January 7, 2012

Lucky Stars for Epiphany

Yesterday was Epiphany, the day when the wise men presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Epiphany is the twelfth day of Christmas; many take down their decorations and trees on this day. (Of course, the official end of Christmas doesn't come until Candlemas on February 2nd, so for those stalwart Christmas fans, there is a bit more time.) Epiphany is a day that is filled with light and hope as we remember the magi who traveled in search of the baby Jesus.

A couple of years ago, while visiting my sister in Boston around New Year's, I stumbled upon a special Belgian beer line of dark, spicy ales named for the three kings: Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. I had them for Epiphany. It reminded me of the grand European traditions that honor the kings and their journey to find Jesus. Doorframes and church entrances often sport the chalked initials "C, M, B" (C for the English Caspar) to remember that, in making ourselves like the magi, we too are charged to seek lives of hope.

Belgian beer makes one think about such things.

And of course, everybody knows the story of the brighter-than-bright Christmas star that the magi used to follow their way to the little house where Jesus, Joseph, and Mary lived. The star symbolizes cosmic guidance and trust in something larger than ourselves.

I haven't made lucky stars since I was very young. Lucky stars are really meant to be the quintessential Christmas cookie: hints of pecan and maple are hidden beneath a flaky pocket of sugar cookie crust. The ideal lucky star uses 2-inch star cookie cutters so before making these make sure you are equipped with one. I was not, so I had to use a square jar lid; these really should be called lucky squares but on a day like Epiphany, stars are much more suitable. These cookies are so very simple, tiny, and delicious. The buttery maple flavor is enticing but not too heavy. I made half of this batch and froze the rest for future lucky days.

Lucky Stars

8 tablespoons butter, softened slightly
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped fine
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter, melted
pinch salt
1 teaspoon real maple syrup

For the dough, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla until well-mixed. Combine dry ingredients and add gradually to butter mixture. This would work best in a stand mixer, but I mixed by hand. If mixing by hand, add flour in smaller increments. The final dough should be thick and solid, like pie dough. Roll into ball and chill for about 30 minutes.

Add filling ingredients and mix very well. The filling should be sticky and scoopable (not a word). Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on lightly floured surface until about 1/8" thick. Cut with a star cookie cutter (or square) and place about 1/4 teaspoon filling in the center of each shape. Fold up each corner of shape and pinch together to completely cover the filling. Regardless of cutter shape, the cookie should form a little pouch; you can pinch together the sides to look more "star"-like.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place cookies on greased cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes until tops are browned. Cool slightly.

Not that this matters, but my team did win the Cotton Bowl just hours after making these little cookies. Coincidence? I don't think so.


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  1. I made the original Lucky Stars recipe (by Mrs. Ganssle), but it didn't make 2-3 dozen like it said. So, I am going to try your revised version and I'll comment on how it went (except I'm going to add almond extract).

    1. This made a little more dough, but still had so much of the walnut mixture left over. I just learned that when I was little my mom made them sandwich cookie style. I'll try that next year.