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Meliz Berg’s Almond-filled Celebration Cookies

These icing sugar dusted and almond-stuffed cookies are a decadent treat for the festive season, and make for gorgeous edible gifts for friends and family.

From the book

Introduction

These moreish Cypriot delicacies, wrapped in cellophane and secured with ribbon, were handed out to guests at our wedding to take home with them, and growing up, this was one of my favourite reasons (other than the meze and the dancing) to go to Cypriot weddings. They are incredibly short and crumbly, and rather large (my mum makes them slightly smaller than the ones I make), as I like mine to be reminiscent of the jumbo wedding cookies I used to savour with a cup of tea the morning after a special celebration. They are buttery, nutty and dusted in a thick layer of icing sugar that, when all stacked up together, makes them look like a delicious snowy mountain scene. Sometimes I mix the nuts into the actual dough, but I love the indulgence of the loaded içi dolu kurabiye (‘inside full cookie’) which are specific to Cyprus and weddings on the island.

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Ingredients

200g (7 oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4½ oz) icing sugar
65ml (2 fl oz) sunflower oil
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp rose water
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
385g (13½ oz) plain flour
50g (1¾ oz) cornflour
150g (5½ oz) almonds
200g (7 oz) icing sugar, to coat

Essential kit

You will need: an electric whisk.

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Method

With an electric whisk, beat together the butter and the sugar for 5–6 minutes until pale, light and fluffy. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil, whisk again, then add the egg yolk, whisking for another couple of minutes, followed by two tablespoons of the rose water, the vanilla extract, cinnamon and baking powder. Sift in the flour and cornflour, then bring everything together with your hands to form what will be a very sticky dough.Wash your hands and chill the mixture in the fridge for an hour.

While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark 5. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper and put the almonds on one of the sheets. Once the oven is hot, roast the almonds for 6–8 minutes, then remove from the oven and transfer them to a plate to cool. Pulse the roasted almonds in a food processor for a few seconds until roughly chopped, but still mostly in large chunks, then pop them back into the dish and stir through the remaining one tablespoon of rose water and one tablespoon of sunflower oil until the almonds are fully coated.

Remove the prepared dough from the fridge and fill up a small bowl with cold water.Wet the palms and inside of your hands with the water, and break off a piece of the dough, around 60 g (2. oz), roll into a ball, then poke a hole through it with your thumb and gently ease open the dough. Place around two heaped teaspoons of the ground almonds in the cavity you made with your thumb, then bring up the sides of the dough to start sealing the cookies, wetting your hands if the mixture gets too sticky, ensuring the chopped almonds are not poking out at all. Shape into a slightly flattened oval, making it slightly pointed at the ends, then place the finished cookie on one of the baking sheets. Using a fork, very slightly score a fork-shaped ridge across the top of the kurabiye, from one of the pointed ends to the other; these ridges will enable the kurabiye to hold on to more of the icing sugar coating once cooked. Repeat this shaping and filling process with the remaining dough, filling both baking sheets with the kurabiye.

Place the kurabiye into the preheated oven for 18–20 minutes until they turn very lightly golden. They will still be soft when you remove the trays, so allow them to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to the icing sugar coating.

Fill a large, deep dish with the icing sugar and while the kurabiye are still slightly warm, place them, one by one, into the icing sugar and coat liberally with the sweet powder. Transfer to a large platter to serve or wrap them up to hand out as gifts.

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From the book: Meliz’s Kitchen: Simple Turkish-Cypriot comfort food and fresh family feasts

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