🌲⛄Thumbprint Cookies and Jødekager⛄🌲

12364152_10156417536435165_1849889310_o-00512369819_10156417540290165_768414728_o-00112364152_10156417536435165_1849889310_o
12369819_10156417540290165_768414728_o12364152_10156417536435165_1849889310_o12369819_10156417540290165_768414728_o

I wasn’t completely ready for it to be Christmas this year, to be honest. I feel as though the past year just whizzed by, and wasn’t it just Christmas 2014? But then the last week of November rolled around, and I started to feel the tingle of anticipation creeping up on me. Last weekend we decorated my flat, and I bought a ridiculous amount of fairy lights.

So my Christmas excitement is once more alive and well, and I’m not even going to apologise for the explosion of snowflakes, Christmas trees, candy cane hearts, and snow men on this page. The fairy lights are up and the baking has begun.

Although I’m generally very much against fussy recipes, for some reason most of the Christmas cookie recipes I grew up with, and HAVE to make each year because I love them, are all a bit finicky. But a few weeks back I stumbled across the easiest, and no less delicious for it, Christmas cookie recipe. It’s even versatile. It’s most definitely going to be part of the annual Christmas cookie baking bonanza, and I may or may not have eaten a few dozen of them already.

These super moorish little thumbprint cookies are kind of like a shortbread cookie, but a little lighter (because of the baking soda), tender and crunchy at the same time, with a lovely little jammy centre 🙂 I used raspberry jam, and it was perfect, these cookies definitely need a slightly sour, or tart, sort of jam I think. I’m also going to try apricot, and maybe also some lemon curd. I think these would be killer with homemade lemon curd.

The first time I made this cookie dough I only made the thumbprint cookies, but the texture of the cookie made me think the dough would also be perfect for Danish jødekager (‘jødekager’, which translates as Jewish cakes, purportedly got their name because they resembled a type of cookie/biscuit that was traditionally sold in Jewish bakeries and shops in Copenhagen a few hundred years back), a crispy little cookie with cinnamon sugar and chopped almonds on top. I make these every year, each time using a different recipe because I can never find one I’m completely satisfied with. Until now, that is 🙂 I made some last year that I thought were perfectly lovely, but these are so much better, and so much quicker to make since there’s no faffing about with rolling pins and cookie cutters (even if I LOVE my cookie cutters – and my friend recently gave me a dinosaur-shaped one that I have yet to use!). I brought them to the office glühwein (or ‘gløgg’, in Danish) party this Thursday, and they all disappeared even though the table was almost completely covered in Christmas goodies, and I ended up taking about half of the thumbprint cookies back home with me (not a problem, they have now vanished). I think these would also make for really lovely snickerdoodles, were they to be rolled entirely in cinnamon sugar, and flattened slightly less than you would to make the jødekage-variation.

To make the jødekager, follow the instructions beneath the thumbrint cookie recipe. To make both, use half of the dough for the thumbprint cookies, and half for the jødekager (or however you want to split it, should you want to make both variations).

❄Thumbprint Christmas Cookies❄
Adapted slightly from Epicurious – makes about 4 dozen little cookies

  • 225 (1 cup/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 310 g (2 1/2 cups) flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 cup/120 ml jam
  • Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together on medium until nice and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, beating for another minute or so.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda (I don’t always have the patience for sifting, and whisking the ingredients together with a hand whisk usually means it’s ok to skip this step).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing with a silicone spatula until everything is just combined. I use my hands to press it together at the end.

Ideally, cover the dough and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I didn’t do this for the first batch though, and they were fine.

Roll little 1½ cm / ½-inch balls of dough between your hands, and distribute evenly on a non-stick baking tray, leaving at least a few cm between the cookies. Don’t make them too big, as they will expand slightly, and the bigger they are, the more they’ll spread out. You want it somewhere around the size of an unshelled hazelnut, if that makes sense! The original recipe calls for them to be a little bit bigger, about twice the size of mine, but I prefer them smaller, as I find that the bigger ones expand too much and make for a less satisfying cookie-to-jam ratio.

Press a nice, deep indentation into each cookie – I find it easiest to use my pinkie or ring finger, holding the cookie steady between the thumb and index fingers with one hand, and pressing down into the cookie with the pinkie finger of the other hand, giving it a little wiggle to gently expand the hole. Scoop about 1/4 tsp of jam into each ‘thumbprint’, just enough so that it peaks out from the indentation.

Bake for about 10 minutes at 175°C/350°F, taking them out when the edges begin to brown a bit. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. While one baking sheet is cooling, roll more little cookies out, place them onto a second baking sheet, make the thumbprint/fill with jam, and bake. Repeat this rotation about 4-5 times, until you run out of dough, each time letting the baking sheet cool before you place the fresh batch of unbaked cookies on it.

Collages12380715_10156417568615165_809082196_o12359515_10156417536750165_1275281540_oCollages

Dust lightly with icing sugar, if desired 🙂 keep the cookies in a cookie tin, separated by layers of baking parchment.

