In Chicago, my home town, one of my best and most esteemed friends is Chef Jack Wagner. He has won so many grand prizes and gold medals that he probably can't remember them all. He is an absolute wizard with pastry. His cookies, macaroons, pastries, cakes and tortes are not only the tastiest but also among the most beautiful I have seen anywhere in Europe or the United States.
The other night, sitting with glasses of wine and tasting some of both our creations, I asked him for three of his best recipes for Christmas cookies. Here they are. SPANISH WIND COOKIES (Makes 85) 1 cup egg whites (8 to 11 whites) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 tablespoon of instant coffee 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 2 3/4 cups shifted powdered sugar 2 1/2 cups chopped walnuts 6 ounces (1 cup) chocolate chips
Combine egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and instant coffee. Whip to soft peaks. Add granulated sugar a little at a time, beating until stiff. Fold in powdered sugar, walnuts and chocolate chips. Place teaspoonfuls on a cookie sheet that has been lightly greased and dusted with flour. Bake 1 1/2 hours at 200 degrees. Cool on racks. COCONUT MACAROON BAR COOKIES (Makes about 100) 6 3/4 cups cake flour 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1 pound butter (at room temperature) 6 eggs yolks Grated rind of 1 lemon, plus rind to taste Vanilla extract to taste 1 cup tart marmalade or preserves (apricot, red raspberry, etc.) 1 cup egg white (8 to 11 whites) 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar Pinch of salt Pinch of cream of tartar 1 pound (6 cups) shredded coconut
Sift together flour, powdered sugar and baking powder. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until coarsely blended. Add egg yolks, lemon rind and vanilla and mix until smooth. Do not overmix. Divide dough in half, and on a floured board roll out two large rectangles, about 1/4 inch thick. Place on two cookie sheets. Spread marmalade or preserves evenly over both surfaces and set aside.
Combine egg whites, granulated sugar, extra lemon rind to taste, salt and cream of tartar and heat in a double boiler over low heat, stirring constantly until lukewarm. Do not scorch. Remove from heat and whip until light and creamy, not stiff. Fold in coconut and spread mixture evenly on top of marmalade or preserves. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until evenly browned. Cool on racks. Cut into bars about 1 by 3 inches, or any other size you prefer. PFEFFERNUSSE COOKIES (Makes 85) Cookies: 1 cup honey 4 egg yolks 1 tablespoon cinnamon, or to taste 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice, or to taste 3/4 cup rye flour 3 cups all-purpose flour 3 teaspoons baking soda 1 tablespoon water Icing: 1 2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar 1 egg white Juice and grated rind of 1 small lemon
Heat honey until lukewarm. Add to egg yolks and mix well, using a wooden spoon. Add cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, rye flour and all-purpose flour. Add baking soda dissolved in water. Mix well. With your hands, make balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place a cookie sheet that has been lightly greased and dusted with flour. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Do not overbake. Cool 5 minutes on racks.
Meanwhile, make icing. Combine powdered sugar, egg white, lemon juice and grated rind. Beat 5 minutes or until light and creamy. If mixture is too stiff, add a little water. (Food coloring may be added for color assortment.)
Put warm cookies into a large mixing bowl and dribble icing over them. Mix cookies by hand until coated. Place on racks to dry.