Last night was book club and as always I enjoy trying to find something fun and different to serve for food. Sometimes I try to be creative and make something that connects to the book. Sometimes I'm just lazy and make whatever is easiest.
This time, as I was planning for the evening, I remembered that years ago I ended up with a book called The Book Club Cook Book. (I was probably supposed to do a review of it, so consider this post that review. It has TONS of awesome books, authors, recipes and ideas!) And then I remembered that it has a recipe submitted by none other than Mr. Markus Zusak himself! It's paired off with The Book Thief, of course, but since these cookies really are the author's specialty (and not something specific to The Book Thief) and since we were discussing his other well-known book, I Am the Messenger, I decided that they would work just fine for our evening too!
Anyway, it was quite the ambitious adventure and so I thought I'd share the experience.
First, these are called Vanilla Kipferls, or to English-ize them up a a bit... Crescent Cookies. Mr. Z's family makes them at Christmastime as they are a tradition passed down from his German and Austrian parents. The key ingredient is hazelnut meal.... something I don't see commonly on our grocery shelves!
So, the first thing I did was to track that down. When I googled it, I found that Bob's Red Mill brand makes it, and I'd remembered seeing some of those specialty flours on the shelf, so I went to that store and had a look. The flour section didn't have it, but YAY! The health food aisle did! And it was $15 dollars for less than one pound! Awesome!
Then I could see that I needed one or two whole vanilla beans. I had never bought one, or even seen one before! I googled, and they looked like long dried up tuberous things! I had no idea where to look. I looked in spices, in produce, in beans. Nothing. So I asked Twitter! And a IRL neighbor of mine happened to see it and told me she'd seen them in the grocery store right by my house.
So I went to look, and only found them after asking a cashier who then tracked down the guy who actually has that section of the store memorized. It was in the spice section by the way, and there were two beans in a little spice jar... for $12. Awesome!
Now, it was time to make them! Here are the ingredients (because I know you are going to also want to try this at home!)
For the cookie bit:
1 3/4 cups flour (the normal all purpose kind!)
1 1/2 cups hazelnut meal (it only used about half of my little tiny package!)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes and add to all the dry ingredients, and then mix it... by hand WITH your hand! for 8 to 10 min. And believe me, this part took awhile. Those are some long 10 minutes! (Someone at book club suggested using a mixer would add air which would help it to meld together. Perhaps?)
Then you form them into the crescent shapes, which sounds easy enough, but it was hard since the dough was very dry and crumbly and felt like trying to mold very dry sand into a shape. Here's the instructions from the book: Pinch off small pieces of dough and mold gently between your palms to form 3 inch ropes. thicker in the i middle and tapered at the ends. Fashion each piece into a crescent shape and place onto prepared, greased cookie sheets, leaving a generous 1/3 inch in between, because they will spread a bit while cooking.
I loved the word fashion. That is where I got hung up in my experience. Oh boy. It took awhile and lots of patience! (I ended up just molding the shape right onto the cookie sheet and smooshing the heck out of it. My first ones are a little round and my last ones were a little flatter. And if you google images of this cookie, you can see what they are REALLY supposed to look like. I can see this is something that would take some practice! Hopefully it's not just me!)
So then you bake those for 15 to 20 min. in a 350 degree oven and take them out just as they are turning brown. I waited a bit too long for one of my batches I think!
While they are cooking you make the vanilla sugar that's to be sprinkled on them afterwards.
For the vanilla sugar bit:
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 to 2 whole vanilla beans
Put the sugar in a food processing bowl, cut up the beans (crosswise) into 1 inch pieces, and add to the sugar. With a stainless steel blade, process until the beans are blended into the sugar, for about 15 seconds. Strain the residue of the beans out, then sift the sugar onto the still slightly warm cookies. Oh wow, it smells so good about now! (Note: I think I was unduly cautious about the sprinkling of the sugar... I think if I were to do it again, I would be much much MUCH more generous!)
And there you have it! Markus Zusak's Christmas Crescent Cookies!
They were really yummy by the way.
Besides that, it was a fun endeavor!
What fun things have you tried making for book club? Let me know if you decide to give these cookies a go!