Written by Lana of Bibberche
It was not by accident that I virtually met Diana back in the spring of 2010 when I started my blog. Both of us are Europeans who make their home in the U.S. Our backgrounds are similar and we pretty much view the world with the same eyes. I am delighted to be a part of her site.
I grew up in Serbia and unprocessed, simple, natural, local, and sustainable food was the standard – not because we were more sophisticated than others, but because we lagged behind the more industrialized and advanced European countries. The women on my street went to the farmers’ market every day, early in the morning, and they returned home with the freshest ingredients of the day.
I try to follow the footsteps of my mother and grandmother. Living in Southern California allows me to have fresh fruits and vegetables all year round, but I still miss my organic Ohio garden; as small as it was, it brought me hours of enjoyment and many baskets filled with beautiful produce.
Taking Advantage of The California Bounty: Wholesome Christmas Cookies
We are approaching the Christmas season and my kitchen counter is filled with baking supplies. I have many recipes in my “to make” folders. But I inevitably go back to my childhood and smells and flavors that make me feel safe and loved.
Some of my fondest memories are tied to quiet and serene Christmas Eves spent at my grandparents’ home: the flickering candles on the kitchen countertops; the sensor lit underneath the icon of our family’s saint; the bowls of dried fruits and nuts on the dining-room table; and short, heavy, vintage glasses filled with hot, sweetened plum brandy.
I reached to my days of innocence when I made these cookies. Even though my grandmother would have relied on the dried fruits she could easily buy at the market or have at hand after the summer harvest, I experimented and included dried cranberries that are still somewhat hard to purchase in smaller European cities and dried strawberries I picked up at Fresh Summit Expo a few weeks ago.
This recipe is versatile. It allows you to combine any dried fruits you have at hand.
If there are no almonds in your pantry, use walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans. You can easily add more ground nuts instead of cookies and any juice would work to help melt the piloncillo sugar.
My Njanja would stick to white, processed sugar, but I am entranced by the beautiful color and amazing flavor that these little pillars provide once they start melting.
I left my cookies unadorned, but you can easily roll them in ground almonds, turbinado sugar, or sesame seeds (especially if they are slightly roasted) for an extra layer of flavor. These little morsels are packed with wholesome and healthy nutrients and can easily be packed into a lunch box instead of a candy bar.
Serbian dried fruit and nut balls. A wholesome treat for the Holidays, Christmas.
- 100 gr (3 oz) almonds
- 250 gr (8oz) dried fruit (prunes, dates, raisins, strawberries, cranberries, currants, apricots, figs), cut into small dice using knife or a food processor
- 50 gr (2 1/2 oz) ground cookies
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 100 gr (3oz) piloncillo sugar
- 100 gr (3oz, 1 stick) unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the almonds on a cookie sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes. After they are cooled, grind them in a food processor.
- Combine dried fruit, ground almonds, and ground cookies. Place the piloncillo sugar, lemon juice, and butter in a heavy skillet and heat on low temperature until the sugar melts (it took almost 30 minutes). Immediately pour in the fruit and nuts and stir to combine. If the sugar is too sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons of water and stir to combine before stirring it in.
- Fill a bowl with water and start forming balls, wetting your hands frequently. Place the bowls into decorative paper inserts or stick a lollipop stick in the middle. Dried fruit balls can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks. Warm up to room temperature before serving.
- The fruit balls are going to look rustic and somewhat misshapen, but if you want a more uniform look, you can grind the dried fruit in a food processor.
Do you have a favorite traditional Christmas cookie you make? Please share them with us in the comments.