Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nana's Lithuanian Easter/Christmas cookies

(l-r) Albert Cizauskas (my father); Amilija Ambraziejus (Nana, Mom's mother);
Josef Ambraziejus (Mom's father); Anna (Dad's mother); Gene Cizauskas (my mother).

Amilija Ambraziejus was my Nana, my mother's mother. She emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century from Tsarist-occupied Lithuania. Her way —in only slightly better quarters than common steerage— was paid by her four brothers, already in the United States.

Barely a teenager, she was expected to repay the debt by taking care of her brothers: doing the housework, cooking, cleaning, house-repair, etc. A strong-willed woman, she turned the tables, soon becoming the de facto head of the household in a few years.

She married young, to a man over 20 years her senior, my grandfather, Josef Ambraziejus. My mother remembers Nana doing such things as the plumbing and tarring the roof ... in addition to the 'expected' household chores such as preparing the big meals for the extended family - which seemed to extend yet more on Sunday afternoons and holidays. During it all, Nana would remain stylish in clothing and demeanor, and firmly in control.

And, she was, indeed, a wonderful cook.

Here is my mother's version of Nana's recipe for Christmas/Easter sweet fried cookies, called "little ears", or ausukai (sometimes called kruscuki). In our Lith-English, we kids would call them oh-sookies.

Mom, as Nana had done, would cook them for our traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve Kucios meal; the preparing and frying were often as fun as the eating!

Ausukai (01)


Yield: 3 dozen

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 1/2 TBS sugar
  • 3 1/2 TBS whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted white flour
  • powdered or confectioners' sugar
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • Beat yolks and egg together until thick and the color of lemon. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt. Whisk the flour, sugar, and the cream into the egg mixture. Allow to stand for a few minutes.
  • Flour the kneading surface and your hands. Knead the dough on the surface until no longer sticky. Roll out the dough until it's very thin. Then fold the dough into thirds back onto itself. Roll out again; fold again. Roll out again, very thin.
  • Cut the dough into small diamond strips, about 4" x 2". Cut a lengthwise slit in the middle of each strip. Pull the other end through the slit. It's not an ausuki unless you tie this knot!
  • In an oversize pot or a deep fryer, heat the vegetable oil to 350ºF. Fry for about 3-4 minutes, only a maximum of six at a time, so that the oil stays hot. When the ausukai appear golden, fry for about 20 seconds more. They should puff up. Do not brown!
  • Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with the powdered sugar (the part we kids really enjoyed!).
  • My sister maintains the family tradition, cooking Kūčios meal every year for Christmas Eve. Here is her recipe —Ausukai, redough — as pictured above.
  • UPDATE [2016]: I have slightly edited the post, only for cosmetic purposes, since I first published it in 2007.

  • For more from YFGF:


  1. labai ačiū (thank you) for publishing this recipe. I'm going to Christmas party & we have to bring something from our Family heritage. My Grandparents also came over in 1905 from Lithuania to escape the Russian oppression.

  2. Loved reading your article and recipe. I grew up calling them ohsukies as well. My favorite cookie of all time! My great grandmothers recipe is quite different than yours, I’ll have to give it a try.

    1. Hi, l lost my Grandma's recipe and this recipe is not it. Maybe your grandmother's recipe is closer to hers, could you give it to me please?
      Thank you
      We called them "kursdu", I don't know now if that's how to spell it.

  3. Laura Visoskas12/22/19, 1:44 PM

    My aunt used to make these, and I am keeping up the tradition. I took advantage of modern conveniences and used the pasta attachment of my Kitchen Aid to roll the dough. I divided it into six and ran it thru #1 setting three times' folding like a letter after the first and second pass, then worked my way down to the #5 setting. Perfectly even and ready to cut into strips. They are delicious and I know my aunt would be proud! SVEIKAS!

  4. I am also a granddaughter of a Lithuanian immigrant. My grandmother moved to Chicago and lived in the Lithuanian community. She also had a an ethnic restaurant. I don't remember what it was called I've tried to reach out to the Lithuanian community to see if anybody remembers because back then it was not as large as it is now. My grandmother came from the area of Kauanus Lithuania. And about 10 years ago I tried to go back to Lithuania because you can receive dual citizenship if you were or family members fled the country due to World War 2 I love the Lithuanian people they are very unique they're not rushing nor are they polish they have their own Flair of culture in that community and not to downsize a Russian or Polish people they are a very wonderful warm people also I would truly love to go back

  5. I also am a granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants. Both Grandma & Grandpa fled due to religious persecution. I don't remember Grandma making these but I'm going to give it a try. They sound delicious.

  6. My wife's gran made them better than anyone because she had a secret ingrediant,whiskey.


Comment here ...