ABOVE: My first attempt at Kourambiethes.
“It’s for Christmas cookies,” I explain, slightly embarrassed to be slipping a bottle of $4 brandy into my coat pocket, forgoing the paper bag at an East Side liquor store.” Though in retrospect, maybe I’d rather be seen as a cheap drunk than a compulsive baker.
I haven’t been down to Astoria for a couple of months and this is a problem. Artopolis, a bakery in this heavily Hellenic Queens neighborhood, offers some of the most unbelievable Greek pastries this side of Athens.
I can go on and on about the galaktoboureko and the baklava, but I have a soft spot for the kourambiethes; shortbread cookies with almonds and brandy, covered decadently in confectioner’s sugar. Lots and lots of sugar (this recipe calls for a pound of the white stuff).
They are wedding cookies, Christmas cookies and Easter cookies. Essentially, they come out when people are celebrating.
I call them a mid-morning snack.
The Chicago Tribune recipe:
WHAT YOU NEED:
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1 lb unsalted butter — softened
1 lb confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
WHAT YOU DO:
Pre-heat oven to 350′F.
Spread almonds in single layer on baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven; cool, then chop coarsely.
Beat butter in large bowl of electric mixer on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the confectioners’ sugar; continue beating 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, Cognac and vanilla; beat until smooth. Beat in almonds, flour and baking powder until mixed well. (If dough is too soft to handle, add additional flour.) Shape scant tablespoons full of dough between palms into round balls or crescents.
Bake on ungreased baking sheets until set and very pale golden in color; 15 minutes. Remove cookies to cooling rack.
Place remaining confectioners’ sugar into sifter. While cookies are still hot, sift confectioners’ sugar over tops. Repeat twice at 20-minutes intervals.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Any recipe that calls for both butter and sugar by the pound is alright by me.
POST SCRIPT: Do not eat these while wearing a navy blazer shortly before walking into an Ivy League cocktail party. Or wear a bib.