Walnut Kisses – they’re the kind of Christmas cookie no one else but my grandmother made when she was still alive. No one in the family really tried because everyone thought that my grandmother’s version couldn’t be improved anyway and their own attempts wouldn’t turn out as good. And as is often the case, the recipe died with my grandmother, because no one ever bothered to write it down.
Last year I tried making them for the first time, according to a recipe my mother got from a colleague. I wasn’t really satisfied with the result, though. They were too soft inside – probably hadn’t been in the oven long enough – and the cookies – which always were snowy white when my grandmother made them – had a brownish tinge to them, probably caused by the walnut skins.
As I really love these cookies, I decided to give them another try and had my mother do some research on them. According to her, the “old ones” (meaning the elderly ladies that grew up around my grandmother’s time) told her the recipe we had was “the one”. My guess that the brownish colour came from the walnuts was probably correct, they said, and also the oven needs to be set to really low. Another tip was not to mix the walnuts into the egg white & sugar mix but to stick the nuts into the already formed heaps. When I tried that I found they looked strange, because in my grandmother’s version you wouldn’t see the walnuts at all, they were completely hidden inside the cookies. So I made only one half that way, and made the other half the traditional way. I was really keen to see how this year’s version would turn out.
3 egg whites (medium eggs)
250 icing (confectioners) sugar
juice of ½ lemon
approx 2 – 3 handfuls of walnut pieces
makes approx. 30 cookies
Whip the egg whites until stiff, then sieve in the icing sugar. The consistency will become sticky and it won’t look stiff anymore. Add some of the lemon juice, checking the consistency – the more you add the more it’ll regain its stiffness (not completely, though). The perfect consistency is when you use 2 teaspoons to make a small heap and it doesn’t run and go flat but has some slight peaks. Mix in the walnuts. [I mixed in 2 handfuls and added a little more later on.]
Line a baking tray with baking parchment and set little heaps on it using 2 teaspoons. Set baking tray on second shelf from bottom and dry them for 15 – 20 minutes at 150°C / 300°F. They shouldn’t brown, although they might get a touch of beige colour. When you take them out of the oven after 15 – 20 minutes, some will have cracked a little on top, and the inside will look as if it’s not yet done. However, once they cool down, this will change. Baking them for longer than 20 minutes will only make them too dry and they will crumble. They should be slightly chewy inside.
Was it worth another try? Yes, definitely! Not only do they look lovely, but the consistency is exactly right. I’ll be adding these to my “must make” Christmas cookie list.