Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Baltic Christmas Day 13 - Deep fried rabbit ear cookies… No we are not killing the Easter Bunny!

Day Thirteen of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas is brought to you by Sandra Raisters of Dusty Hiking Boots who is going to share her recipe for Zaķu austiņas, a lightly-fried almond-lemon cookie that looks like a rabbit ear. Sandra loves to spend her free time either hiking and backpacking in the Pacific Northwest or cooking in her kitchen for friends and family. Now without further ado....

Hello everyone and Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus! I’d like to share with you my favorite Latvian holiday cookie recipe… deep fried rabbit ears! Sounds morbid, but it’s just really deliciously fried lemon-almond dough dusted with obscene amounts of powdered sugar. These cookies bring back fond memories of my childhood where a mini version of me would sneak into the living room or the kitchen where a large wooden bowl would be displaying these delightful treats and grab several. The end result was a powdered-sugar covered face and the subsequent sugar crash later in the day. These were a special cookie reserved only for the holiday season and (sorry Liene) but in my heart-of-hearts they will always trump piparkūkas. (Editor's note: If you would like to compare for yourself see Day 5 for the recipe... but in my opinion why not have both?)

Let’s get cookin’!

1 Large whole egg
4 Large egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon rind
½ cup whipping cream
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
Vegetable shortening (Crisco) for deep frying
Powdered sugar for dusting

Recipe: In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together the whole egg and egg yolks until they are thick and pale (On a side note, I am so happy to have home-grown eggs for this part. Backyard urban chickens are a delight and their rich buttery eggs can take your recipe to the next level). Beat in the sugar a little at a time, the vanilla, and the almond extract until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Fold in the cream. Add the grated lemon rind. In a separate bowl mix the flour and salt together and then sift the mixture into the wet ingredients. Once thoroughly mixed, chill the dough in the bowl covered overnight. Have a glass of wine. Relax. Have your husband clean the mess you’ve just created in your kitchen.

The next day dust the dough with flour and roll out half of it in 1/16 inch thick on a well-floured surface dusting it with flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. With a fluted pastry wheel (I just use a sharp knife) cut the dough into 3-4cm wide strips. Then cut those strips diagonally so you have wide diamond shapes. Cut a 2 cm slit lengthwise down the middle of each diamond and (here’s the tricky part) pull a point of the diamond through the center of the slit gently. This should form a shape that kinda-sorta looks like a wonky rabbit ear. Repeat until you have an army of these rabbit ears. I have to admit this is an acquired skill and at the beginning I slaughtered many-a-rabbit ear in attempts to make them look pretty. There may or may not have been several curse words uttered during this step in the process.

Now at this point, the recipe calls for the use of a deep fryer, but because I don’t own (nor do I really want to own) one I just substituted a deep frying pan for my command center. Add the vegetable shortening t the pan and let it melt and head up to about 365 degrees (being lazy I really didn’t measure the temperature of the oil…). Once the oil is hot enough, gently slip small batches of the dough into it so it can fry. Be vigilant! This is the point in the recipe where you really have to pay attention and hover otherwise you’ll end up with charred rabbit ears and no one really wants that. Cook the dough for about a minute, turning them once until they are a beautiful golden color. Without burning yourself (!!!!) transfer the cookies to a paper towel so they can drain. Once cool, dust them with the powdered sugar and apologize to your husband who will have to clean the kitchen once more. Store the cookies in an air-tight container.

The recipe has lofty claims and says it makes about 100 cookies but that is a lie… you’ll probably get closer to 75-ish cookies depending on how aggressive you were when slicing the dough.


Thank you Sandra, for joining us on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas! I must overcome my fear of Lauris and Mikis on sugar-high rampage and try this recipe… Stay tuned tomorrow for Day 14 - Christmas tree ornaments!


  1. Now these bring back memories of my Vecmamin Liene as she was teaching me to make them! I have yet to try them with gluten free flour but I will one day!

    1. Hi Dzintra! Funny you should say that as I was half tempted to make a second batch with gluten-free flour and coconut oil to make it kinda-sorta-wishful-thinking "paleo" (as paleo as fried cookies dusted in powdered sugar can be) but decided that the temptation to eat all of the cookies was too much. Maybe next time :-D

  2. Hi Sandra....what a great idea to use coconut oil....very tasty

    1. Oops pushed publish! Yes I use gf flour as I am gluten intolerant but love the idea of Paleo...My Vecmamin didn't use cream in her recipe....But you are right...I found it hard to stop at one but I haven't had some for years now! Happy Baking!

    2. Interesting to hear that you are gluten intolerant, Dzintra. If I had the time (and - mostly - if I had the knowledge), I would love to conduct some type of public health survey among North American Latvians to see how many people suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance. There are quite a few of us, and I suspect many who are unaware/undiagnosed.

    3. That would be a very interesting survey Dziesma...I suspect there are many suffering from gf/celiac. I am from The Land Down Under...Australia!

  3. I am always amazed when young people actually make these time-consuming traditional foods! I vaguely recall someone in the Milwaukee community making zaku austinas years and years ago - they were absolutely delicious, although I'd say I still prefer the more complex taste of piparkukas. :) However, glad to see you are blogging again, Sandra! Thanks for sharing!

    1. It's good to be blogging again! Though life does tend to get in the way quite a bit so I'm not doing it as often as I'd like...oh well!


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