Dec 25, 2014

Holiday cookies for the Portuguese, Part 2

Feliz natal, everyone. Around this time of year, I think of various friends and family members with their particular repertoires of seasonal cookies and other treats, which are always something I look forward to and tell myself I'll learn to make one day. This year I decided to try my hand at a favorite German cookie, which is a bit like a shortbread with its high butter content and low sugar. There are, of course, a number of recipes available online, but I wanted to try one I've enjoyed intermittently for 24 years now, and when I asked for it, this is what I got:
Heidesand: 250 g Butter schmelzen, etwas bräunen, wieder fest werden lassen. 100g Zucker und etwas Vanillezucker damit verrühren. Ein Ei, zwei gestrichene Teelöffel Backpulver und 400g Mehl hinzugeben, verkneten, kalt stellen. Rollen formen, in Zucker wälzen, in Scheiben schneiden. Ca. 15 Minuten backen bei 180°C.
Heidesand: Melt 250 g butter and brown it a bit, then let it solidify again. Cream in 100 grams of sugar and a bit of vanilla sugar. Then add an egg, two level teaspoons of baking powder and 400 g of flour; knead the dough and chill it. Form the dough into "logs" and roll these in sugar, then cut off rounds of the dough and bake them at 180°C for about 15 minutes.
I was a bit suspicious of that baking time in my oven and reduced it by several minutes, which was still too long. The first successful batch of cookies baked for about 9 minutes and probably would have been better with a bit less time.

Adjusted for US measurement units, the recipe would be
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
½ cup sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 level teaspoons baking powder
3 cups white wheat flour

Melt and brown the butter somewhat, then let it cool and cream it together with the sugar, add the vanilla flavoring and egg. Then add the flour, sifting it in with the baking powder, and form the crumbly dough into rolls, which can be rolled in sugar if desired (or sugar can be sprinkled on the cut cookies before baking). Wrap these in parchment paper or other suitable material and chill the rolls in the refrigerator or freeze them. Cut off slices from the rolls and bake these at 350°F (180°C) for about 8 or 9 minutes, depending on the conditions in your oven.
I used self-rising flour for a little "boost" and carmelized the sugar, though not completely to a liquid state (throwing in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon in the process), so after it cooled I had to crush and grind it in a mortar. This resulted in cookies with an interesting speckled appearance. I also didn't bother adding extra sugar in most cases, as I prefer these cookies less sweet. They are a little dry, and crumble like sand into one's mouth when bitten.
No matter how much leavening agent is added to the mix, these cookies will not rise much due to all the butter and can be spaced closely together on the tray. This recipe is not very sweet, with about half the amount of sugar found in other versions, so those with more of a sweet tooth could adjust the sugar content accordingly.

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