Up until the late fifties my maternal grandmother lived in the outskirts of Budapest, called Rákoskert. It was a truly rural setting back then with fields and fields of corn, small pockets of locals and urban dwellers coming in for the weekend.
Rákoskert in 1957
I spent my most memorable holidays with Nagymama. The yard was huge with all kinds of fruit trees. She had a dog, two goats, chickens, a rooster and some ducks. Grandma had two kitchens. She cooked the milk inside and some stuff in the summer kitchen. Just outside the fence there was a deep well. The water was always cold and unbelievably tasty. I liked everything about Rákoskert except the outhouse.
I found this picture on the Rákoskert website. This was the store where we went for supplies. All these years I had a mental image climbing up those stairs. I see now the risers were indeed too high for little legs.
During the summer months, my grandmother’s place was a popular gathering place for my extended family. It was fun to meet up with aunts and uncles and my older cousin. Across the street there was a big house with a huge lot. The lot was filled with mature hazelnut bushes. I would look at those hazelnuts with longing. I always loved hazelnuts. I played war with a boy from that house; he was also staying with his grandmother. I fought well, but he died better. He kept coming over to play. One day my mother was there and she was still combing my long red hair when he arrived. He stroked my hair and asked my mom if my hair was as beautiful as he thought. My mother said indeed it was beautiful. When finally I convinced him to play at his house I wasn’t offered any hazelnuts. It is when I discovered that romance and food are intertwined.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts
4 squares of quality dark chocolate [112g or 4oz]
1/3 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts
• To toast the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350F.
• Place the raw hazelnuts on the baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes.
• Remove from the oven and let it cool down a bit.
• When the hazelnuts are comfortable to touch by hand, transfer them into a clean kitchen towel and rub them. The skins will come off easily.
• Next finely ground the hazelnuts, using a nut grinder or a food processor.
• In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy.
• In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
• Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and stir to combine.
• Next add 1/2 cup of the finely ground hazelnuts and stir to combine.
• Shape the dough into 4 logs
• Wrap each log in plastic wrap and place the wrapped cookie dough in the freezer for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
• Preheat the oven to 325F.
• Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
• Unwrap one of the logs and slice.
• Place the cookie slices on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart.
• Bake for about 20 minutes. Don’t let the cookies get brown.
• Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.
• To decorate cookies, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over steam. Make sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the boiling water.
• Dip half of the cookies on one side only, scraping the bottom against the pot to remove the chocolate.
• Next dip the chocolate side into the remaining ground hazelnuts and place it on clean parchment paper to dry.
• Repeat with remaining cookies.
Recipe is adapted from Hazelnut shortbread cookies recipe by Julia's Album
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