Eastern Europeans use nuts in every course but they really star in desserts and cookies. Almonds (which are actually seeds or drupes and not nuts), chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are the most commonly seen nuts used for culinary purposes and eating out of hand. But, macadamias and others are sneaking onto the scene. Here are top Eastern European nut cookie recipes.
This old, traditional recipe for walnut crescent cookies is common throughout the Balkans and throughout the world. The dough doesn't contain nuts but the filling does. Some fillings, however, are just jam and no nuts at all.
Russian Tea Cakes is a misleading name since these are actually cookies and exist in one form or another in almost every culture. This version is made with walnuts, while my Polish family made them with pecans (see recipe below).
The traditional way to prepare Polish pecan cookies is by enveloping a pecan half in the fragile dough. My family took a shortcut by adding ground pecans to the dough and forming it into crescent shapes. They usually were made only at Christmas because they were time consuming and pecans were (and still are!) so expensive, thus we called them "Christmas crescents."
So many countries claim roszke or nut horns as their own -- Croatians, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, and the spellings include roski, rozky, rosky, roscici, among others. There is a town in Hungary named Roszke, so they may have originated there, even though Hungarians call these kiflik. Poles call them rogaliki and Croatians call them roscici or "little horns" and that's exactly what they look like when baked.
This recipe for Polish florentines is made with candied orange peel (and other candied fruits, if desired), almonds and a smear of chocolate on the bottom.
This recipe for Czech vanilla crescents is popular year-round, but especially at Christmas time when they become part of vánoční cukrový or Christmas sweets. They can be made with almonds or hazelnuts/filberts.
This Polish almond cookie recipe calls for no flour but ground almonds instead. They come together quickly and are ideal with tea or coffee.
Polish walnut-shaped cookies are made in molds and then sandwiched together with creamy fillings, usually with ground walnuts. There are individual walnut-shaped molds for the oven, which I use, and there are some that resemble a waffle iron and are baked on top of the stove, and yet other styles exist.
Czechoslovakian cukrovi is the generic term for confections, and cookies, shortbread and biscuits (as the English use the word) are known as susenky. This recipe was given to me in the early '70s by a lovely Czech woman. The base and topping are made with walnuts or pecans.
Non plus ultra literally means "none better" in French. There are many versions of this cookie from the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. They usually involve two meringue-topped cookies sandwiched together with apricot lekvar or black currant jam, and sliced or chopped almonds, and coarse sugar on top.