I cannot remember a family Christmas or Easter without these cookies on my great-grandmother's and then my grandmother's holiday table. However, when I was younger, I wasn't really partial to these cookies. I gravitated to the child-friendly cookies with chocolate or sprinkles on top. It was only when I grew older that I came to appreciate these cookies and their subtle sophistication.
These are somewhat contradictory cookies. They don't have much fat, but intead of being baked, they are fried in oil. (But don't think for a minute that they are greasy or oily.) These cookies don't have much sugar, but they are burnished in sweet honey. I like the ying-yang effect of these cookies. They are modest and unpretentious. These cookies are a great addition to a holiday dessert platter, but my family also enjoys eating them after a holiday breakfast.
When I decided that I wanted to make these cookies for my own family, there wasn't much of a recipe. My grandmother's recipe read simply: "Combine all ingredients, roll dough out, fry and dip in honey." My mother, who also continues to make these cookies, has helped me reconstruct the recipe. In my updated version of these cookies, I've kept most of my great-grandmother's ingredients, but I have subbed butter for the shortening and added olive oil. I've changed the amounts of some of the ingredients, in particular upping the amounts of salt and vanilla. I've adapted the recipe for a stand mixer. No doubt my great-grandmother mixed and kneaded the dough by hand. And I've experimented with various artisan local honeys for the glaze, ingredients that I'm sure my great-grandmother wouldn't have had at her disposal. I recommend using the best honey that you can source. I've tried lavender honey (delicious!) and wildflower honey (also lovely). —cookinginvictoria