I am reporting live from my old room, in my parent’s house, in my hometown, where I spend most of the time of my youth. Yes I am in Germany and visiting my family. And right now it’s in the middle of the night, way past midnight and I am wide awake, like I never had been all day. Welcome back jet lag, I didn’t miss you.
Just shortly before I arrived a great deal of snow fell and covered wide parts of Germany under a white blanket. As you might know I am living in the South and snow is a rare thing for me to see and I wasn’t aware how much I missed it. And it’s Christmas time, cookies, mulled wine and I am home, this can’t get much better (beside some sleep would be nice).
One nice part about Christmas is traditions, keeping old and making new ones. Traditions are more than a reliable or foul proof ritual, it is comforting and stress relieving. Things done a hundred times shouldn’t go wrong.
Although Heidesand is an old fashioned speak traditional recipe, it is a rediscovery for me. I lost track of this buttery cookies until recently. They caught my eyes while I had been skimming my recipe stack for Christmas deliciousness. I tend to overlook them, I have to admit, it’s not exactly what I would call an eye-catcher. I started with one test batch, just a small amount and the cookies went faster than I could pull my camera. I baked several batches since: some thank you cookies for a great person, some to nibble on, some as a sweet gift for a dinner host and some as a Sunday afternoon snack for my parents.
No doubt this cookie recipe is a great tradition and a keeper, slice-and-bake cookies are as easy as it can get. They are quickly put together that means less time in the kitchen, more time for all the fun Christmas stuff. And who can resist browned butter?
heidesand – German icebox cookies
- 250 g / 1 cup + 1 ½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 345 g / 2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 30 g / ¼ cups corn starch or potato starch
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- 2-3 Tbsp. milk
- ¼ tsp. almond extract
- 200 g / 1 cup packed brown sugar or granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar for rolling
- In a saucepan over medium high heat, add butter and cook, stirring frequently (it may foam) until you see small brown specks at the bottom of the pan. If it smells tasty and nutty, remove from heat. Strain and let cool until solid but not firm.
- In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat the browned butter and sugars until fluffy. Add milk and almond extract and mix. Add flour, starch and salt and mix slowly until just combined using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or knead with your hands. The dough could be a little crumbly but hold together when pressed. Add more milk if it’s too crumbly, one tablespoon at a time. Use your hands to knead the dough, than divide dough into four parts. Roll each into logs about 3,5 cm / 1.5 inch thick. Wrap each log with foil and refrigerate for at least one hour or other night.
- Preheat your oven to 200 C / 400 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Slightly moisten each logs with water and roll in granulated sugar, cut in ½ cm / 1/5 inch slices, place on baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.
- Cookies are soft at first but get firmer while cooling. Place on a cookie rack and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
European-style butter content more fat, which really makes a difference in this recipe. If you use sweet cream butter, add more milk while kneading to receive a smoother dough.
I tried corn starch and potato starch and both worked great. If you don’t have neither, use the same amount all-purpose flour.