Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Cookies – Tante Kremer’s Walnut Egg White Kisses

Some bakers are legendary within families. They create confectionary magic with love that stays with you long after the fragrant aromas have left the kitchen. In our family, that baker is my mother’s Tante Kremer. I barely remember Tante, but most holidays, my mom will manage to conjure up a sweet memory of Tante’s baking, be it her elegant Hungarian Nut Torte, or a delicate Christmas cookie.

Here’s how my mom told the story last year:

“We called her simply “Tante” and her husband “Uncle.” But they were Elizabeth and Joseph Kremer, my father’s aunt and uncle who had emigrated from Hungary. My father’s mother died when my father was a teenager and Tante mothered him from then on. Tante and Uncle’s home in College Point, Long Island became Dad’s home more than his own. In fact, I never remember talk of any other home. Dad absolutely adored Tante and Uncle and his three cousins Rose, Katie and Margaret. He became one of their family.

“Tante was an excellent baker and had several specialties that were baked year in and year out for the holidays and for celebrating special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. I remember four types of cookies: 1) Kupfel (horn) filled cookies made with cream cheese and butter, which were like mini-croissants filled with apricot or prune butter, 2) Walnut Egg White Kisses like swirls of meringue with a walnut half in the middle that just melted in your mouth, 3) Hard, flat, round anisette cookies about the size of a 50 cent piece, 4) Rolled butter cookies cut in shapes – stars, crescents, diamonds, hearts – brushed with egg whites and sprinkled with finely chopped nuts mixed with fine granulated sugar – so fragile and delicate they just melted in your mouth. My Mom became very proficient at making the rolled butter cookies. For Christmas Eve, Tante made round donuts with coins baked in the centers – pennies, nickels, and dimes for good luck.”

Walnut Egg White Kisses is one of Tante Kremer’s few surviving recipes, so I thought I’d make it for my mom as a remembrance of holidays past and share the recipe with you. I debated renaming the recipe with a more modern title, like “Walnut Meringue Kisses,” but I think that might have created a level of pretense that would mar the pure home-made simplicity of this recipe. As you might expect, the words of the original directions are not overly-detailed, as baking was more instinctive back then. And, all the mixing was done by hand with muscles developed in the kitchen over many holiday seasons. One can only imagine what Tante Kremer would have created with a KitchenAid Mixer. The recipe produces several dozen kisses, which Elizabeth Kremer was said to have packaged up and delivered to all the relatives. Like Tante, I sent over a batch for Mom and Dad to have with their coffee and brought a batch to the office to satisfy our daily cookie addiction.

Tante Kremer’s Walnut Egg White Kisses

4 egg whites beaten with 1 lb. superfine sugar and juice of ½ lemon. Beat until whites stand in a good stiff peak. Add 1 lb. of quartered walnuts. Drop by teaspoon on wax paper on cookie sheet – using a piece of nut on each spoonful. Bake in slow oven 300 degrees until brown.

(Notes: Bake “until brown” means slightly beige in color. I baked the kisses for about 20-22 minutes rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. The walnuts actually conduct a bit of heat and bake the inside of the cookie more quickly than a typical meringue cookie.)

I’m submitting Tante Kremer’s Walnut Egg White Kisses to “Eat Christmas Cookies – Season Two” the annual, worldwide cookie swap hosted by Susan at Food Blogga. Check out the rules and round-up for dozens of favorite family cookie traditions.

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

13 comments:

veron said...

What a lovely memory of your aunt. Sounds delicious with the walnuts!

~~louise~~ said...

How sweet of you to share this family treasure with us T.W. They look so light and airy I feel like just pinching one:)

I'm so glad you left the name and process original to the memory.

Helene said...

I wish I knew this tante. Merry Xmas!

Maryann said...

I love the way you write, TW! The cookies look fine too :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

She actually baked the cookies with the coins inside? I have never heard of that. How delightful. In fact, everything about Tante Kremer sounds delightful. Thank you for sharing her and her wonderful cookies with me, TW.

Kalyn said...

What a great memory of your aunt. I love the sound of these cookies too, but the thought of making them by hand is making my arm muscles start to ache.

Rochelle R. said...

The cookies look very tasty and it is wonderful that you have such nice food memories in your family.

Duncan | syrupandtang said...

It's funny, I haven't seen many meringue-type recipes that have largeish inclusions. These sound delicious and I'm now curious about other small baked items in the same vein.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

No matter how much I climb around on our family tree, I can't find any legendary bakers -- in fact, can't find any bakers at all. Perhaps this is how I know I lack the baking gene! I do try to choose my friends carefully, though, and baking ability is often a requirement. All four of your aunt's cookies sound like winners.

Kalyn said...

Hi there,
If you don't mind giving it out (to a complete stranger you only know on the internet!) will you e-mail me your mailing address to kalynskitchen (at) comcast (dot) net.

Thanks,
Kalyn

melanie said...

mmmmm...wonderful!

Cakespy said...

What a wonderful story--and wonderful cookies! I think they always taste better when they have history mixed into the batter!

minxymiss said...

I love these!! We don't use a whole walnut - we use ground walnuts ever so gently folded through the meringue mixture - melts in you mouth mmmm.... but there are invariably bigger bits as well! They are so good I'm going to make some now!!