Holiday Cookie Recipe: Ischler (Austria/Romania)
by Gerald Wright
My mother grew up in an ethnic German enclave in Romania (well, Transylvania – though she denies the existence of vampires) and therefore many of her recipes have an Austro-Hungarian slant to them. At Christmastime one of the greatest treats to emerge from her oven are the Ischler – a kind of walnut cookie with jam inside and iced with chocolate. Everyone who visits her home during the holidays agrees: these cookies are fiendishly delicious but the intense pleasure they create makes them dangerously addictive.
200 gms butter (softened)
300 gms flour (2 cups)
140 gms white sugar (3/4 cup)
160 gms walnuts (finely ground)
Jam or preserves for inside the cookies. (Raspberry, strawberry or red currant are good)
Chocolate for icing
1. Make the dough. Mix the walnuts in with the flour. In a separate bowl, mix the butter, sugar and the egg. Combine the flour mixture with the butter/sugar mixture until you have dough. I mix by hand. But use a mixer or cuisinart if you prefer. There is no need to chill the dough.
2. Roll out and bake the cookies. Take 1/3 of the dough (or less) and put it between parchment paper and roll until it is rather thin, say 2 centimeters. Use a cookie cutter or small water or wine glass to cut round discs. Repeat until you have used up all the dough. Bake the discs in oven at 175 C. until lightly browned.
3. Assemble the cookies. After the cookies are baked and cooled, take one disc and spread some jam on it. Place a disc on top of it. Continue doing this with all the discs – so that you have a batch of cookie/jam “sandwiches.”
4. Make chocolate icing. I’m rather new at this and I made a complete hash out of trying to melt chocolate on the stove. So now I buy a block of Belgian couverture chocolate, cut it up into small pieces and melt them very slowly on a low setting in the microwave. The trick is to zap the chocolate repeatedly for short intervals – 30 seconds or so – and then stir after each zapping. Eventually you get wonderful, creamy chocolate icing. This site explains it well http://www.noobcook.com/how-to-melt-chocolate-using-a-microwave-oven-step-by-step-photos/
5. Ice the cookies. Spread melted chocolate on the top and sides of each cookie “sandwich.” If you wish to consume less chocolate, you can just spread chocolate on the top of each cookie.
I’ll admit these cookies are somewhat time-consuming to make. But you will get nothing but compliments from all who eat them. My mother usually breaks the process down down, baking the cookies on one day and then doing the chocolate icing on another.