Szamárfül was a popular cookie during the second world war in Hungary; my mom always said it was because it had no eggs, although it does have butter (I don’t really understand the rationale, were eggs harder to come by than butter?). And I am not entirely sure of where the recipe originally came from, it was handed down to me by my mother, she had entered it into her first computer using DOS in the early 80’s and had several printouts which I inherited (I can find no other reference to it on line).
I posted this recipe quite a few years ago (December 2007), and I really don’t care for the photo anymore, so I decided to re-post with new photos! Tonight I am making the cookies for my nephew (Jack, 11) who adores them — we’re spending Canadian Thanksgiving with his family at their cottage this weekend. His Dad (my brother) is an amazing cook, but hasn’t mastered the art of baking, so every Thanksgiving, I bring about one hundred of these cookies (and believe it or not, they polish them off, lock, stock and barrel!).
The recipe is really no fail, you just need a little patience. The cookie is a simple yeast dough, with a little butter. It is rolled to about 2mm thick, cut into circles, and a small dollop of jam is placed in the centre. You then take this round cookie and fold it in half, then you pinch the edges tight. The challenge in making these delicious cookies is to pinch them down so the jam doesn’t escape and ‘burn’ while baking. Of course, as children, we always LOVED this melted jam because it caramelized to a wonderful candy coating. The cookie’s sweetness comes from the European Jam (which is generally thicker and with less pectin than the North American jam) and the confectioners sugar coating once they are baked. They are not an overly sweet treat.
A few years ago, I discovered that the thickest roller on my Kitchenaid Mixer Pasta Roller attachment is really the best and only way to go — it gives you the most consistent thickness of dough, and it avoids over working it. The dough renders a beautiful, flaky cookie pastry.
This year, JT offered to help, so I set up two stations on the island, and while I ‘rolled out’ the dough, he cut, filled and pinched. I did my share of cutting, filling and pinching too…but this dough is like the fishes and loaves, it is never ending…you keep taking the leftovers and re-rolling them…never ending! I am so lucky he helped tonight, otherwise it would have taken me a couple of hours to finish (we were done in 45 minutes). He even said he had fun doing this with me :-). His cookies stayed closed better than mine!
Donkey Ear Cookies:
(Szamárfül) makes about 100-130 cookies (we used a 5cm round cookie cutter this time and yielded 102)
- 1 tbsp quick rising yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water + 1 tsp sugar
- 600 g flour (3-4 cups)
- 240 g unsalted butter (1/2 lb)
- 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
- Thick European jam (we used cherry for this batch)
- 1-2 cups confectioners sugar (for dusting)
- Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar, proof for about 3-5 minutes.
- In an electric mixer with the scraper hook, mix butter and flour until crumbly. Change to dough hook.
- Add yeast and enough sour cream and knead with the mixer until a shiny dough forms.
- Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1/2 to 1 hr (you may also do this step in the fridge overnight if you won’t be making the cookies the same day. Allow the dough to get up to room temperature before you begin to work it).
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Roll out the dough into 1 mm thickness (or #1 of the Kitchenaid Pasta Machine) and cut with a 5-6 cm round cookie cutter.
- Fill each round in the centre with about 1/4 tsp of jam.
- Fold each circle in half and pinch edges really, really, really well (this dough has a tendency to pop open like a clam!).
- Bake at 350° F for 10-12 minutes (dough will be slightly golden), jam may have oozed out, it’s OK, really!
- Immediately put cookies into a large bowl with icing sugar and dust generously. Or dip each side into a small bowl filled with icing sugar.
- Remove to a wire rack and cool.
- You may half the dough recipe, I’ve done it several times and you yield about 50 cookies!
- Dipping your finger in lightly beaten egg whites and running along the outer edge of the rounds before pinching them closed will help keep them closed tight while baking.