I would like to share with you some of my – food – memories from childhood. You know, there are these tastes and flavours and smells that immediately take you several years back. Here is a recipe which at least makes an attempt at recreating that taste of (or from) childhood – Zemelakh cookies. It turns out that this is a Jewish recipe (couldn’t find the translation of this word though) but these cookies were and still are largely referred to as ‘vostochnye sladosti‘, oriental delight, and sold in an eponymous shop on Nevsky. But as we’re talking Soviet cuisine here, let’s assume that this recipe has already mutated into the Soviet / Russian food heritage.
Two years ago – Cookie Time: Cheese Biscuits and Pistachio Biscotti
Three years ago – Those Were the Days or 90s in Russia Continued
Four years ago – Puerto Rican Flan
Zemelakh or Sugar and Cinnamon Coated Shortbread Cookies translated and adapted from forum.say7.info will make sweet cookies, soft inside and crunchy from the outside. This recipe has been travelling all over the Runet (Russian web), so cannot say where the original comes from exactly. See my remarks in italics.
- 125 g butter, chilled
- 125 g sugar + some for the coating (larger grain sugar will be perfect for coating)
- 250 g flour, sifted
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbs milk
- pinch of salt
Beat chilled but not frozen butter with the egg, add a pinch of salt. Add sugar and beat well until the grains are no longer visible. It should get fluffy and homogeneous. Pour in the milk and beat well again. Beat in the flour in several parts. The cookie dough should be pretty thick (mine for some reason wasn’t…). Make a ball and place it covered in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 ‘C. Cover your cutting board with baking paper and roll the dough out on it to a rectangle no thinner than 1 cm (I guess I should have rolled it out thicker than 1 cm – for better, softer results). Cut the dough in diamonds (that was tricky!), sprinkle them – first with sugar, then generously with cinnamon and then a bit with sugar again. Transfer the cookies along with the paper to a baking sheet. Bake at 200 ‘C for 10-15 minutes, not longer or they will be too dry! The cookies will be very soft when just taken out of the oven but you can check with a toothpick. If some of them got stuck to each other in the process, run the knife in between. Leave the cookies to cool before transferring to a serving dish.
Remarks: Feel free to double the recipe! And try not to roll the dough out too thin – the fatter these cookies are (within certain limits of course), the more authentic the cookies will taste. Also be careful not to overbake them!
Result: The recipe is pretty easy though I cannot say that what you get as a result is the authentic Zemelakh. I remember that they were more …sandy. But as long as your cookies are sugar-cinnamon coated-crusted and buttery inside, you’re on the right path🙂