By Jena Branco, Marketing Coordinator, Brand & Marketing Communications, SECL
As the cold weather rolls in, I thought I would play on words and call these flaky, tender and popular Russian treats “Don’t Fly South Geese Feet Cookies”. These cookies are known by it’s unique name Geese Feet (pronounced gusinie lapki in Russian) because of their shape. Don’t they look like tiny little webbed geese feet? Ingredients are uncomplicated — cold butter, flour, eggs, and farmer’s cheese (substitute with ricotta or cottage cheese if you can’t find it in your local grocery store), which results in a texture very similar to puff pastry – crisp and golden on the outside with tons of flaky layers inside.
I made these little cookies a couple of weeks back, and my hubby and son didn’t take long to finish them off. And of course, a few folks at work (who happened to be there when I brought them in) were also treated to these gorgeous golden of goodness.
The ingredients come together in minutes and can be made ahead of time since the dough needs time to chill in the refrigerator. These cookies taste amazingly good and are the perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of milk (as an after school snack), or with a cup of coffee or tea (at your lunch break at work, or when a visitor drops by unexpectedly at home).
What is Farmer’s cheese, you ask? Where is it sold? Farmer’s cheese is a very popular Russian soft cheese. It’s called tvorog (творог). It has a similar taste and texture of ricotta and/or cottage cheese and is used in many Russian cuisines. Luckily, one of my co-workers picked this up for me during his weekly grocery trip. It was bought at Highland Farms, and can be found in the refrigerated section where the cream cheese, ricotta, and cottage cheese are sold. It’s inexpensive and has about a 3-month shelf life.
If you can’t find farmer’s cheese, you can substitute it with ricotta or cottage cheese. Farmer’s cheese is much more crumbly and has hardly any liquid in it, so if you are using ricotta/cottage cheese, use a cheesecloth to strain it and squeeze out the liquid/moisture before using it in the recipe.
Finding activities to entertain the kids are sometimes daunting as we find ourselves remaining at home more during these unprecedented times. I find that baking and getting the family involved in finding a recipe that everyone is willing to make, is a great activity. This recipe is so simple and fun to do with the whole family, and will surely keep us together as we remain north of the border this year.
Making the Cookie Dough
- Make sure the butter is chilled. I actually put the butter in the freezer an hour prior to use. Use a box grater on the largest grate, and quickly (but carefully) grate to prevent the butter from melting. Butter is necessary to make the cookies rise and form the many flaky layers in the dough by melting as the cookies bake.
- Add the farmer’s cheese and flour
- Quickly mix the ingredients together with your hands. I like to run my hands under cold water first, pat dry, so that the butter does not melt too fast as I’m mixing it. The dough will be very dry and crumbly in texture.
- Beat the eggs yolks and water in a small bowl, add to the rest of the ingredients and mix with your hands.
- Transfer dough from the bowl onto the counter. Continue using your hands to mix until it comes together. Don’t worry if the dough is stiff (like there is not enough liquid in it), however, continue to knead the dough, and as the butter melts, it will start to bind.
- Form the dough into a ball and flatten it a bit (into a disc), and wrap it in parchment paper.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour to chill. I like to make the dough in the morning or even the evening before making the cookies. You won’t be able to roll the dough if it’s not cold enough. If you can’t wait to bake these cookies, put the dough in the freezer for about an hour.
Assembling and Baking the Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take the chilled dough and break off part of the dough. I like dividing up the dough in quarters, as it’s easier to work with portions. Keep the portions that you are not using in the fridge until you’re ready to roll it out.
- Roll out the dough thinly on a well-floured surface. Use a biscuit cutter (about 3″ wide), however an overturned glass or anything else that has a round rim will work, and press out as much circles from the dough as possible.
- Save the scraps — scrunch them into a ball and refrigerate until it’s firm again.
- Put the sugar into a bowl and press one side of the circle of the dough into the sugar. Fold the sugared side together in half. Press one side into the sugar again, and fold the sugared side together in half. Press one side into the sugar again, and place the UNSUGARED side unto the sheet.
- You think that all this sugar will make the cookie sweet, but on the contrary. Since there is no sugar in the dough, and the farmer’s cheese counter balances the flavour, the sugar will give it some sweetness.
- Before putting in the oven, use your finger to press down gently on each cookie so the layers stick together better.
- Depending on your oven, bake for 18 – 23 minutes, until the cookies are puffed up and golden brown.
- If baking in the 24″ Superheated Steam Oven (SSC2489DS), use the CONV Bake function and bake at 350°F for 16 – 18 minutes.
- NOTE: The first time I made these cookies, I did not use parchment paper, but rather a non-stick baking sheet. You will find the sugar will caramelize underneath the cookie and adds a nice “burnt sugar” flavour.
- 1 cup butter (chilled – I usually put in the freezer an hour prior to use)
- 1 cup farmer’s cheese
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons water (cold or chilled)
- 1/2 – 1 cup granulated sugar
- Grate the chilled butter on a box grater.
- Add the farmer’s cheese and flour. Use your hands to quickly mix the ingredients together. It will be a very dry and crumbly texture.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with water.
- Add the egg yolks and water mixture into the dough.
- Using your hands, mix the dough and knead on the counter until it comes together.
- Form the dough into a disc and wrap it up in parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the dough into four parts. Take 1/4 of the dough and roll it out thinly on a well floured surface.
- Use a biscuit cutter (about 3 inches), an overturned cup or glass (preferably with thin edge or anything else that is round and will be able to cut through the dough and press out as much circles from the dough as possible.
- Save the scraps, scrunch them into a little ball and refrigerate until it’s firm again. (Also keep the rest of the dough refrigerated when you’re not using it.)
- Put the sugar into a bowl and press one side of the circle of dough into the sugar.
- Fold it in half (sugared side together) to form a half moon shape. Press one side into the sugar again, fold it in half (sugared side together) and press one of the sides in the sugar.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough. You will have 60-80 cookies, depending on the size that you make them.
- Place the cookies (sugar side up) on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18 – 23 minutes in a conventional oven, until the cookies are puffed up and golden brown.
- Let the cookies cool on sheet for about 10 mins. before transferring onto a serving platter or cooking jar.
STORING THE COOKIES: Store the cookie dough in the refrigerator for 2-3 days (wrapped in parchment paper inside a zip-locked bag), or in the freezer (in a freezer bag with air removed) up to 3 months. Store the baked cookies at room temperature for 2-3 days in a closed container, or freeze up to 3 months in a freezer zip-locked bag or an airtight container.