Time can mist our memories.
Just as Mom and I had sat down and recreated her recipe version of Nana's Christmas (and Easter) cookies, my sister called. Carol is our family's ausukai toji; she had Mom's actual recipe card.
So here it is, with additional tips from Carol's experience.
Ausukai (little ears)
- 6 eggs
- pinch salt
- 1/2 pound of butter (some Crisco)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 ounces whipping cream + 2 TBS milk
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- flour, accordingly
- confectioners sugar, accordingly
- Beat eggs in large bowl. Add salt.
- Melt butter and Crisco, and add to egg batter. [I would avoid the hydrogentated Crisco, but that would lose some flavor.]
- Add sugar and vanilla, and beat.
- Take small portion of flour and sift with baking powder.
- Slowly add flour mixture, alternating with the milk and cream, to the egg/sugar.
- Keep adding flour until the dough is firm enough to handle. [The trick is to add as little flour as possible, until the dough is non-sticky enough to handle.]
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured board.
- [Be sure to flour your hands. Have a small bowl of flour nearby and continue to keep your hands floured.]
- [Carol tells an amusing anecdote of her first solo ausukai cookery - in her dorm's communal kitchen at college. She hadn't floured her hands and when she went to spread out the dough on the floured kitchen-top, most of it remained stuck to her hands. She couldn't open the door to ask for help; she couldn't open the flour bag. So she used her elbows! And the batch turned out well. It reminds me of my first batch of homebrew ... but I digress.]
- When the dough is floured just enough to a good consistency, take a small portion and roll it out thin (the thinner the better).
- Cut the dough into small diamonds. Cut a small slit [1/2 inch, or the size of a thumb, because it stretches out.] in the middle of each and pull an end through the slit and back out the other end.
- [Allow the ausuki to 'plop' in palm of hand after tying the knot, to properly shape itself for frying.]
- Fry in hot Crisco until golden crisp, flipping each ausuki over. Each should fry near the top of the oil. [My comments above about Crisco vs. vegetable oil.]
- [Check the oil at first. Me: 350°F. Carol: The oil is hot enough if a test ausuki sizzles in the oil and rises to the top.]
- [Drain the ausukis on paper bags rather than paper towels.]
- [When storing, line a cookie tin with waxed paper, but only loosely cover the tin, or else the cookies will become soggy.]
Pronounce ausukai: oh SOOK (like "took") ay (in between "I" and "(h)ay").