Meet Geralyn Corcillo
I am so pleased to be on your delightful blog today to talk about a Christmas memory of mine – a memory that's all about those wonderful things that can happen during that special time of year and … Christmas cookies!
In my house, making kolucis was an EVENT.
They were the favorite Christmas cookie recipe of my Gram Mogilewsky and my mom. You pronounce the Polish (maybe Lithuanian?) cookies as “kuh LOTCH eez.” The cookies are like tiny nut rolls, only sweeter, crispier, and flakier. And don't worry, you do not have to decipher my Mom's writing underneath years of baking stains - the full recipe is written out at the end of this post.
When I was growing up, making the kolucis was a BIG DEAL. After all, it took two days. Two days! And it meant that-gulp-Christmas was officially coming! It simply couldn't not come if we went through all the pomp and circumstance of making the kolucis! And to get the job done right, it took all 4 of us rambunctious, constantly arguing kids working at our various stations at the kitchen table and my mother manning the oven and threatening to whack us with the wooden spoon if we acted up. (Note: My family was never really into that whole “Peace on Earth” kind of Christmas.)
On the first day, my mom would make the dough while we bugged her, and then she put it in the fridge to set for a day. I don't know why the dough had to be done this way. It just did. It just does.
Then, on the second day, the hours of cookie-making would commence!
1. One of us kids would go to the fridge and get a hunk of dough (the dough HAD to stay in the fridge until use or it would get sooooo sticky!) That same kid would then break off pieces of the dough and roll them into small balls. 2. Kid #2 (usually my older sister who was trusted with an implement such as the rolling pin) would then dust a circle of powdered sugar on the table, sprinkle the rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll the small balls into small flat ovals of dough. 3. Kids #3 and #4 (because this step took more time and precision so it needed two kids so the assembly line didn't jam) would place the small ovals of dough onto the powdered sugar-covered table and, with the back of a spoon, spread the nutty, sweet, gooey filling onto the cookie dough.
Now where, you may ask, did the filling come from? After all, I have not chronicled its making in this narrative. The answer is, I dunno. I think my mom must have made it late at night after us kids had gone to bed, cuz we were never involved in the filling-making part. But the old-fashioned nut grinder was mysteriously set out to dry on a dishtowel the morning of the koluci assembly and the filling was always there at cookie-making time.
Then kids #3 and #4 would roll up the filling-smeared ovals. 4. Kids #1 and #2 would pinch the edges closed, and set the mini sweet nut roll-like cookies on the cookie sheet. And my mom took it from there, putting the sheets in the oven, taking the hot sheets of cookies out of the oven, putting the cookies out on the cooling rack, and slapping away any hands that tried to swipe a cookie.
We would work from early afternoon until darkness fell at 4:30. And the BEST part? We would bop along to Christmas music while we toiled away like elves. Sometimes we would listen to Christmas LPs from the stereo in the living room. We'd blast the volume enough so that we could hear Disco Noelle and Elvis's Christmas all the way across the house in the kitchen. And one year, we'd had the foresight to record the television songs on a cassette in the tape recorder as we watched Christmas specials. So, not only could we play songs like “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” from Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, but we could hear ourselves loudly singing the wrong words in the recording of “I'm Mister Heat Miser” from The Year Without a Santa Claus.
And here's the kicker: when I was a kid, I didn't even like kolucis. No way, man. The nutty, gooey filling totally grossed me out. I was, after all, a kid who could not abide peanut butter, even in candy, and thought the best way to ruin anything was to put nuts in it. But boy, did I look forward to koluci day every Christmas season. It was a moment in my life when my loud, fractious family was united in common holiday purpose and cheer – and that was a rare and precious thing.
As I got older, I came to love the taste of kolucis (and peanut butter and nuts in general.) And I often made a batch or two during the holidays when I was in my twenties. So, do I still make kolucis? Um, no. While many people enjoy baking, alas, the pursuit brings me no joy and stresses me out more than it relaxes me. (My oven is filled with books, actually, except for the times I need it for something that is too big to fit in the convection oven.) But I don't need the actual cookies to go back and feel the cozy warmth of the wonderful memory.
But if you'd like to make delicious kulocis, I am more than happy for you to use this recipe! I am all about sharing the joy – after all, it's why I write romantic comedy. Sprinkling drops of pleasure into people's lives is just so wonderful, whether the joy is delivered through a cookie or a story.
Along with my Christmas short story “It Doesn't Show Signs of Stopping” in the anthology It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chick Lit, I have a holiday novel out now as well, A Drakenfall Christmas. Feel free to indulge and feel good for the holidays!
I don't have many family pics from when we were all younger – my mom has most of those back home in Pennsylvania and I live in California. But here is one picture of me and my siblings from when we were little – a few years before we were all old enough to pull off the koluci assembly line. I was then, as I am now, the blonde with her big mouth wide open.
And here is Gram Mogilewsky, the koluci queen, and our dog Anabel.
This holiday season, whether you indulge in kolucis or not, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you all a relaxing, safe, and happy holiday season! Thank you, Susan, for letting me indulge in these warm memories as I share some holiday delight with you and your wonderful fans. Thanks, again!
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 packet dry yeast
1 pound shortening
1 cup milk
1 pound bag of walnuts – ground
1 stick margarine (soft)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the filling, grind the walnuts. Add other ingredients and mash all together. It shouldn't be too thin and runny – it should be spreadable. You can do this the day before or on baking day itself.
For the dough, A DAY BEFORE BAKING, in a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in milk. Add salt, sugar, and eggs. Add shortening and beat with an electric beater or by hand very fast. Start adding flour a cup at a time until it is all used. It will be very hard to mix and very sticky towards the end – you may have to use your hands. Refrigerate overnight before baking.
BAKING DAY: Leave dough in refrigerator – take out a lump at a time. Make the lump into balls and roll balls out on powdered sugar. (Dust rolling pin with powdered sugar, too, or dough will STICK EVERYWHERE.) Spread filling on dough with the back of a spoon, roll up, pinch ends closed and put on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Watch the first batch and bake until lightly browned. Enjoy!
When she was a kid in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo's favorite Christmas present was a box set of four Agatha Christie paperbacks her mom put in her stocking one year. When she grew up, and streaming songs were a new thing, her husband Ron knocked her Christmas socks off when he downloaded her all-time favorite Christmas song, “Snoopy's Christmas,” by The Royal Guardsmen. These days, Corcillo and her husband like to spend Christmas having dinner with friends and talking about 80's movies.
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