Traditional, bite sized Vanilice (Serbian Jam Cookies) that literally melt in your mouth. These cookies have a nutty flavour with a soft jam filling. In the Balkans these cookies are a staple in the “sitni kolači” (small cakes) dessert category. Perfect for any occasion and super easy to make.
Vanilice ((pronounced VAH-ny-ly-TSEH)) have a special place in my heart ❤️. They are the one cookie we had in our household every year. Yes, literaly every single year 😊. Traditionally, Vanilice are prepared for New Years eve celebrations, our Orthodox Christmas or a Slava. Vanilice are simply soft, nutty, sweet, delicious and more importantly – absolutely melt in your mouth!
WHAT ARE VANILICE – THE BITE SIZED COOKIES
Vanilice (Serbian Jam Cookies) are two pieces of shortbread-like cookies that are sandwiched with apricot preserve or jam and pressed together lightly. Then, the delicate cookie sandwich is rolled in powdered sugar and served. One unique thing about this cookie is that the longer it “sits” the better it tastes. Trust me this part is very true 😊. Usually two days or more after baking these cookies taste the best! The crispy cookie simply softens from the moisture of the jam, turning the whole thing into a bite that actually melts in your mouth! I cannot even describe that to you. You simply have to taste them for yourself.
MY VANILICE (SERBIAN JAM COOKIE RECIPE)
These little vanilla cookies traditionally use two ingredients that are not very common in non-European countries: lard and vanilla sugar. Those are the ingredients I find hard to get my hands on here in New Zealand too, but my recipe is in all other aspects traditional.
The dough for Vanilice is made with butter, sugar, one whole egg, one egg yolk, juice and zest of one lemon, all purpose flour and grounded walnuts. This is a one bowl recipe, which means all of the ingredients are combined in one bowl to form the dough.
Traditionally women from the Balkans used their own homemade jams or preserves as the filling for Vanilice. Apricot jam is the most traditional route! But personally, I am a big fan of strawberries which is why in this recipe I have opted for this type of jam. If you are an expert in making your own homemade jam then take the lead and use that. Using your own produce makes this recipe extra special 😊.
Creativity during the making and decoration of Vanilice is another specificity of these cookies. The most usual shape is a circle, which holds jam in the middle of it. But, you can go wild and create other shapes such as stars, flowers and hearts which are very popular as well. You can cut out the middle of every second cookie so that you get a cute heart or flower middle. This exposes the jam filling and makes your cookie platter look even prettier.
Vanilice are traditionally filled with jam and coated in confectioners’ sugar which is what makes them stand apart as a traditional delicacy. If you wish, fill these bite sized treats with any type of jam, hazelnut cream or even Nutella.
You are no doubt going to be left with some left over dough which makes it a great opportunity to create some super tiny Vanilice. You can use any left over dough to cut out some mini shapes. Once they are baked use them to form the cutest Vanilice 😊.
Vanilice are a great combination of soft, nutty cookie and sweet jam filling which make you want to start eating them straight away. Depending on the occasion, you may have some cookies left over which is no bad thing. This is because you can store Vanilice from one week up to a few months.
You should store fresh Vanilice in an air tight container. The cookies can be stored like this for one week, which means you can dip into one whenever your heart desires 😊.
Any left over Vanilice can be frozen. Yes, frozen! Simply once you have prepared the cookies, skip the step of rolling them in powdered sugar. Store them in an air tight container and freeze for up to two months. Once you are ready to serve the cookies, simply thaw them, roll in powdered sugar and serve.
Vanilice (Serbian Jam Cookies)
- 200 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 tbsp. sugar
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- juice of one lemon
- zest of one lemon
- 400 g all purpose flour
- 100 g ground walnuts
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 jar strawberry jam or any jam of choice
MAKING THE DOUGH
- In the bowl of a stand (or hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Scrap the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure all the butter is incorporated.
- To the butter and sugar add the whole egg and egg yolks and whip until incorporated, then add in the lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar. Mix with the stand mixture until all ingredients are incorporated ( about 1-2 minutes).
- Gradually, add in the flour. Roughly two tablespoons at a time.
- Lastly, add in the grounded walnuts and mix until a dough forms.
- Form a uniform and soft ball of dough with the help of your hands. Form the dough into a disk and wrap this in plastic wrap. Let set in the fridge for 20 minutes.
ROLLING AND BAKING
- Preheat the oven to 180 C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/2 cm thickness.
- Use a cookie cutter, shot glass, or small cup to cut out small round pieces. I use a shot glass (for rakija) because I prefer this size. Place each cookie half a centimeter apart on your baking sheet.
- Use this opportunity to be creative, and cut out some shapes in the middle of each cookie. Or leave each cut out cookie as is.
- Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies begin to slightly brown but the tops remain light in color. Do not let them brown on top.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely.
- Re-knead the scraps of the remaining dough into a ball and roll it out again. Repeat the above steps until you’ve used up all your dough and baked all your cookies.
FILLING AND DECORATING
- Once the cookies are completely cool, make sandwiches out of them with the jam. Take one cookie at a time, spread about ½ tsp of jam on it, and top it with another cookie.
- If you are not a big fan of too much powdered sugar. Dip the up side part of the cookie in just a small amount of powdered sugar. This is instead of coating the entire cookie in powdered sugar.
- Alternatively – once all the cookies are sandwiched place your powdered vanilla sugar in a medium bowl. Roll each cookie in the powdered sugar.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container on the counter. The cookies are delicious fresh. However, traditionally they are stored for one or two days before eating. Something magical happens in these two days, so do wait, if you can!
- These cookies should be stored in a covered container. I use a cake tin and store them like this for up to one week.
- Alternatively store Vanilice in the fridge or you can also freeze them for multiple months. Please note, it is best to freeze them prior to being rolled in icing sugar. Once you are ready to eat them, simply thaw the Vanilice and then roll in icing sugar.
- Feel free to use orange zest instead, just don’t add too much juice. Only add about 2-3 tablespoons of citrus juice to the mixture.
- You can also leave out the walnuts, just use the same amount of flour instead.
These delicious, bite sized Vanilice (Serbian Jam Cookies) are the best cookies to make during the festive season. Vanilice become softer and tastier with time passing. In saying this, nobody ever witnessed them being too old because they are devoured quicker than you could imagine 😊.