Monday, December 19, 2011

Taking my turn at the poppy seed
wheel with Orange Poppy Seed Cookies

Recently I wrote about Honey-Spice Cake, a recipe that attracted me to try it because it contains honey, a primary ingredient in Ukrainian baking.
   The same thing occurred with Orange Poppy Seed Cookies (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine.
   Poppy seeds are popular in Ukrainian baking and cooking. My Baba makes poppy seed buns, and my mother often serves kutia, a traditional Ukrainian sweet grain pudding dotted with poppy seeds, on Christmas Eve (although I have to admit, I don’t like kutia!)
   I wanted to take my turn at the poppy seed wheel, and so picked these cookies, which looked like they would be perfect for the holiday season.
   They are a perfect family-friendly cookie for the holidays – just a bit crispy, with the perfect balance of orange and poppy seed flavors.
   Once the dough is made and shaped into a log, the recipe says to freeze it for an hour or refrigerate for several hours until very firm. However, the recipe says the dough can also be kept frozen for several weeks, and so I took a cue from that and simply froze the dough for about three hours before I cut it into pieces for baking.
   Make sure to cut the dough-log into 3/16-inch thick rounds as the recipe suggests – it’s the ideal thickness to create cute, crispy cookies.
   Poppy seeds, by the way, can be found in the spice section of many supermarkets.
   The cookies are easy to make.
   Flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt are combined in a small bowl.
   Softened unsalted butter and sugar are beaten together with an electric mixer, then an egg, orange juice, orange zest (finely-grated lemon peel) and lemon zest (finely-grated lemon peel) are added and the mixture beaten some more. The flour mixture is added and beaten on low until just combined.
   The soft dough is put on a large piece of plastic wrap, and wrapped and frozen for 30 minutes. Though the recipe didn’t say to do this, I formed the dough into a log already at this point.
   After the dough is frozen for 30 minutes, it’s unwrapped and kneaded briefly to remove air pockets. The dough is rolled into a nine-inch log and wrapped (roll the log yourself, don’t bother letting the plastic do it as the recipe says.)
   After refrigeration or freezing time, the log is unwrapped, then sliced into 3/16-inch rounds. The rounds are set one inch apart on lightly-greased or parchment-covered cookie sheets (I used parchment paper), then baked in the oven.
   After a few minutes of cooling, the cookies are transferred to a wire rack to cool completely.

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