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My baking skills aren’t what they used to be. I have no excuse. With food allergies, my baking has curtailed. It doesn’t help that I’m married to the third biggest cookie monster, Cookie the Original being first, @kentforrester being second….
I started trying to make Polish/Ukrainian Rugalah. I didn’t remember this much work. This delicious holiday pastry from Eastern Europe was a given at our Christmas celebrations. It can be filled with apricots, raspberry preserves, cinnamon and nuts, or chocolate chips. I dumped the cream cheese, tons of fattening butter and flour together, but lacked a mixing bowl. The whirling beaters didn’t make it far enough into my deep Tupperware tub – stay with me here….
I had to get another plastic tub. I whipped it up, and read further. Divide dough into 4 sections, layer between plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Then roll out and cut into squares. If the dough softens, refrigerate again, and keep going. I work for a living. Being self-employed, I get no paid holidays – this is taking too damn long. My old Betty Crocker cookbook was open to Russian Tea Cookies page – yea! All I need to do was add powdered sugar!
My favorite is Thumbprint Cookies, also filled with jam or icing. I thought wait…if I dump those crushed walnuts in, done! I have now created the “Rugalah Russian Tea Cake Thumbprint Cookie” and saved loads of time!! Disaster – I tested one cookie three times. Ok…that’s three cookies one time – Ugh! To the trash can, the Cookie Monster’s home – I’m sorry. I have an almost reverent new respect for bakers, Marie included. Especially Italians – our neighbors growing up who could bake 15 different kinds of cookies with a family of nine, and deliver to all the neighbors. Viva Italy – Buon Natale!
It helps that we’ve been given delicious cookies from Nashville, my mother-in-law, my friend Dina, my mother-in-law again, (ok a Rum cake too), who must think her son suffers, because she baked two batches of chocolate chip cookies – and a rumor is a third is coming.
Back to the Russians…
We haven’t been back to a certain local Mexican restaurant since Cinco de Mayo. This is Florida, there’s a Mexican restaurant on every corner, and Fridays at the local bank are like Siesta time in Tijuana. Lines everywhere, back hatches popped open with fresh tacos and enchiladas, cheerful greetings as our many Hispanic friends cash their paychecks, from jobs Americans won’t take or learn… another post.. where was I?
Oh – The Russians. So we went to said restaurant and told my husband, I think the Russians went home. Our sweet Hispanic waitress approached our table and said, “Ok, Are you ready to get drunk? Two for one!” Really? So a couple margaritas and glasses of wine later, I noticed the old manager back, from Russia. She was gone for a long time after giving birth. I said hello, welcome back! Then there was Anastasia, the girl who told us quickly six months ago, that she was Mexican, definitely, definitely not Russian, (even though I didn’t ask – I just said – “sooo….where ya from?”) and asked how I’d like my “chicken” cooked – good grief – not medium well! I had to send it back…
The table next to us was filled with snowbirds – who I heard say “Oh! Hi Nadia, nice to meet you, my family hails from Hungary. So you’re from Russia?” The spicy Mexican sauce on the street tacos could have melted a hole in the table. So…the Russians are still here….(I know what to look for from all the spy books I love to read,) …and the Russian at the local Starbucks with the blue running suit, who didn’t run because he was pale and skinny in winter, and didn’t order a coffee, and was hollering into his cell phone in Russian, was obviously using the Wi-Fi, and wouldn’t make eye contact.
I’ll buy my Rugalah from Whole Foods, and another thing…..I looked for gingerbread men for my husband, the cookie connoisseur, and can’t find any, not even Little Debbies! I went to the bakery at Publix, and the cookies aisle – @kentforrester help me here – none to be found! Then as I drove away, I figured it out! They haven’t been able to come up with a neutral-gender gingerbread cookie! The gingerbread man cookie is sexist! Oh no! Happy Holidays! Eat, drink and most of all, be Merry!!
Postscript – Christmas Eve: I’m not good at cakes either. I once baked a birthday cake for my sister. I couldn’t get it out of the pan – it came out in pieces, which I glued together with frosting. She loved it – but still ribs me. My hazelnut cake was requested, so I am wrestling up the courage. It’s easy – just a vanilla or white cake mix, add hazelnut syrup and flavoring (to your taste), a dash of cinnamon. Add roasted crushed hazelnuts on middle layer and on top – with your frosting of choice. At almost $20 per pound, my hazelnuts will be spread out.
If you do vanilla buttercream frosting, you can sprinkle some chocolate chips too. I somehow “lost” my cake pans so I bought new ones. The cake box said 350 degrees for nonstick or 325 for shiny – it looked like both shiny and non-stick, so the temp is on 340…. I can see why bakers of old wear full cover aprons – my clean shirt is no longer clean. I also heard my mother in law may bring an Italian Cream Cake – southerners love it – and it is really good, but now the pressure is on, and guess who’s the amateur. Merry Christmas! And as the great Julia Child would say, “bon appetit”!