Christmas cookie making gone nuts? Well, I guess you could say, “Yes!” These Plněné Ořechy (stuffed nut-shaped cookies) are usually reserved for more ambitious Christmas cookie making, but it’s quite a pleasure when they appear on the cookie tray. They are meant to look like a nut (most often walnut) and to celebrate their wonderful flavor. A final decoration with either chocolate on the ends, or simply a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, is optional. “Stuffings” can vary according to taste or nut shape. Here I continue the nut flavor, but with a touch of rum.
To make your Plněné Ořechy look authentic, you will need special cookie forms in the shape of nut shells. These are available for purchase on Amazon and may be available in some fine kitchen wares shops as “walnut (or nut) cookie forms” or “Oreshky forms”. [Actually, “Ořechy” in Czech.] Also, the Czech-Slovak online grocers referenced in this post. They come in the form of metal or silicone baking tins or individual forms, the latter which you’d then put on a baking sheet. Of course, other forms could work, but then wouldn’t look like nuts.
The number of sandwich cookies vary according to form sizes. Mine are quite small to be one-bite size, though bigger ones are available. Generally, the forms should not be bigger than the real size of walnut shell halves, with which you put two together with a buttercream center, as the “full nut”. They are rich cookies, so should be smaller.
- 250 grams unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 150 grams confectioner’s sugar
- 350 grams unbleached pastry flour (i.e. Bob’s Red Mill) or hladká mouka
- 120 grams ground walnuts
Cream filling –
- 100 grams unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 100 grams confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tablespoon rum (or 1 tsp rum extract and 2 tsp milk or cream)
- 50 grams finely ground walnuts
Optional decorations –
- Chocolate and finely ground nuts for dipping, OR more traditional dusting of confectioner’s sugar
To make cookie dough, in a large bowl first cream together the 250 g softened butter with 150 g confectioner’s sugar. Then slowly add the 120 g ground walnuts (I use my “S” blade in food processor), and 350 g unbleached pastry flour (hladká mouka). Form what will look like a crumbly mixture into a soft dough with hands (handle as little as possible), then form into two or three disks or chunks. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap or waxed paper, for several hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F). If using individual cookie molds (as opposed to ones as part of a baking tin), put a large metal baking sheet, preferably with a shallow rim, aside. Lightly spray the interiors of molds you are using with cooking spray, or you can lightly oil. Don’t miss this step or you may struggle to remove the cookies, after they are baked. Take one of the disks/chunks of the dough out of the fridge. Break off little pieces and press them into the nut molds with your fingers, then press an indentation in the dough middles with a finger or thumb. Dough level in the mold’s interior should be a touch under mold rims, since they will rise during baking. See photo below left. If baking in batches, proceed to baking step. Otherwise, remove more refrigerated dough and continue pressing into molds if/when more molds are available. This task is nicer done with a friend, if possible.
If using the individual nut cookie molds, put each filled mold onto the baking sheet, metal form sides down (dough facing up). When all forms are filled, bake between 8 to 12 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. Time may depend on form size or individual ovens. As they bake, the dough will puff up a bit. Remove baked cookies from the oven, and allow to cool for a short time. Then gently knock the still warm ones out of the molds. If they cool too much, removing becomes harder. If they seem stuck (more often an issue for metal vs. silicone molds), gently use a paring knife to loosen edges or pry the cookies out. See photo above right. Allow cookies to fully cool before filling with the buttercream mixture. If too delicate, let the cookies sit for a day or two first.
To create the buttercream filling, whip the 100 g softened butter with 100 g confectioner’s sugar, until fluffy. Add the tablespoon rum and 50 g finely ground walnuts and beat again, until fully incorporated. At this point, you can choose to either spread the filling between the cookie halves (easiest), or pipe it using a pastry bag fitted with appropriate tip. After filling and sandwiching cookies together, allow them to sit for a while, for the fillings to set. Or to quicken the process, refrigerate.
If you wish to decorate the cookies, do so after the fillings set for a while.
Interested in making other Czech Christmas cookies? Visit Authentic Czech Christmas Cookies and Sweet Breads.