My grandmother prepared countless logs of shortbread cookies to slice and bake for the holiday season, filling them with glacé cherries and rolling them in crushed nuts. Though no one in the family remembers her making slice-and-bake cookies with poppy seeds, I found a recipe using this classic Eastern European ingredient in her handwritten collection. The dough is also strewn with finely chopped walnuts and then rolled in granulated sugar to create a sparkling edge. I've decided to adopt this cookie as my signature contribution to the family cookie-plate tradition.
A note about poppy seeds: They go rancid very quickly. Your best bet is to buy them only when you need them, and always smell and taste them before using to ensure they haven't turned.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup poppy seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 tbsp granulated sugar, for rolling
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and a hand-held mixer), beat the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until the mixture is light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture; stir to combine well. Stir in the nuts.
Divide the dough in half. Turn each half out onto a very lightly floured work surface and roll into a log shape about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll each log in 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar before wrapping in a sheet of wax paper. Chill the dough for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
Using a very sharp knife, cut each log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in a 350° F oven until the edges of the cookies are just starting to turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Cool on wire racks.