Christmas in Slovakia is a beautiful time of year- and no family would celebrate without making these delicious, soft honey and spice cookies.
– 500 g (a little more than 2 c) simple plain flour (not self raising)
– 250 g (a little more than a cup) castor sugar
– 120 g (1/2 c) grounded walnuts
– 150 g honey ** Note from Janka: “use better quality flower honey for better cookies – this is crucial. You want pure flower honey of golden colour, and a thick, slow trickle)….this amount is about 3+ tablespoons really full.”
– 3 tablespoons of butter
– 3 eggs
– 1/2 tsp of baking soda (bicarbonate)
– spices: cloves, cinnamon, anise, star anise, cardamom, coriander, allspice.
Janka: “In Slovakia, they sell the ready-made mixture for these spice cookies, otherwise you need to crush everything in a mortar, until really smooth (maybe sieve the result to get just smooth powder).” Some of you might have a coffee grinder that could work, or a spice mill, but we used child labor:). Make sure the spices are finely ground, especially the pods of the star anise. Also, I didn’t use all of the cloves pictured above because they have such a strong taste.
TO MAKE THE DOUGH FOR THE SPICE COOKIES:
1) Mix flour with sugar, walnuts, (baking soda) bicarbonate and spices on the cutting board or table, and make a hole in the middle.
2) Melt butter very slowly (must not bubble), then take it off the stove and melt in the honey. Mix thoroughly, then add the eggs and mix.
3) Pour the mixture into the flour, starting to mix from the centre to make the dough. Mix until smooth and not really sticky, adding a little more flour if necessary. Janka: “Don’t overdo it with flour, otherwise the cookies will be hard. It should be sticky.”
4) Make the dough into a loaf, pack it into cling film, put it overnight into fridge. Janka: “Go and have a nice glass of wine. ) The first part is done, the rest will be up to kids, you will just assign tasks )”
2) Depending on the shapes you have roll the thickness of the dough – Janka does 1/3 of really small ones (only 3cm diameter) that go nicely with coffee, that she rolls really thin. For classical shapes of about 6-7 cm she does a little thicker. Janka: “Cut the shapes as close to each other as possible, because more flour will get into the dough and you’ll get the harder cookies.”
3) Cut out cookies, put on the trays onto baking paper, allow some space for them getting bigger while baking. Prepare all of the trays first- it will go quickly once you will start baking them!
Janka: “By the third round I do some that can be hung on the Christmas tree.”
4) Heat up the oven to 190°C, (375° F). Bake the cookies until they smell nicely and start to get a little bit of brownish colour. When you take them out immediately brush them with the whole beaten egg to be nice golden shinny.
Janka: “Let cool down and pack into cardboard boxes. Clean up kitchen, children, dogs and everything from flour )
Cookies need some weeks to absorb the humidity from surroundings, the will get softer and smoother. Ideally they are done four weeks before Christmas (which is ideal also due to the fact that then you usually have some time to do such things. ) It also gives you enough time to play with decorating. But two-three weeks should be sufficient as well.
For decorating you beat an egg white into thick snow and mix into that really smooth icing sugar. Make a cone of baking paper, or use a plastic bag or if you have that decorating tube or bag with really really small hole. If you use the plastic bag you can put away the mixture for a night to fridge to carry on another day.”
Here are some pictures of beautifully decorated medovniky, or see this video below to be amazed, blown away, and intimidated by the artistic, intricate, lacey cookies decorated by a professional:).