newsletter this week... and in it will be a chance to win a great prize. So, if you haven't signed up, please do so! Visit my website at http://www.juliehyzy.com/ or e-mail me at JulieHyzy @aol.com


  1. Your mom sounds like she was a great cooking inspiration for you (minus cookie-making, of course!) You must have eaten some fantastic food growing up.

    This recipe made me hungry...and it's 5:43 a.m. Too early for cookies! I'm going to have to make these, Julie--thanks!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Julie!
    Kolackies are the most popular of all the holiday treats I discuss at my Vintage Cookbook library presentations. I've sent more copies of recipes for these, and everyone has a favorite. Several people told me about the ice cream version, but I've never before seen it! Thanks for putting this up. I have to try this one. I have been doing a foldover version from my Grandmother as well as a thumbprint one. Yum!

  3. Julie, I've never really known how to do this. Your pictures and explanation really help. Can't wait to try this! Thanks for sharing such a rich history of why!

  4. OH!!! This is such an amazing post. Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman and I laughed over your "cookie gun" challlenge. Drinking my morning coffee right now and SO wish I was the hand in that last photo of yours. A time-tested, family recipe is a real treasure, Julie, thank you for sharing it with all of us. What a wonderful Christmas gift!

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Elizabeth - my mom was the most fun and I really miss her. I just feel very lucky that my girls all got to know Nana.

    Amy - I'm so happy to know that kolackies are popular at your presentations! I can understand why. They keep both the sweet and the fruity people happy ;-) Glad I could share the ice cream version with you. It's pretty excellent.

    Avery - glad to explain. Trying to do it in a writeup without pictures is almost impossible. I was so excited by cookie week - I knew exactly which recipe I was going to share.

    Cleo - my my was really wonderful, thanks. I was so cookie-challenged starting out. And, I should add, that although my mom never participated in cookie swaps, that didn't prevent her from enjoying the treats every year when I brought her and my dad a tin of goodies. (I'd gotten a bit better by then!)

  6. Julie, what a fascinating recipe. I'm definitely trying these. Ice cream in cookie dough -- who'd have thought it?

    ~ Krista

  7. I'm a heavy fruit to dough gal, too! I've never made these before and now I can't wait to try them. Thanks, Julie!

  8. I love the ice cream in the dough! I've made cakes with melted ice cream, but never cookies. These are going on my short list for things to take to the Christmas party on my Polish side of the family. Funny thing is, I don't remember my mom or her sisters ever making Polish desserts or cookies. Hmmm, I'll have to ask them about it.

  9. great post! thorough and looks delish!

  10. Krista and Jenn - Thanks! I promise, you'll enjoy them.

    Janel - I've never made a cake with melted ice cream in the dough... but I think you've just given me an idea. Hope you have fun making these and that your Polish side enjoys them.

    Kris - Thanks!