With the holidays fast approaching, we can’t help but dream of cozy evenings in the kitchen, baking holiday goodies while the snow gently piles up outside. Hungarian Christmas cookies are one of our favorite ways to reconnect with our roots and traditions. One of our favorite recipes? Apricot kolaches. These tender flaky treats are guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser at your festive gatherings and a staple for holidays to come. Read on to learn a bit more about Hungarian Christmas cookies and for the perfect traditional apricot kolache recipe.
Hungarian Christmas Treats
There are many traditions celebrated in Hungary over the holiday season, but the recipes that call upon timeless traditions passed down from one generation to the next might just be our favorites. Poppy seed desserts are an essential Christmas treat, and strudel-like mákos retes is a must-have to keep on hand for when company calls. This flaky poppy seed and cherry pastry is complete with a light dusting of icing sugar and is guaranteed to melt in your mouth.
Another Hungarian tradition is the delicate and beautiful mezeskalacs. This lightly flavored gingerbread style cookie is painstakingly decorated with royal icing in intricate designs and patterns that resemble embroidery work. Before baking, you can use a pastry tip to press a small hole in the top of the cookie, thread it with a cheerful ribbon and hang this pretty-looking treat around the house. However, if you don’t have the decorating gene, you can skip that component and keep the cookies clean and minimalistic. Either way, these are a delicious Hungarian treat that is a stunning addition to any holiday baking tray.
The apricot is a fruit you will often see in Hungarian Christmas recipes. A luscious fruit that we use to soothe and soften dry skin in Eminence Organic Skin Care products, the apricot also adds rich sweetness to holiday baking. Whether brightening the window of a classic linzer karika (see below), pulling together the walnut filling of crumbly zserbo cakes or filling a gently folded kolache, apricot and Hungarian Christmas treats go hand in hand.
Itching for a nibble on these decadent Hungarian Christmas cookies? You’ll have to try the recipe below for easy and tender apricot kolaches. This crisp and buttery cookie will take some time to put together, but the simple steps make it a great opportunity to include the whole family in the process.
Apricot Kolaches Recipe
(Makes 64 Cookies) Adapted from Apricot Kolaches – A Traditional Hungarian Christmas Cookie from American Heritage Cooking.
- 1 lb dried apricots
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup powdered sugar
First, make the apricot filling. Place all dried apricots in a saucepan and fill with water until apricots are just covered. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, allowing the apricots to completely soften, but without boiling off all the water. If water is completely evaporating, add slightly more to keep the apricots from burning. Once the apricots are soft, add the sugar and reduce heat to a simmer, allowing the filling to thicken. Puree into a smooth jam with a blender, food processor or immersion blender.
While the filling cools to room temperature, prepare the cookie dough. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until completely incorporated and fluffy. Mix in the dry ingredients five additions at a time, incorporating completely into the wet ingredients each time. Divide the dough into four equal sized balls and wrap loosely in plastic wrap. Flatten each ball to about ¾” thick and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours or until the dough is firm.
Once the dough has set, preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take one of the flattened balls of dough from the refrigerator and unwrap onto a well floured surface. Dust the dough with flour and roll into a large square shape approximately ⅛” thick. Trim the edges of your dough with a sharp knife or pastry cutter to make a perfect square, and then trim as many 1 ½” x 1 ½” squares as possible. Put any dough scraps to the side to reuse.
Place just under 1 teaspoon of apricot filling into the center of each square of dough. Gently lift two opposite corners of each square and fold one over the other. Gently press together – without pressing so hard the filling comes out – to seal the corners together. Carefully move all cookies to the parchment covered sheet with 1” of space between each cookie.
Bake the kolaches for 12 to 14 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden. Let them cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Once at room temperature, lightly dust with the icing sugar. Repeat with all remaining dough. Keep any leftover filling in the freezer to use at a later date, or in any other Hungarian Christmas treats you’re wanting to try!