Old European COOKIES – “MUCH-GO-SOONERS”

Table of Contents: COOKIES

These are “special occasion cookies” since they are not quick cookies to make.  I like to prepare the almonds and cut the crystallized fruit on one day.  Then, mix the cookie batter and bake the next day.

Cooking Tip:
Blanching Almonds – In a saucepan, bring 1 quart water to a hard boil; then add the skin-on whole almonds.  Remove saucepan from heat and allow almonds to remain in the hot water for ONLY 1 minute; then immediately drain into a colander.  Rinse the almonds under cold running water only long enough to cool the almonds. Let drain again in the colander; then spread onto paper towels.  Pat dry.  Place almonds between the thumb and index finger to easily slip the brown skin off the almond. Discard the skin.  Tip: Do not allow almonds to soak in water; they will loose their crispness.

Cooking Tip:
Splitting Almonds into Halves – Be very careful.  Use a small, thin-blade knife.  Place the tip of the knife into the side of the almond near the top of the almond to split into 2 halves.

30 oz. whole almonds (20 oz. to grind + about 40 extra almonds to split into halves)
1 small container candied or crystallized red cherries, cut 20 cherries into quarters
1 small container candied or crystallized green cherries, cut 20 cherries into quarters
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
1 cup plain flour + an additional ¼ cup, if needed
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
Grated rind of 1 whole lemon (lightly grate outside surface, not too deep)
2 slices crystallized pineapple, finely chopped
3 large eggs, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Juice of ½ lemon
1 T. bourbon
Parchment paper (optional)

 

 

Blanch all of the almonds and remove skins according to the cooking tip above.

Split about 40 almonds into halves according to the cooking tip above; set aside.

Quarter the cherries and chop the pineapple; set aside.

In a food processor, grind 20 oz. of the whole, blanched, skin-less almonds into almond flour.

Place the almond flour into a large bowl and add the confectioner’s sugar and flour to blend.  Add the cinnamon, allspice, and cloves; mix well.  Stir in the grated lemon and chopped pineapple to blend.  

In a small bowl, beat 2 of the eggs by hand; then beat in the vanilla, lemon juice, and bourbon.

Add the egg mixture to the almond flour mixture and stir to completely mix.  The cookie batter will be dropped by heaping teaspoonfuls.  If the batter is too moist, add the additional ¼ cup flour.  The batter is supposed to be “sticky”.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Prepare 2 or more large cookie pans with either parchment paper or spray-oil; then drop the cookies.  The batter should make about 80 cookies.  Form cookies into rounds.  

In a small bowl, beat the final whole egg very well and brush the tops of the cookies with the beaten egg.

On each cookie, lightly press either a red or a green quarter of a cherry into the center; then lightly press an almond-half on each side of the cherry.  Repeat with all cookies.

Cook only one pan of cookies at a time in the “slow” oven.  Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes.  The cookies should be slightly soft, not crisp.  Allow cookies to “rest” in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes after removing pan from the oven.

A little history on these wonderful morsels – my husband, Joe’s beloved step-grandmother, Florence Harris or Flossie made theses cookies.  I was told they were her signature recipe.  Unfortunately, somewhere in the passing down of the recipe, things did not go well.  Joe’s mother Ann gave me the recipe since I did not have the pleasure of knowing Flossie.  But the recipe ingredients were wrong and did not make cookies.  After several tries I abandoned the recipe and tried countless other almond cookie recipes.  On each try, Joe would like the new cookie, but it did not come close to what he remembered as the taste of the Much-Go-Sooners.  

Last year in Atlanta, Georgia, we attended the truly grand, fun 90th birthday of Flossie’s youngest son, Bobby  (Robert Harding Harris) that was hosted by all four of his children.   The subject of these long-sought-after cookies came up as they almost always did at family parties, but there was still no solution.

A couple of weeks ago I came across the original recipe again and decided to give it one more try.  By George, I did it this time!  At least as Joe remembers it.   I only had to add one ingredient and change the amount of another.  I couldn’t believe it!   After over 50 years of unsuccessful tries by many family members, it was pure luck on my part.  So this recipe is dedicated to all of the Augustus Jackson and Florence Harris family members and to Joe and Alice Westbrook (Roberts).  I agree with all of them, the cookies do go “Much Too Soon”!!!

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