In Polish families, Christmas is a time for friends to pay each other a visit. That means a glass of Christmas cheer, coffee or tea, and sweets, if not a full-blown meal.
That's a lot of entertaining, so weeks before Christmas, my family would get out the cookie tins and start baking traditional Polish cookies or ciasteczka na święta. It was such a fun time. We played Christmas carols and sang while we worked -- a real Santa's Workshop.
These days, with family scattered, we usually do our... baking solo, but still keep tabs on each other's progress. You'll find Polish Christmas Dessert Recipes here.
01 of 13
This Polish almond cookie recipe or amaretti are flourless cookies which come together quickly and are ideal with tea or coffee. This is a traditional Polish Christmas cookie.
02 of 13
Sometimes called Polish Foldovers, kołaczki can be square, diamond shaped or round. The dough can be made with cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream or yeast. They exist in most Eastern European cuisines and are spelled variously as kolaci, kolache, kolacky, kolachky, and I'm sure a few more. Fillings run the gamut of apricot to raspberry to prune to cheese. Some truly nontraditional flavors like pineapple are sneaking into the mix. There's always room for creativity. This recipe is for a... flaky cream cheese dough. Here are more kołaczki recipes from other parts of Eastern Europe.
03 of 13
Polish rogaliki mean "little horns" because of their shape. There are many versions -- some recipes require rolling the dough and cutting it into triangles, adding a dollop of filling and rolling, like Jewish rugelach. This recipe is for a hand-formed cookie similar to Polish Christmas Crescents (see 7, below), except these are made with almonds. They melt in your mouth.
04 of 13
This egg-free recipe for Polish vanilla cookies or ciasteczka waniliowe is made with ground almonds and, which gives them a rich vanilla flavor. They are formed into crescent shapes much like Polish rogaliki, above, except the latter calls for egg yolk.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
05 of 13
This recipe for Polish florentines or florentynki is made with candied fruits, such as orange, nuts and a smear of chocolate on the bottom. It is believed the cookie was created by King Louis XIV’s master pastry chefs at the Palace of Versailles for the Medici of Florence. Many Florentine versions include oats, but I like them without.
06 of 13
The traditional way to make ciastka krucha (shortbread or literally "flaky cookies") is to envelop a pecan half in the buttery dough, but my family took a shortcut and chopped the pecans finely and incorporated them in the dough. We called them Polish Christmas Crescents Today's generation has taken it a step further and instead of shaping the dough into crescents, we make them in rounds and call them "Polish Full Moons."
07 of 13
Polish walnut-shaped cookies or ciasteczka orzeszki are made in molds and then sandwiched together with creamy fillings. 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. What remains the same, is a delectable filling either made of cream or chocolate or a combination of the two. The cookies are a bit time-consuming but worth it. Store the walnut "shells" and... fill at the last minute.
08 of 13
Kruche Ciasto Polskie literally means "Polish flaky dough" and refers to any shortbread-type dough. This dough is made with sieved hard-cooked eggs (a common European technique). This recipe can be made up into any shape -- thumbprints, scooped cookies or pretzel shapes as I have done here. Brush them with egg white and sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles for a festive look.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
09 of 13
This recipe for Polish cinnamon cookies or ciasteczka cynamonowe requires the dough to mature or ripen for 12 hours in the fridge before rolling and cutting into desired shapes. They are egg-washed before baking to produce a glaze. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar or colored sugars.
10 of 13
These crispy and light wafle cookies are made on a special iron, like a Norwegian iron. They can be eaten as is or taste even better sandwiched with honey or a thin layer of jam and dusted with confectioners' sugar if desired. Sublime! Definitely worth the effort.
11 of 13
This recipe for Polish butter cookies with jam or ciasteczka maślane z dżemem is a simple cookie with jam in the middle. It's popular year-round, but especially for Christmas. The preferred filling is strawberry jam, but anything goes.
12 of 13
This recipe for Butter Crunch Cookies is actually my way of getting around the high price of pecans in making Polish Christmas Crescents, described in 7, above. Instead of costly nuts, I use crushed generic-brand corn flakes. An added plus is that this is a scoopable dough that yields 5 dozen cookies.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
13 of 13