17 December 2010

BAKERY / Bageri: Danish Spice Cookies (Brunkager)

Little Danish Holiday Custom: 
If you are in Denmark during the holidays and are offered a traditional Christmas cookie
(Pebernødder / Brunkager), you must accept it.
Otherwise, tradition states...you ruin the spirit of Christmas!
*

The traditional cookie that every household in Denmark bakes for the holidays is known as 'brun-kager' and literally translates to 'brown cookie' - but, are known also as Danish Spice Cookies.

Every year...a part of me awaits their addicting smell and taste. With their annual arrival, the sweet smell of these traditional holiday cookie bring back the wonderful memories of my Danish childhood. We would know that the holidays were right around the corner when fresh scented aromas of cinnamon and spices would fill the air from our bedstemor's (grandmother) kitchen. She would fill many a huge tin full of these delicious morsels - and both young and old alike would raid these over the coming days before Christmas!

The recipe I present here is a combination of the one she used to make plus a little from that of our great-grandmother from Skjold in Jylland along with a little from our mother and mine. Thus, what you get here is a modern hybrid of multiple generations of cookie making.
One of my favorite parts of this recipe is  like a chemical experiment with wonderful froth bubbling forth from the combination of ingredients. Don’t worry this is normal and exactly, what you want.

Make these for the holidays and serve up with a nice warm cup of gløgg!
 This recipe was originally comes from the blog ‘Water from the Vine’ and is reposted here with some minor updates and images.

DANISH SPICE COOKIES (Brunekager)
Makes 4 dozen

INGREDIENTS (Ingredienser)
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Please Note: Measurements shown in both English and Metric.
spsk=large soup spoon  tsp=demitasse spoon
EnglishMetricENGLISHDANSK
DOUGH / Dej
5oz125gDark Molasses Mørk Sirup
2/3c125gBaker’s Sugar or Powdered Sugar Puddersukker
2/3c125gButterSmør
2-1/4c250gFlourMel
2tbsp2spskCinnamon,
fresh ground
Kanel
1tsp 1tskCloves,
fresh ground
Nelliker
1/4tsp1/4tskAllspice , groundAllspice
3tbsp 3spskRaisin or Currant Water*Rosinvand*
1tbsp1spskBaking Soda Natron
1c75gAlmonds, slices(crushed)Mandler
1med1medLemon Zest**Citronskal**
1large1largeOrange Zest**Appelsinerskal**

DECORATION / Pynt
Pearl Sugar (Perlsukker) or Almond slivers (Mandler)
*How to make raisin water: Night before add 1/8 cup raisins to 1 cup water. Water should look brownish from the overnight soak...or simply use plain water, if you do not have anything to soak.
**Recommend using organic citrus fruit when using their zest.
 
DIRECTIONS
PREPARE DOUGH MIXTURE:
1:  Make the 3:1 ratio raisin/currant water mixture the night before (if possible). Otherwise, let stand at least one hour before using. Rehydrating dried fruit with a liquid allows the fruit to swell and release their flavors.
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2: Using a stockpot or large deep pot, melt Molasses, Sugar and Butter together over medium heat until butter melts.  Stir thoroughly until mixture is completely dissolved. Be careful not to burn yourself as the heated mixture can easily burn your skin.
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3: Add Baking Soda to raisin/currant water and blend well.
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Zest both the lemon and the orange and mince fine. Set aside.
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Finely chop the almond slices.
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Then, add this to the warm molasses mixture. (Don't worry the mixture will froth and change increase in quantity as chemical composition changes.)
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Add finely chopped almonds and zests - and mix thoroughly. Let mixture cool until able to touch without burning yourself.
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4: If using a stockpot, allow the molasses mixture to cool in it or if using a large deep pot, you might want to transfer the molasses mixture to a large heat resistant mixing bowl.
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While mixture is cooling, measure out and prepare the spices.IMG_9311
Measure out the flour and mix in the the spices thoroughly and set aside.
Once molasses mixture is cool enough to handle, it’s time to mix everything together. If you used a large stockpot, then proceed. If not, transfer your molasses mixture to a large mixing bowl.
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Next, add a little flour at a time stirring with a spoon to form a nice smooth ball.
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5: SHAPE: Here you have two options:
OPTION ONE, you can roll the dough out on a lightly floured board and use a cookie cutter.
OPTION TWO, you can make them into thick pølser (sausage) and form them between parchment paper/plastic into square logs and let them rest in the refrigerator for minimum 4-6 hours until firm enough to cut.
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(Note: The rolls can be stored in the fridge for week.) Cut the pølserne (sausages) with a sharp knife about an 1/4" thick.

6: BAKING: Preheat an oven at 325°F at 12-15 or until golden brown. Note: depending on your location and weather conditions, pretest the timing of batch and check time at 8-10 minutes as time may vary.

Lay the cookies on a cookie sheet with parchment paper or on a reusable silicon baking sheet.
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Decorate with pearl sugar or a small almond sliver….heck, or both!
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Bake according to the above directions. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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Taste best when served warm...and with gløgg!
These holiday morsels can last a couple of weeks in a nice air-tight container, unless a hungry appetite finds them.

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