Man, the Christmas cookie recipes and pics are piling up. Hmm, I seem to have developed an obsession with them this year.
I had some trepidation about posting this particular Christmas cookie. As I wrestled with rolling out endless walnut-sized lumps of dough, making crescents seemed a lot fussier to me than it did last year. I distinctly remember the dough being a joy to work with: smooth and pliable, not like silly putty, but better.
This year the dough was still quite pliable, but behaved much more stickily. Rather than flour, this recipe uses confectioners’ sugar to smooth out handling and rolling, and I found myself using the powdery stuff quite liberally.
However, the end result? “This is the cookie Grandma was trying to make,” intoned my aunt Linda. “These are lighter, flakier, and…mmm….” and her speech devolved into sounds of food enjoyment.
The cookie she speaks of is descended from the eastern European “kipfel” — a barely sweet dough made with sour cream that is wrapped about a walnut filling. They’re a relative of rugelach, if you’re familiar with those. Unlike rugelach, they’re more demanding: rather than roll out a large circle of dough, spreading filling and cutting it into wedges which are then rolled, nutty crescents are made from individual balls of dough, rolled into 6-inch circles and then filled and rolled into a crude crescent, or horn, shape.
The main difference is both the lack of fruit and that the filling is (mostly) contained. In spite of a bakers’ best intentions, a bit of filling often oozes out the ends. But you know what? That’s okay, because the tidbits of caramelized filling on the ends are tasty in themselves.
Nutty crescents aren’t hard, per se; beyond beating the egg whites, there are no complicated maneuvers. However, you should set aside a good couple hours of pure hands-on time for rolling and filling.
And I’ve gone ahead and decided to post them because, in spite of feeling they were a bit fussy, the end result is so delectable that the trouble is worth it.
You’ll need 4 eggs total. Three separated for the dough and filling, and one beaten egg on its own in the filling. Recipe source: Grandma D. Transcribed from chickenscratch and edited for clarity.
prep: 45 minutes, then waiting for dough/filling to chill
bake: 15-20 minutes
servings: about 3 dozen cookies
oven: 350 degrees
1 cup butter, softened
3 beaten egg yolks (reserve whites for filling)
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
3 cups of flour
1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1-1/2 cups of chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
1 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon butter, softened
2 teaspoons milk (water is all right too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
copious amounts of confectioners’ sugar, for rolling out the dough
Make the dough:
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, cream the butter, three egg yolks, and sour cream. The mixture won’t be smooth; the sour cream will persist in remaining in small bits. Just keep mixing until the bits are pea-sized or smaller. Mix in the dry ingredients. Separate dough into two pieces, wrap each piece securely in plastic wrap, and chill for at least two hours, or overnight. Keep dough cold.
Make the filling:
If you haven’t yet, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. In a medium bowl, mix together chopped nuts, sugar, one beaten egg, butter, milk, and vanilla. Fold into the stiffly beaten egg whites. Cover and chill for at least two hours, or overnight
Get ready to bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment.
If you let your bits chill overnight, the egg whites in the filling may have begun to destabilize. Don’t worry; it won’t affect the finished product. Gently stir the re-liquefied egg whites back into the filling using the same motions you do when folding, so as not to disturb the still-intact beaten egg whites too much.
Keep dough chilled as much as possible while putting these together. When the dough warms, it gets sticky and difficult to work with. Use one half of the dough at a time, leaving the other in the fridge.
Preparing each crescent:
Using your hands, form a walnut-sized ball from the dough. You’ll be rolling this out. Dust your rolling surface with confectioners’ sugar, and the rolling pin as well. A cloth rolling pin cover and mat are very helpful here. Roll out the ball of dough as thin as it will go — about 6 inches in diameter. Use confectioners’ sugar liberally if the dough seems to be sticking at all. Don’t worry; you really can’t use too much.
Spread a teaspoon of filling, covering about 2/3 of the dough circle and keeping clear of the edges. Roll up the circle around the filling, saving the 1/3 empty side for last. This is to compensate for the filling spreading a bit as it’s pushed by the rolling. However, just roll gently; it’s counterproductive to roll it super-tightly. With your fingertips, pinch the edges of the dough closed, bend it to form a curve, if desired, and lay seam-side down on a baking sheet.
Repeat until sheet is filled, leaving an inch or two space between each nutty crescent.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Nutrition information per cookie: 161 calories; 10.1g fat; 39mg cholesterol; 102mg sodium; 15.4g carbohydrate; 0.8g fiber; 5.9g sugars; 3g protein; 5% vitamin A; 0% vitamin C; 3% calcium; 4% iron