Danish Christmas Cookies (Brunkager)
Whether we're ready or not, Christmas is almost here! I'm looking forward to spending the day with my Mum, Aunty & Uncle, and cousins. My Aunty and Uncle are amazing cooks so we're always spoilt for choice at their place. I remember one Christmas, my Uncle made a Gordon Ramsay recipe for pork, apricot and pistachio stuffing. It was absolutely delicious and we all had to have seconds.
This Christmas is extra special to me this year. I feel extremely thankful that things have turned out the way they have with my Mum's recovery. She suffered a life-threatening stroke back in August. I was in New York at the time, and got the first flight I could back to New Zealand. That flight was the longest one of my life, not knowing what was going to happen, or even if my Mum would still recognise me when she woke up from the induced coma. There must have been a few angels around us that day and in the following months. After several operations, my Mum is now doing extremely well, and has almost returned back to her old self. Just 2 months ago things were looking a lot worse, but the last operation where she had a shunt put in made all the difference. Modern medicine really is amazing and I can't thank the neurosurgery team at Auckland Hospital enough for giving me my Mum back. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
I got the idea for these cookies from a bakery we frequent in Howick. They had samples of their Danish cookies for people to try and when I got home I wanted to create my own version. In Denmark the cookies are known as Brunkager. They have a wonderful spice flavour similar to gingerbread, and are studded with almonds or other nuts. I found several traditional recipes online and they all contained a leavening known in Denmark as 'Potash'. We don't have that here in New Zealand so I used baking soda instead. Dark brown sugar works best for this recipe, as it gives the cookies a rich caramel-like flavour which marries well with the spices. These cookies are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee but be warned: you can't stop at just one!
Yield: 80-100 cookies
*Recipe adapted from Nordic Food Living.
250 grams (9 oz) butter, cubed
250 g (9 oz) brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup or honey
4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 cup (140 grams) whole almonds
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cold water
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and brown rice syrup (or honey). Bring to a boil then remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and flour. Mix in the almonds.
- In a small bowl, add the baking soda and water. Stir to dissolve.
- Pour the butter and baking soda mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a spatula to combine then knead it well with your hands.
- Place the dough into an oven dish 7x7 inches, lined with parchment paper. Make sure the dough is an even layer. Leave the dough to cool. Once at room temperature, cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper. Leave to rest for 12 hours or overnight.
- The next day, the dough should be solid. Carefully lift the dough out of the pan by holding the ends of the parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 5-6 logs and then into thin slices.
- Place the cookie slices on an oven tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius) for about 10-12 minutes.
- Transfer cookies to a cake rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Cookies will keep for 3-4 weeks if kept in a sealed container.
- Slice the cookies on the thin side so they crisp up after baking. You may want to cut a few slices and then bake them to see if you’ve got the right thickness before slicing all of the dough.
- If you don't want to use almonds, pistachios or hazelnuts also work well.
- Take the cookies out of the oven when the sides start to crisp. The cookies will seem soft at first but they crisp up as they cool.
- Don't let the dough sit for much longer than 12 hours. Use a serrated bread knife to slice the cookie dough. It wasn’t difficult to cut through the nuts after the dough sat out for about 12 hours but it is much more difficult when left for 24 hours (the dough will crumble).