These are beautiful vanilla, walnut, lemon cookies, sandwiched together with apricot jam and drowned in icing sugar. They are sort of the Balkan Linzer cookie.

There is a whole genre of “sitni kolaci” (tiny cookies/sweets) in the Balkans, and these are an absolute staple and one of my favourites. Every household will have a selection of sitni kolaci at all times of the year (to be offered to unannounced but always welcomed guests), but the selection available during the festive period is exponentially increased.  These are old fashioned in that they are traditionally made with lard which makes the pastry quite short and melt-in-the mouth delicious. They last beautifully and in fact improve with time. Though, I must warn you, they never actually last very long in our home…

Any Balkan person living abroad will tell you that homemade treats have an incredible way of making their way to you, wherever you are in the world. It was the same for my mother and I living in Kuwait. My grandmother always went out of her way to send a small box of these to us from Macedonia to Kuwait, so these will always have a special place in my heart.

I hope that wherever you are in the world, however you are celebrating, you have a peaceful and joyous Christmas Eve.

Ingredients

  • 250-300g plain flour (plus extra for dusting and dipping your cookie cutter)

  • 150g lard

  • 125g ground walnuts

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk

  • 1 -2 tsp vanilla extract, to taste

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • 2-3 tbsp apricot jam or marmalade

  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  • Place 250g of the flour in a large bowl with the cubed lard and mix (either in a food processor, or by using your hands to rub the lard into the flour. Keep going until the mixture resembles sand/breadcrumbs.
  • Add all the other ingredients and combine until all the ingredients have come together – either using your food processor or a dough hook on an electric whisk, or a spatula.
  • Once all your ingredients are combined well, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for a few minutes – the dough should be soft and pliable but not sticky. If it is sticking to your surface add a little more flour until you are able to manipulate the dough without it sticking to the surface. At this point you may want to divide your dough in 2 or 4 discs and rest it (wrapped in cling film) in the fridge so you can work with one disc at a time, but this is not necessary.
  • Roll out a piece of your dough to 5mm thickness and using a small round cutter (approximately 3cm diameter) cut out small circles (dipping your cutter in flour between every few cuts). The dough re-rolls beautifully and don’t be afraid to use flour to re-dust the surface and your rolling pin but don’t overdo it or you will lose the moisture of the cookies. Keep repeating the process of rolling out the dough disc, cutting out circles, re-rolling the dough until you have used it up.
  • Place the circles on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake on the top shelf of the oven for up to 10 minutes (or less) until the edges just start to turn golden. If you have rolled them thinner you may need less time in the oven. The dough does not rise/spread.
  • Once baked cool on a cooling rack. When cool, using a knife, spread just a little apricot jam on the base of a cookie – just enough to sandwich it with the base of another cookie without jam leaking from the side.
  • Once all done, roll the sandwiched cookies in icing sugar. Store in a biscuit or cake tin. They always taste best a day or two after baking.
  • This recipe makes approximately 40-50 cookies depending on the thickness of rolling and the size of your cookie cutter.
    Enjoy!