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Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Czech Christmas Cookie Mania!

Published on December 23th, 2014 in Interviews

  • Christmas cookies (photo courtesy of www.rainydazeee.com/)

  • Linecké cukroví (photo courtesy of http://dilna-rucnici-prace.blog.cz)

  • vanilkové rohlíčky (photo courtesy of https://czechthatout.wordpress.com)

  • Medvědí tlapky (photo courtesy of www.adrikad.com)

  • Perníčky (photo courtesy of http://4.bp.blogspot.com)

  • Kokosky (photo courtesy of http://i.idnes.cz)

  • Bílkový chlebíček (photo courtesy of www.tradicnirecepty.cz)

  • Ořechy (photo courtesy of http://kucharka.pro)

  • Vinné cukroví (photo courtesy of http://static.prozeny.cz)

  • Košíčky (photo courtesy of http://foto.dama.cz)

  • Žloutkové řezy (photo courtesy of http://i.mimibazar.cz/)

  • včelí úly (photo courtesy of http://tomichutna.cz)

  • kuličky (photo courtesy of http://varimezdrave.cz)

A platter of elaborately decorated, beautifully arranged, Christmas cookies (cukroví) is typically the centerpiece of any Czech holiday gathering. In fact, these sweets are so painstakingly ornate that the entire family may be enlisted to roll dough, cut pastry, and assemble cookies a whole month in advance of Christmas.

 

I recently had a chance to speak with a local aficionado about this time-honored tradition. Juliana Fischerová is a journalist and self-taught baker. She's also the prolific Czech blogger behind the bread-baking sites Maškrtnica and PečemPecen. And, after meeting English chef Paul Day at Náplavka farmer's market in 2013, she has been responsible for the heavenly things—sandwich buns, sourdough loaves, and signature doughnuts-—coming out of the oven at Day's new butcher-shop pub Maso a Kobliha.

 

Slovak by family but Czech by provenance (she was born here in Prague) Juliana says that the Czech/Slovak cookie traditions don't differ much. “You typically start baking around the first Sunday in advent and continue right on til Christmas Eve. The cookies require so much precision that everyone has to help—mom, dad, kids, everyone has a job.”

 

Left: Christmas cookies (photo courtesy of http://media.novinky.cz) | Right: Christmas cookies (photo courtesy of http://media1.webgarden.name)

 

Because I am always intrigued by the sheer variety of cookies on display at Czech holiday celebrations, I also asked Juliana to name them all. She tells me that when it comes to the basic cookie ingredients of nuts, sugar, and butter, the possibilities are endless. People typically make twelve different kinds to represent the twelve months in a year.

 

“The basic twelve are: jam-filled Linzer cookies (Linecké cukroví), vanilla crescents (vanilkové rohlíčky), chocolate bear paws (pracny or medvědí tlapky), gingerbread (perníčky), coconut macaroons (kokosky), biscotti (bílkový chlebíček), walnut-shaped cookies filled with buttercream (ořechy), white-wine butter cookies (vinné cukroví), mini-tartlets (košíčky or šuhajdy) filled with cream or nut paste, a dense cakey layered slice (žloutkové řezy), bee hives (včelí úly), a molded, no-bake cookie in the shape of a hive filled with eggnog buttercream, and at least one other no-bake ball (kuličky) a popular one is sweetened condensed milk and loads of sugar rolled into a ball with an almond pressed in the middle.”

 

She goes on to say that these multiple batches of cookies are stored outside, or if you live in the city on the balcony, where they soften up in preparation for the big event. As competitive as I know Czechs to be, I wonder if this gives you a chance to spy on your neighbor's progress and vice versa?

 

“It's true,” says Juliana. “The mark of a good housewife is just how plentiful and varied her Christmas cookies are and people love to gossip about who has the most and whose were outside first.”

 

As for naming her favorite, Juliana admits that it's difficult, but remains partial to the classic vanilla crescent and anything featuring rum-soaked cherries.

 

 

Left: Simply Good cookies (photo courtesy of www.simplygood.cz)  | Right: Erhartova cukrárna cookies (photo courtesy of www.erhartovacukrarna.cz)

 

For those, like me, who prefer to let someone else get flour on their fingers in the name of holiday baking, you can easily buy cukroví. Karlín bakery Simply Good is my first choice, but this foodie favorite tends to sell out early—you will need to order by November 15. A close second is Erhartova cukrárna, which accepts orders for large amounts until December 12, though smaller batches are for sale here throughout the holidays.

 

If you'd like to attempt some of these classic recipes, a huge assortment of cookie molds and cutters can be purchased in Czech shops called domácí potřeby, which specialize in a kitchen and housewares. In Prague Juliana suggests the one on the third floor of Prague department store Kotva.

 

You'll also need a recipe, kindly provided here by Juliana who also notes that, “Cukroví are the gifts that keep on giving. I spent some time in the U.S. And Americans think you can only eat your cookies for a couple of days after Christmas. We hang onto ours for much longer.”

 

The trick, she says, lies in keeping them fresh. “Store them in a cold place in plastic containers or tins and enjoy into the New Year.”

 

 

Juliana Fischerová's White Wine Cookies

200 g butter (about 1 ¾ stick)
200 g all-purpose flour (1 2/3 cups)
3 tbsp white wine
Icing sugar (powdered sugar) to finish

 

Place all of the ingredients, minus the icing sugar, into the food processor and pulse until you have thick dough. Remove from food processor, wrap in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. (If you don't have a food processor you can shred the butter with a cheese grater and add the remaining ingredients, kneading slowly until you have your dough.)

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment.

 

After the dough has been refrigerated, roll it out thin, then cut out your shapes, or use a knife and cut the dough into squares.

 

Place cookies on the baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes, until they are a light-golden color. Roll or dust with icing sugar while still hot.
 

 

 

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