Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Greek Christmas Shortbread

Servings: 4 dozen

Greek shortbread is prepared mainly during Christmas. It is filled with almonds and sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

In Greece, the big midwinter feast isn't Christmas but New Year's Day. It's the feast day of St. Basil, the founder of the Greek church, and on that day everyone has a vasilopitta—Basil's bread—a big sweet bread with a cross baked on top and a coin buried inside. You cut a slice for everyone, and the tradition is that whoever gets the gold will be lucky that year. But there are also foods special to Christmas, stuffed turkey with chestnuts, rice, raisins, pine nuts and spices. And everyone has to have something sweet on hand for the carolers who come to the house: nuts and raisins, and traditional cookies like KOURABIETHES, which are GREEK SHORTBREADS, or diples, which are supposed to look like Christ's swaddling clothes.

1/2 cup blanched almonds
16 oz. unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp. confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. cognac, or other brandy
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Whole cloves (optional)
Confectioners' sugar (about 1 pound), for sifting over tops

Heat oven to 350°F (175 C).

Spread almonds in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven; cool, and chop coarsely.

Beat softened butter in large bowl of electric mixer on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, 5 minutes.

Add the 3 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar; continue beating 3 minutes.

Add egg yolks, cognac and vanilla; beat until smooth.

Mix in almonds, flour and baking powder until mixed well.
(if dough is too soft to handle, add additional flour).

Shape tablespoons of dough between your palms and roll into round balls or oval shaped or crecsent shaped cookies.
Place (push down slightly) one whole clove on top of each cookie, (optional).

Bake on ungreased baking sheets until set and very pale golden in color, about 15 minutes. The shortbread cookies should not be too brown, a very light color, almost no color.

Remove cookies to cooling rack.

Place remaining confectioners" sugar into sifter, and while cookies are still hot, sift confectioners" sugar over tops.

When cookies are completely cool, ROLL cookies in confectioners' sugar, and then repeat this rolling in sugar one more time. Place each cookie in a pretty paper muffin cup for serving.

Makes: 4 dozen cookies.

Source: DianasDesserts.com
Date: October 19, 2002