I knew I had two choices with these: Hungarian, or something using Pippin apples. Seeing as the kiddo doesn’t like chunky cooked apple, I went with the first. I’m not sure if the filling recipe I found is really Hungarian, but it says it is and that’s good enough for me to start from.
I got the filling recipe from an old newspaper clipping for “Hungarian Coffee Cake.” Being a thorough foodie, I searched to see if I could find and credit this specific recipe, and found a bunch of them Venn-intersecting each other all over the flavor map and not crediting anyone. (Well, except Maida Heatter.) It originally called for almonds, but we don’t do those so I used walnuts. Still good.
Even though it doesn’t look too appetizing after you’re done mixing.
The cookie dough I used is literally the easiest one I make on a regular basis: snowballs, but without the nuts. It makes fewer cookies this way, compounded by using more dough per cookie to wrap up the filling. It also isn’t as sturdy, but it holds the little pinch shape pretty well, especially if you pinch upwards rather than down. What makes this recipe different from a lot of the ones you’ll encounter is the use of water during the creaming step. The extra moisture from that and the vanilla creates more gluten than a butter-only shortbread dough, making your cookies less likely to crumble while being shaken in powdered sugar. This also means the food coloring isn’t going to mess up the formula, especially if you scant the water just a bit. It looks absolutely terrible when you first start mixing, though.
And then it starts looking like peppermint fudge.
I tried to make these things from a cup shape of dough, I really did. But the filling is too wet and the dough is too delicate, and I was having to put lids on them. So I settled on pressing the dough out into an elongated plaque of no special geometry (scientifically known as a “hunk”) and sealing it like a dumpling.
I pulled off any excess and put it back to reuse, rolling each ball smooth afterward.
And like I said earlier…pinch UP, not DOWN.
Normally, I bake this dough for about 15 minutes and it’s perfect. With cookies this size, it took more like 25. But they’re really pretty!
And tasty too.
Merry Hungamaas, everybody.
Merry Hunga Poppers
(makes about 40)
1/2 c toasted nuts (almonds or walnuts recommended)
1/4 c brown sugar, packed
2 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c apricot jam
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c raisins or currants
1/2 c mini chocolate chips
Chop nuts finely and place in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Set aside (in the fridge if you’re not going to use it right away).
1 c softened salted butter, or use unsalted and add 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 scant Tb water
1 tsp vanilla
10-12 drops red food coloring, or gel color to achieve desired intensity
2 1/4 c flour
Beat butter until creamy, then beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Add water, vanilla, and food coloring and mix until all liquid is absorbed. Add flour, a cup at a time, mixing until fully combined.
Assembly and baking:
Heat oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment. With your fingers, flatten a small chunk of dough into a rough oval just thin enough to let light through (about 3/16 inch or 3-4mm). Spoon about 1/2 tsp of filling onto the dough, fold the edges over and seal, removing any excess. If your dough isn’t big enough for your scoop of filling, patch it with more dough rather than trying to stretch it. Roll into a smooth ball between your palms and set on the prepared baking sheet. Using two fingers and your thumb, pinch the top of the dough ball gently upwards, leaving indentations.
You can place the cookies close together as they do not spread much. Bake for about 20 minutes, checking after 15 to see if the bottoms are done. They don’t need to brown, especially if you’re using an insulated baking sheet, but they should look firm and dry. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 40.
(Bonus recipe: If you add 1 c chopped pecans to the dough instead of filling it, roll balls just smaller than an inch, and bake for 12 minutes or so, you’ll get awesome snowball cookies to roll in powdered sugar. Also try subbing maple flavor for the vanilla in these…it’s heavenly.)