My 91 year old Gram just passed away in July, 2010. She was born in Trebisov, Slovakia in 1919 and came to the US in 1930 aboard the Mauritania and moved to a small in town, Lisbon Falls, Maine. There she lived for most of her life until the end when she was in Florida.
As a child on the Christmas and Easter holidays, I would go to Gram’s house to be relieved to have these cookies that only she made. I would scarf them up as quick as I could.
I am really upset I never got to make them with her, but I did get the recipe from her. She told me once over the phone how to make them, and I realized how tricky it is to transcribe a recipe that was never written anywhere but was only passed down from mother to daughter. And now to grandson.
I tried this recipe out a few months before she passed, and sent them as quick as I could from Oregon to Florida. My parents there told me that Gram just kept wanting “one more.” She didn’t criticize my attempt at all (something she and her mother would do when they would critique each other’s holiday treats…), and I hope I made her happy.
I want to keep this tradition alive in my family, but if you want to try this, please do.
Gram’s Water Cookies
3 c. flour
2 sticks butter at room temp.
5 tsp yeast (or 2 packets) mixed with 1/3 cup of warm water
Turbinado sugar for topping the cookies
Apricot filling: soak a box of dried apricots overnight. Grind them (I’m going to try it in a magic bullet). Add 1 can crushed pineapple (juice drained). Add sugar to taste. Simmer until sugar all dissolves.
Walnut filling: Grind 2 cups of walnuts (or so) until it is like a paste. Melt 2 tbs of butter in pan. Mix with sugar in pan and sauté. Add milk to make a paste.
Preheat over to 350
1. Mix flour and butter until crumbly
2. Add eggs and mix well.
3. Add yeast/milk to form a stiff dough.
4. Knead well.
5. Wrap in a white cotton dish towel and place in a bowl of cold water to rise for about 2 hours or until the dough floats.
6. Drain and place on flat plate and refrigerate until needed.
7. Roll only a little at a time on a board covered with sugar and flour (but mostly sugar) so that it doesn’t stick.
8. Roll thin and cut into squares for apricot or rectangles for the walnut horseshoes (~1 tbs of each filling per cookie).
9. Apricot: draw up 4 corners and twist. Top with some turbinado sugar.
10. Walnut Horseshoes: Roll over and twist the dough like a horseshoe shape. Crimp the edges with a fork. Top with some turbinado sugar.
11. Preheat oven to 350.
12. Bake for about 6-10 minutes, but watch carefully, the time/temp was not given to me because Gram knew her kerosene oven better than anyone. The bottoms will be slightly golden when finished.
Makes about 24 apricot squares and 12 horseshoes.