Thursday, February 26, 2009

Russian Tea Biscuits

"The month of December beckons these tasty little biscuits to the table at any holiday festivity,whether it be tree trimming, yule tide gathering or new years celebrating."

4 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter,melted
zest of 1 bright orange
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
4 lrg. eggs with 1 of the whites reserved for glaze
8 tablespoons homemade or store bought bottled raspberry or apricot preserves
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups raisins or currants
1 cup fresh figs or dates, chopped
1/2 cup orange, pomegranate juice or Chambord
1/4 cup sanding sugar for topping


In a large bowl,sift flour,baking powder,sugar and salt.Whisk thoroughly to combine.
In a medium bowl,whisk together oil,margarine,orange zest and juice, 3 large eggs and 1 egg yoke,reserving 1 egg white for glaze.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients,pour wet into center and fold into dry until well combined(Dough will be dense). Knead dough a few times,cut into 4 equal pieces and form into disks.Wrap dough discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour until firm.
Meanwhile,heat 1/2 cup juice or Chambord just to a simmer on low heat.Add raisins or currants. Turn off heat and let soak until plump,then drain off liquid and set aside in a small bowl. 
Finely chop walnuts and combine with 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. Chop figs or dates and set aside.
Roll each dough disk,into a 6 x 14 inch rectangle. Spread each rectangle with 2 heaping tablespoons of preserves,spreading evenly to the edges of the dough.
Top with 1/4 of the nut mixture and 1/4 of the plumped raisins and 1/4 of the figs or dates. Press down filling into dough slightly and roll lengthwise into a long roll toward you,tucking dough in evenly as you roll. Repeat with remaining dough discs and fillings.Wrap rolls in plastic and refrigerate 20-30 minutes.
arrange oven rack on upper middle position in oven and preheat to 350 degrees.Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap each refrigerated cookie roll and cut into 8 equal pieces with a lightly floured knife. Arrange cookie slices with the seem side down on prepared baking sheets as they are cut,16 slices per sheet.
Whisk reserved egg white until slightly frothy and brush on each cookie slice with a pastry brush.
Top cookies with a generous amount of sanding sugar and bake,one sheet at a time for 15-20 minutes,refrigerating the other sheet until the first one is done baking(or bake both if there is space in your oven).
Biscuits should be very lightly browned on top and slightly darker on the bottom.Cool for 5 minutes,then transfer cookies to a cooling rack or cool counter.
Yields 32  biscuits