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Author Notes: What makes a recipe a family favourite? Why have my family baked these particular cookies at Christmas for maybe a hundred years? I think it's their simple subtlety; butter-crumbly, lightly sweet, a mystical custardy dimension from the cooked egg yolks, and a satisfying crunch from the sparkling sugar on top. These are cookies you can eat through the entire holyday season (or a full life) without getting bored.
My Norwegian great-grandmother passed this recipe on to her three daughters. As a child I helped my grandmother bake them so many times, and when she passed away three years ago her recipe came to me. Since then I haven’t had the heart to bake them on my own. Until last week, when I finally gave them a try. It was an emotional experience. Bringing Her Cookies back somehow makes it clear, that we will never get her back. But they also made me think about how serving these cookies to the rest of the familiy this Christmas, will be a perfect way to remember her together.
Baking them solo was also a bit of an eye opener: Equal amount of butter and flour! And enriched with extra egg yolks - No wonder these cookies are so good. They clearly hail from a time when you were meant to eat just one satisfying cookie not the entire jar.
By the way - the name is a bit of a mystery. (Gosh, I do go on, but that's what nostalgia's all about.) Why is a Norwegian cookie named after the German capital? Do you have any clues? —Lise
Makes 35 – 40 wreaths
Berliner kranse (Berlin wreaths) Norwegian butter cookies
eggs. The more deeply golden the yolks are, the more beautifully yellow the cookies are going to be, so try to use good free range or organic eggs.
grams flour (0.55 lb or 2 cups). Low protein cake flour is best.
grams unsalted butter (0.55 lb or 1.1 cups). I tried cultured butter for my first batch, and the tangy flavour is extremely nice, and probably close to the type of butter my great grandmother would have used.
grams sugar (0.2 lb or 0.45 cup)
White sparkling sugar or Swedish pearl sugar
- Sift flour and salt together. Cut the butter into large cubes and let is rest in a warm place to soften slightly.
- Boil two eggs until just hardboiled (10 min). Peel and remove the yolks. Mash yolkes into the sugar with a fork until well mixed. (If you're like me, you’ll snack on the leftover whites while you ).mix the dough. Separate the yolks and whites of the 2 raw eggs. Save the whites for later. Mix the raw yolkes into the yolk/sugar batter.
- Work the butter until soft. I prefer to use a wooden spoon to beat and mash it, but you could use a mixer at a low setting. The butter should still be slightly cool - not melted, just pliable and creamy.
- Mix 1/3 of the flour into the egg yolk batter then mix in 1/3 of the softened butter. Continue adding the rest of the flour and butter in batches, alternating between them. Mix thoroughly until there is no visible butter left in the dough.
- Divide the dough into four equal sized balls and let them rest for about 2 hours in the fridge. You can rest the dough over night, but that does make it a bit more difficult to roll out afterwards.
- Dust the kitchen counter lightly with flour. Remove one ball of dough form the fridge. Using your hands, gently roll it into a long sausage about as thick as your little finger. Cut into pieces about 10 cm long (4 inches). Shape each piece into a circle with slightly overlapping ends. Let the wreaths firm up in the fridge, while you roll out and shape the three other balls of dough. If the dough gets to soft to work with return it to the fridge for a few min. to rest.
- Heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Place the (raw) egg white in a flat plate and the sparkling sugar in another. Dip one side of the wreaths in the egg white and then into the sparkling sugar. Place on a sheet pan covered with baking paper. They only spread a little.
- Bake for approx. 10 min. A hundred years ago, my great grandmother would have considered it a badge of good housekeeping, that the cookies came out of the oven with no browning. But I actually like them with just a bit of colour on the bottom.
- Let the cookies sit for a few min. on the sheet to firm up, then carefully move them to a wire rack to cool. Keep them in a tightly sealed cookie jar – they're even better after a week, and they will keep for at least a month.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Holiday Cookie from Anywhere in the World