Wednesday Jun 19

Cortes My name is Suzanne Rzicznek Cortes and my inner chef comes out during the holidays! I work full-time and have two small kids, so I don't get to experiment or spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like, but I LOVE to bake and cook! My mom would let me help her with whatever she was making. From the time I could stand, she would pull a chair up to the counter and let me have at it. I have done the same thing with my daughter who started helping me when she was about 18 months. She is now almost five and insists on adding all the ingredients herself (although I have to admit I have to force myself to be hands-off when she is cracking eggs).

Polish Apricot Cookies by Suzanne Rzicznek Cortes

This is a family recipe that my Grandmother used to make and then my mom and now we all do it together.  We only make apricot filling, but Grandma used to make nut a filling too. When we were little and would accidentally grab one of those, we would hand it off to a more than willing adult so we could grab an apricot one.  When you join the group effort to make these, you get stuck rolling the baked cookies in sugar; there is a level of trust you have to earn to move up the ladder! My Grandmother used to use a piece of my Dad's erector set from the 50's to cut the perfect squares. I use a pizza cutter and a metal yardstick! It helps if you make the filling the night before you embark on this journey.  In the days before food processors, my dad would hook a grinder to the edge of the counter and grind all the apricots and then we moved on to a blender. My mom has gotten a couple of new blenders out of the deal after we burned them up (forgot to add the water!)..... Now, all the girls in the family pitch in on cookie day. We go crazy and throw caution to the wind and let my daughter and my niece help with every step.  They may not look perfect, but every bite is delicious!
1 pound Crisco
6 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 can evaporated milk
4 eggs
1 cake yeast or two pkg. dry yeast (the original recipe used cake yeast and we had to modify because we have a hard time finding it.)
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream shortening, eggs, salt and vanilla.  Follow directions on yeast package and stir into milk.  Alternately add flour and milk/yeast mixture, mixing well until soft dough forms.  Shape into three balls, wrap separately in waxed paper and let rise in refrigerator for two hours.
Make filling while dough is rising – I recommend the night before.
Place 1 pound apricots in food processer or blender with 1/3 cup water and process until smooth.  Transfer to microwave safe bowl.  Add 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup water stirring until completely mixed.  Microwave for 3 to 5 minutes on high stopping after each minute to stir.
May also be simmered in saucepan on the stovetop, stirring often and watching closely.
Roll out dough on floured surface to a thin sheet (like an 1/8th of an inch).  Don’t worry – everyone’s first batch is too thick – we just use those as samples for everyone to try.  Cut in 2-1/2” inch squares, spread with apricot filling.  Roll from one corner to the opposite corner.     Bake until light brown for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees.  Roll in sugar. You can freeze these, just roll in sugar again before serving.