These biscuits/cookies are a nutty shortbread rolled in icing sugar and are a divine texture and flavour – perfect to enjoy over Christmas or to give as a gift.
My friend Lea used to live in the United States and every Christmas makes her Mom’s Christmas crescent cookies. As a child Lea’s job was shaping the dough into the crescent shape so as with a lot of Christmas baking, these crescent cookies bring back fond childhood memories for Lea. She is being generous and is sharing the recipe with us. They are so delicious!
With such a traditional recipe I thought Lea wouldn’t be keen to experiment but she was excited at the idea of trying different nuts in the recipe and making our baking day a bit of an experiment. Nuts play a major part in the flavour and texture of the cookie and the original recipe had pecan nuts because they are plentiful in the US.
Here in NZ they are both difficult to find and expensive. Lea suggested walnuts as a substitute and I have found a great source of fresh hazelnuts…so we conducted an experiment trying all three nuts; pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts. We also experimented with the shape.
Mom’s crescent Christmas cookies
Makes approx 50 to share
Cook at 200°C for 15-20 mins (180°C for fan forced ovens)
2 Cups Pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts (ground fairly finely but a few little larger bits are okay)
4 cups Flour
350 grams Butter (softened)
¾ cup Sugar
We dry roasted the hazelnuts for a few minutes to remove the skins and keep the biscuits a light colour. Remove the skins by rubbing the nuts between two pieces of kitchen paper. It’s okay if there are some bits of skin left.
Grind the nuts in a food processor so that they become finely ground but still have some crunchy pieces in the mix.
These biscuits are not a low calorie option lots of butter and nuts but this is also why they taste so good.
Work butter into the flour (using mixer or hands).
Add sugar and combine.
Add the ground nuts. Work into a soft dough. It doesn’t all come together like a pastry dough or shortbread – it’s quite crumbly.
The mixing part of the process is really easy and quick. The time consuming part is shaping the cookies. Just like Lea’s Mom, you could encourage either your child or grandchild to help with this task.
Take one heaped dessert spoon full of mix and put into the cup of your hand.
Squeeze and the warmth of your hand will allow the butter to soften further and shaping can begin.
Shape into small horseshoes or half moons.
We found the pecan and hazelnuts were the same to mould into the crescent shape but the walnuts must have a higher oil content so were very easy to shape.
Bake at 200o C until very light brown (about 15-20 min.) Check the undersides to make sure they are slightly browned.
Cool on a wire rack.
When cool toss them gently in a small plastic bag filled with icing sugar.
Coat 2-3 at a time so they don’t break.
Gently shake with your hand under them, lifting and tipping the bag so that they are all coated with icing sugar.
Store in an airtight container and Lea lines her Christmas tin with plastic wrap because they aren’t as airtight as plastic…but they look so much better presented in a tin.
They last a week or two (if you can resist them!) They also freeze well
After the tasting …we both agreed that the hazelnuts were the winner. Perhaps this is because I sourced nuts that had just been cracked from a local South Otago orchard. Hazelnuts and walnuts both grow well in the south and I suggest for these biscuits choose the nut variety that is the freshest (not long out of its shell) and the most cost effective.
It has been a first for me to do Christmas baking with a friend and it was so much fun that Lea and I have decided to do so again next year.
I wish everyone who reads my blog a very merry and delicious Christmas. x Jeannie