Vaniliekranse – Vanilla wreaths
Christmas over here is a time of cookies. Crazy amounts of cookies. These are about as christmasy as it gets over here. A wonderful juxtaposition of sweet and slightly savory, crunchy and slightly chewy. And they yield a shitload of cookies for not all that much work. This is my standard recipe, but a lot of families will have their own that’s been handed down for ages. I’m sure HappyHat’s is different and he might share it if you ask him nicely.
Note: When possible, measurements are by weight. Also this recipe freezes well in its unbaked state, so you can make plenty of dough well in advance.
These are fairly basic shortbreads that get their special look from a specialized tool. I use a huge machine, powered by windmills and solar panels, and equipped with a space-age device that makes magic (basically a faceplate formed like a star).
- 60g / 2.1 oz by weight almonds, skinned and ground fine. Alternately same amount of store-bought almond flour.
- 250 g / 0.55 lb flour
- ½ tsp Hartshorn / Baker’s ammonia / Ammonium Carbonate. You can substitute baking powder but know that the fluffiness will suffer.
- 125g / 4.4 oz by wt Caster Sugar
- 1 ½ vanilla pod
- 200g / 7 oz by wt cold butter
- 1 egg yolk
- A pinch of salt
Skin your almonds (see the Brunkager - Brown cakes recipe for instructions) and blitz them in your blender until you have a slightly coarse flour.
Sieve together your flour and hartshorn (or appropriate substitute). Mix in sugar, almond flour.
Seed your vanilla pods. Mix the seeds in the flour. Use your de-seeded pods appropriately. I chose a Conference/Doyenne de Comice/Concorde/Vodka infusion and a jar of caster sugar as appropriate receptacles for mine:
Cube up your cold butter and mix it in along with everything else. Make sure to mix it thoroughly, or you’ll get little pockets of butter and little pockets of vanilla seeds.
Mix salt and egg yolk (dissolving the salt in the yolk) and mix it in to the dough. Wrap it up nice and cozy and let it rest for a few hours.
Oven: on! 200 c / 390 F. Now for the heavy fancy machinery…
Run the dough through your “My Very First Tiny Sweeney Todd Mincing Machine” (TM). Break/cut the pieces that the monstrosity has regurgitated into strips around 3 inches long and form them into little rings or wreaths. Depending on how anal you are, your cookies might be more consistant in size and more evenly spaced than mine are. I'm not very. Bake the vanilla wreaths for 7-8 mins. Let them cool off on a rack.
IMPORTANT NOTE: IF you are able to get hartshorn, you should. I tested, and it does make a difference. However, there’s a caveat here. At some point, when the baker’s ammonia starts to do its thing fluffing up the cookies nice and crispy, some hellish chemical process goes on and ammonia gases are released. These don’t smell nice. They smell like drain cleaner or something similar. This does not mean that your kitchen is now a WW I foxhole being hit by enemy nervegas, it just means you need to open your window for a second. The cookies will still be absolutely delicious – better than with baking powder.
I found two sources for hartshorn / ammonium bicarb:
No luck with the potash yet.
swexley said: Potash, either potassium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate, is sold in brewing or winemaking supply stores. It's used to lower the acidity in the brew. The brew shops also sell cardamom and other spices used as flavorings for beer at a much lower price than any grocery or food supply place. Cardamon seeds were $3.00 for 2 ounces, and the potassium bicarbonate was $3.00 for 6 ounces.