Lard is delicious. No, seriously. While most people today see lard as something disgusting and unhealthy, pig fat has been used by many nations for centuries. Also, it is healthier than many other types of oils or fats you'll find at the store due to its lack of nasty trans fats. Lard can be used to prepare fantastic french fries or exotic dishes, but today, my SO and I will show you how to make something a bit different.
Maslenki (масленки, in Bulgarian) is a type of cookies that were super popular when we were young. Unfortunately, they are difficult to find today due to lard being demonized over the past few decades for no good reason. However, maslenki can be baked at home easily. In fact, this classic recipe requires only 5 ingredients!
Lard, of course, is key among them. It gives these old-school cookies their unique flaky texture and makes them melt in your mouth soon after you bite into one. And no, lard does not smell like bacon or anything not suitable for use with pastries – as long as it has been rendered properly. I got my lard in a jar from a local farm, meaning that it is pure and non-hydrogenated, unlike the stuff you might find at the store. It lasts a long time if stored properly in the fridge.
Now let's get baking!
Step 1: Ingredients
For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- 400 grams of all-purpose flour + extra flour for spreading over your kitchen top when rolling out the dough
- 1 large egg
- 150 grams of powdered sugar + extra sugar for icing
- 200 grams of lard, preferably the natural, non-hydrogenated kind
- Vanilla essence or extract
Expect a yield of about 800 grams.
And here are some optional ingredients for experimenting with:
- Raw nuts for filling or decoration. The classic recipe for maslenki doesn't call for any, but they go along well with almonds or walnuts.
- Berries are great for garnishing your finished maslenki. We chose blueberries for this batch.
- Honey. Feel free to drizzle some over your maslenki before serving.
You will also need:
- A rolling pin
- Parchment paper
- One large mixing bowl
- A whisk and/or silicone spatula
- Sieve (optional, for the flour and the powdered sugar)
Step 2: Mix the Lard and Sugar
We store our lard in a jar in the fridge. It lasts a long time, but when you take it out, it is still a bit hard and not very easy to work with. So before you start making the dough, leave your lard at room temperature so that it becomes softer. While you're at it, take your egg out as well so that it isn't cold when you add it to the mix.
Next, take your mixing bowl, put the lard and sugar in it, and blend them together until you get a nice, creamy paste (Picture #5).
Step 3: Add the Egg
Beat the egg in a bowl and then add it to your mix. Use a whisk to combine all ingredients.
Step 4: Add Vanilla
Vanilla – it makes anything better! We used vanilla essence since that's what we had on hand. The amount you use depends on the brand, and there should be instructions on the packaging. Ours said that one of these tiny bottles is good enough for 500 grams of flour. Feel free to use vanilla extract instead if you have any.
Step 5: Add the Flour
Finally, add the flour into the mix. You may run it through a sieve to remove any lumpy bits that might be in there. Mix it all together with your spatula. If you find the dough too tough, simply use your hand instead.
Step 6: Roll Out Your Dough
Once the dough was thoroughly kneaded, we took half of it, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for later use. The other half we rolled out on our kitchen top.
To roll out the dough, take some flour and sprinkle it over a clean area of your kitchen top. Place your dough on the top and add a dash of flour over your rolling pin. Put some on the dough as well so that it doesn't stick to your pin. Roll out the dough. Aim for a rectangular shape. The dough needs to be about a centimeter in thickness.
Step 7: Transfer and Cut the Dough
Next, we transferred the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Don't worry if the dough falls apart during the transfer process. If it does, just roll it out again onto the paper itself.
Classic maslenki are rectangular in shape. Ours ended up about 5 by 10 centimeters in size. The dough doesn't spread out while in the oven, so the cookies do not need to be far apart from each other.
To make things more interesting, use a fork to add some character to your maslenki. A pattern around the perimeter of each should do.
Next, put the maslenki in the fridge to chill for an hour.
Step 8: Bake at 180C (350F)
After chilling them in the fridge for an hour, put the maslenki in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Baking time might vary, depending on your oven. We baked ours for 15 minutes (with the convection fan off), until the cookies were slightly golden brown around the edges.
Step 9: Add the Icing
While the maslenki are still hot, sprinkle them with powdered sugar. This helps the sugar to stick better.
Step 10: Enjoy!
This is how you make maslenki in their classic form. Go to the next step to see how we tweaked the recipe.
You will be tempted to eat one of these delicious cookies soon after they're done, but it is best to resist the temptation. They taste better on the next day!
The recipe for classic maslenki does not call for anything else, but if you want to spice things up a bit, you may garnish them with berries or drizzle honey over them when serving.
Step 11: BONUS ROUND
Remember when we put aside half of our dough? We used that to find out if we could take the recipe to the next level. First of all, instead of making our maslenki rectangular, we shaped them like cookies. Secondly, we tried using different nuts as filling: almonds, walnuts, raisins. Then we baked them as usual.
The results? All of our maslenki 2.0s turned out great. The additions give a nice, flavorful twist to the recipe without straying away from the original taste.
Now go and make some maslenki for yourself!
By the way, you can follow me on Instagram (@leftymaker) where I give sneak peeks at whatever project I'm working on. You can also check out my YouTube channel where I post videos of my woodworking and electronics projects and tutorials. Thanks!
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