Jødekager

  • One/one half portion of the cookie dough above
  • Cinnamon sugar (I just mix unprocessed cane sugar with ground cinnamon in a cup, I don’t really measure!)
  • 25 g whole almonds, blanched and chopped roughly

Blanch the almonds: pour boiling water over them in a small bowl, cover them, and leave them for about 10 minutes, whilst the skins loosen. Then pour out the hot water, and squeeze the almonds out of their skins. Chop chop chop them up roughly.

Collages12356279_10156417537535165_1517144519_o-00212364052_10156417536210165_734340101_oCollages

Shape the cookie dough into little balls, about the size of an unshelled hazelnut/1-1½ cm in diameter. Place them on an ungreased, non-slip cookie sheet. Press the cookies flat with the ball of your hand, so they’re about 2-3 mm thick. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top in a sort of stripe through the middle, then press a few bits of almond on top. Bake for about 9 minutes 175°C/350°F, until they only just begin to brown around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The thumbprint cookies keep for a bit more than a week, but are best the first two days, after which they tend to get a bit stale and the jam loses it’s glossy sparkle. I’m thinking I may try to make them thinner, and coat the thumbprint in egg wash next time, this might allow for the cookies to keep for a bit longer without going stale (the thickness of the cookie, along with the moistness of the jam means that the cookie loses it’s ‘crunch’ after a few days).

I suspect the jødekager keep for much longer, since they’re crispier and don’t have the jam moistness ‘issue’. But I will report back 🙂

FYI – this dough is actually best used at room temperature, or it ‘cracks’ around the edges when you smush it down. If your dough is fridge-cold and you don’t have time to let it sit, I would roll it out into a log, and cut it as finely as possible, with a sharp, thin knife (for the jødekager, that is, for the thumbprint cookies it’s not a huge problem as you don’t need to flatten them quite as much). The dough will keep in the fridge for several days, but is easiest to work with on the day it’s made (and since it’s so quick to make, this isn’t really an issue, in my mind 🙂 ).

I’m also thinking of making these with nutella or something similar. Or maybe a dark chocolate variety, although they’d lack the chewiness of the jam, once cooked. Ooh, and I also think a tart cherry jam would be really lovely with these!

🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲

Advertisements

Caramel Almond Tart

IMG_6969

Adapted from David Lebovitz

I have long been a fan of David Lebovitz’ recipes – I’ve never not liked one of his cakes, and I’ve made quite a few of them. It was a while before I tried this one out though, because, although it doesn’t require very many ingredients, the recipe seemed a bit too fussy for my liking (make the pastry, chill the pastry, let the pastry come back to room temperature, put the pastry in tart pan, chill AGAIN, blardeeblardeeblar). It’s well worth giving it a go though, in spite of the slightly fussy pastry-process – it’s one of my favourite tarts! It’s a very sophisticated tart, too, very thin and not over the top sweet, although obviously very caramelly and slightly chewy 🙂

Now, while I know there is often a method to the madness, I have skipped the chilling part of the pastry making plenty of times, and it turned out completely ok. In Danish we would call this pastry ‘skør’, which means crazy, by which we mean it’s very flakey and crumbly, a pastry that breaks easily. Because the pastry shell is so fussy, last time I made this tart I made an extra pastry shell to put in the freezer – so today all I had to do was take the shell out of the freezer, bake it, make the almond-caramel filling, bake that, and voilà! Cake 🙂 🙂 (well, tart.)

I will say that I prefer the shell when it hasn’t been frozen; this time the pastry and the filling sort of merged a little, which I’ve never experienced before when making this. But it was still yummy.
(Also, you may well  have noticed from the pictures below that I forgot about my hot-running oven, and accidentally over-baked the pastry a tiny bit; luckily it still tasted good although on the slightly browner side 😉 ).

Alright! For the pastry you will need:

140 g / 1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
115 g / 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 tbsp cold water
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

250 ml / 1 cup heavy cream
200 g / 1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
80 g / 1 cup sliced almonds
2 tsp Amaretto

Mix the flour and sugar together, and add the butter, blending with your fingers until the mixture sort of resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the water and vanilla extract and press the dough together. Chill the dough thoroughly, wrapped in kitchen film, if you have time, and let it come back to room temperature before pressing it into a tart  pan about 26 cm in diameter, preferably one with a removable bottom, before chilling thoroughly again in the freezer (or do as I usually do, and press it directly into the tart pan before chilling it in the freezer – I’ve also once skipped this step and just put it directly in the oven, and it was fine).

Bake at 190 degrees Celsius / 375 degrees Fahrenheit / gas mark 5, for about 20 minutes until slightly golden (a little less than I did!).

IMG_6878

To make the filling, mix together cream, sugar and salt in a pot until the mixture begins to boil. When it starts to foam and bubble up, remove it from the heat and add the almonds and Amaretto.

IMG_6893 IMG_6899

Pour the filling into the pre-baked pastry shell, even it out a little, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 mins, until the caramel mixture is golden-brown. Whilst baking, every five to ten minutes or so sort of gently ‘tap’ the filling all over with the side of a silicone spatula, to prevent a crust from forming. Do this about three times, leave it alone for the last ten minutes or so to let the caramel set.

IMG_6930 IMG_6955

Make sure to check whether the side of the tart has gotten stuck (if so, gently loosen it with a vegetable peeler), before you take it out of the pan.

I’ve found that it keeps well for several days if there’s any left over! 🙂