My mother’s hands – her beautiful walnut cookies

My mother had beautiful hands. They were larger than life with a heart to match. Never manicured or lavished with jewels, my mother’s hands were soothing – always radiating warmth, compassion, and generosity. She had an intuitive way of knowing how to comfort with a quiet touch, and with a gentle brush of her fingers, she could make every care in the world disappear. When you were sick, her hands would magically transform from soft to strong while she massaged the illness right out of your body. Yes, she was that good. 

To say that my mother worked hard throughout the course of her life is an understatement. From planting flowers in her garden in Serbia as a young girl, to caring for patients at their bedside as a nurse, she earned every single line, crack, and crevice etched on her fingers.

Beneath the surface of those hands though, a genius was waiting. When she picked up a paintbrush in her late forties, she filled her canvas with passion and fire. Her undiscovered artistry had come to life, and life was lucky to be graced with the beauty that she so effortlessly captured.

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In the kitchen, she would rather follow her heart than a recipe. When my sister and I would ask her how she made something, her measurements were hard to figure out. “Use three or four handfuls of flour,” she would say. “But mom” we would reply, “your hands are way bigger than ours!” Careful observation was in order if you wanted the secret to one of my mother’s dishes.

Her desserts were simple and fuss-free, and her walnut biscuits… they were like nothing you had ever tasted. Delicately soft, the cookies would fall apart the moment they touched your lips. Given the way my mother translated her recipes, this one in particular was hard to extort. My very resourceful mother-in-law (and culinary goddess), had the brilliant idea of making the cookies with my mother while standing beside her with a kitchen scale. Weighing each and every handful of flour my mother threw into her mixing bowl, my mother-in-law cracked the code and walked away with a near perfect recipe that is (almost) as good as the real thing.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers near, dear and far away, and to the mothers that are no longer with us that will forever live in our hearts. It is my pleasure to share my mother’s recipe with you.

I know she would have been honored.

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*These cookies are traditionally made in individual cookie moulds. I couldn’t find them before writing this post, so I used silicone Madeleine moulds which worked just fine. I also shaped some the dough into balls without using the moulds and they turned out well, a bit firmer than the moulded cookies.

Walnut Sugar Cookies (Makes 24 to 30 cookies)

You will need: cookie moulds or French madeleine moulds (optional)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup ground walnuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A bowl of sifted icing sugar for rolling the cookies in – about ½ cup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 170 celcius (350 F)

Generously butter and flour your cookie moulds (if using).

Combine the flour, walnuts, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir to distribute the ingredients.

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In another bowl, add the sugar, egg, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.

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Gradually add the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring to combine until there is no longer any flour visible. The mixture will be a bit wet and coarse.

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Fill your moulds with the dough. Alternatively, you can shape the dough into balls and flatten slightly with the tips of your fingers.

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Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until the dough is set and slightly browned at the edges (do not wait for the whole cookie to brown).

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Remove the cookies from the moulds when they are cool enough to handle but still hot. Immediately roll them into the icing sugar to cover them completely.

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These will last beautifully stored in an airtight container for several days, unless greedy fingers get to them first.

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