Sunday, December 20, 2009

Billy Goats

A recipe from my Grandma Renner. These are Christmas cookies, a kind that you can’t have Christmas without. They’re not tremendously sweet in the ordinary, sugary sense. They’re rich and sweet with dates and have that smoky flavor of black walnuts.

And yes, you must use real black walnuts (not the English kind or any other kind of nut). They’re a key flavor ingredient. (We’ve talked about black walnuts before on this blog.)

(We have also talked about billy goat cookies before, as an example of what I mean by "Opulent Opossum.")

When I was a little kid, I often got fooled by these cookies, because they look something like chocolate chip. But they aren’t. They taste very different.

So here we go. My notes are in brackets.

Billy Goats

Cream together: 1 1/2 c. brown sugar + 1 c. butter.
3 eggs: beat whites, then add yolks.
1 level tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1/4 c. lukewarm to hot water.
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. black walnuts [gotta be black walnuts, not any other kind, I mean it]
1 lb. clipped dates [see note below]
2 1/2 c. flour

Make the cookie dough and drop it onto cookie sheets by small spoonfuls. Bake in a moderate (ca. 350-degree) oven like you would other cookies.

Clipped dates: Start with whole (pitted) dates. Using a scissors, starting at one end of the date, snip off alternating diagonals in a sort of herringbone pattern, so you get rhomboidal shapes.

These cookies are called “billy goats,” Grandma told us, because they have little bumps poking out of them. No, I don’t quite understand that, either, but the “point” is that the dates have to be big enough to protrude a bit after you bake the cookies. If you cut them too fine, then I guess you have “nanny goats” instead!

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