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Performing Art
Top row: Anise Bogen, or "arches," Schokolade Busserln, or chocolate kisses, and Schokolade Macaronen, chocolate macaroons. Bottom: Zimtsterne, or cinnamon stars, Rumkugeln, or rum balls, and Vanilla Kipferl.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010 7 years ago

Edibles: Waters is nuts about cookies


There is nothing more seasonal than holiday baking, and Elisabeth Waters practices the great tradition of gifting Christmas cookies with energy, enormous enthusiasm and a distinctly European style. Born and raised in Vienna, she started baking as a child, working alongside her nanny. Before she moved here in 1992, her children baked with her; she made the batter and they got dough, flour and sugar all over themselves — and the kitchen.

The recipes Waters bakes today are pretty much the ones she baked then. Baking season starts right before Thanksgiving and continues for three to four weeks. She bakes about 10 different kinds of cookies, essentially the same assortment every year. The Rumkugeln need to be refrigerated; all the others store well for several weeks in airtight tins. They are all Austrian recipes, and many are from the post-World War II period when food was scarce. For example, the recipe for chocolate kisses has only one egg.

The most classic of Waters’ recipes is Vanilla Kipferl, crescent-shaped butter cookies made with finely ground almonds. Anise Bogen, or “arches,” are a tuile-style cookie, formed into arches while warm — traditionally by wrapping around a dowel, but Waters says she “just scrunches them together with my fingers.” This recipe originated with her maternal grandmother and is the only one she bakes that has no nuts. Tiny Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) topped with meringue are Waters’ favorite, though she says the flourless almond dough is difficult with which to work.

Schokolade Busserln, or chocolate kisses, are the simplest to make; they are formed with two spoons and should be baked on Silpat cookie sheet liners to avoid sticking. Rumkugeln, or rum balls, are a relatively simple dough; they take some time to form but are not difficult.

Waters gives away cookies to dozens of friends, prettily packaged in cellophane bags or small tins that she buys at Target, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Walgreens. She does it, she says, because it is her tradition.

“I don’t know what to give people and cookies are something personal,” she says. “I love it when the house smells like baking.”

(Rum balls)

Yield: approximately 70 cookies, depending on size

3.5 ounces ground pecans (approximately 7/8 cup)
4.3 ounces coconut flakes, unsweetened (approximately 1.5 cups)
7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 packet Dr. Oetkers Vanilla Sugar, available at Geier’s)
3.5 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 to 5 tablespoons rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the coconut flakes and the pecans lightly; set aside to cool. Beat the butter until creamy and add sugar and vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar), ground chocolate and rum (light or dark — use your favorite). Then add the pecans and the coconut flakes. Mix it up well and cool for an hour in the fridge. Form into small balls with your hands. Roll each one in coconut flakes or chocolate or seasonal sprinkles. Place in small, fluted paper candy cups and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Schokolade Busserln
(Chocolate kisses)

Yield: approximately 70 cookies, depending on size

9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners sugar (10X)
1 egg
3 teaspoons milk
2 1/4 cups flour
2.2 ounces blanched almonds, finely ground (approximately 1/2 cup)
3.5 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar; add egg and combine well. Add almonds, cooled, melted chocolate, flour and milk. Using two teaspoons, place small scoops on the baking sheets; it helps to use Silpat liners. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly darker in color.

To see Elisabeth Waters making rum balls, see the video below. 

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