Ukrainian Cookies

There’s something special about using authentic international recipes in a school foods lab. It gives students the opportunity to build global fluency and perspective in a way that is non-threatening and not political. It allows students the meaningful chance to explore unfamiliar cultures.

I have a whole unit where students work in teams to research and explore authentic international recipes and then choose and prepare a “signature dish” for their international restaurants, but that’s a topic for another day.

Today I want to share a Ukrainian cookie recipe. This isn’t a recipe blog, but hopefully sharing this recipe can be a way to open up conversations with kids who are struggling, just as adults are, to understand difficult situations in the world.

I got this recipe from a Ukrainian immigrant woman in Philadelphia when I lived there for a short time in the early nineties. Liudmila not only gave me the recipe but encouraged me to watch her make it. I’m not sure I could have successfully made her cookie recipe without a tutorial. I grew up baking cookies! In fact, there might have been a time during my teenage years when I made cookies nearly every weekend. I thought I knew exactly what to expect from any cookie recipe. This one felt unusual.

Normally, when eggs are used, it is raw eggs that are used in cookies as a sort of glue, to hold everything together. These Ukrainian cookies use crushed, boiled egg yolks.

I asked Liudmila if these cookies have a special name, and she said, “Pechenie,” which means cookies. I asked again if they were a special kind of pechenie, and she reaffirmed that their name is pechenie. I call them Ukrainian cookies in my recipe file. Here’s how to make them.

Hard boil 4 eggs. Remove the eggs from the shells and separate the yolks from the whites. I like to use the whites for a salad. Place the yolks in a small bowl and crush them with a fork.

Crushed, boiled egg yolks

Melt 1 cup butter or margarine in a glass bowl in the microwave.

In a large bowl, place 2 ½ cups flour, 1 cup melted butter, 4 crushed, boiled egg yolks, and 3 tablespoons sour cream.

Melted butter, flour, egg yolks, and sour cream
Adding the baking soda and vinegar

Finally, put ½ teaspoon baking soda in a tablespoon. Add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to the tablespoon (yes, the whole thing will bubble like a science experiment). Pour the bubbly soda and vinegar combination in with the flour, butter, egg yolks, and sour cream and mix everything together. You’ll have a thick dough. It’s ok to see bits of egg yolk in the dough.

The finished dough

Roll out the dough to 1/8” thickness on a large, floured board. Then cut the dough into strips about 2 ½” long and ¾” wide. They don’t have to be perfect!

Place a small amount of jelly or jam on the center of each strip. It’s probably more than ¼ teaspoon of jelly but less than ½ teaspoon. Fold or roll up the strips with the jelly in the center and place all the jelly-filled rolls onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. You’ll have approximately 6 dozen little cookies.

Bake at 325⁰ Fahrenheit about 15 minutes or until slightly golden, like biscuits.

Before baking
After baking

Remove the cookies from the oven and dip them in powdered sugar while they are still warm. You’ll need a cup to a cup and a half of powdered sugar in a cereal-sized bowl.

These little bite-sized gems are irresistible. My daughter didn’t want to stop eating this batch!  

Here’s the recipe:

Ukrainian Cookies (Pechenie)

2 ½ cups flour

1 cup butter or margarine (melted)

4 boiled egg yolks (crushed)

3 TBS sour cream

Soda and Vinegar (put ½ tsp soda into 1 tablespoon. Carefully pour in 1 tsp apple-cider vinegar until the combination bubbles to the side of the spoon).

Mix all ingredients. Roll dough very thin. Cut into small strips. Spoon jam into the center. Roll up the strips. Bake at 325⁰ Fahrenheit approximately 15 minutes or until crisp and slightly golden. Dip in powdered sugar while still warm.

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