Swedish bakery cookies for Eagle County bakers
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Editor’s Note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Simplicity at its best, that describes this little cookie. It’s my rendition of one found in many Swedish bakeries, where the pastries are first rate. It has a tender, crumbly texture and an appealing vanilla and almond taste, with a pleasing accent provided by sour cherry preserves. It’s a lovely, understated little gem, perfect on a holiday tray, served with coffee, or accompanying ice cream or mousse for dessert.
It comes together quickly and requires few ingredients. Because of that, be sure to use the very best: good unsalted butter, fresh nuts, pure vanilla and high quality preserves.
Potato starch, (also known as potato flour), which I use when making this cookie, can be found in the baking section of most grocery stores. Don’t think about replacing it with more all-purpose flour; using it, or cornstarch, is essential to the delicate crumb that makes this cookie a success.
1 2/3 cups of flour
1/2 cup of potato starch or cornstarch
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
12 tablespoons of unsalted butter (3/4 cup), cold
1 large egg, separated
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 tablespoons of finely chopped almonds
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of sour cherry preserves
Place the flour, potato starch or corn starch, and powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine these dry ingredients well. Cut the cold butter into thin slices, add them to the food processor bowl, and pulse until the mixture looks like course meal. Add the yolk of the egg and the vanilla and pulse until large, moist clumps of dough are formed. Don’t process until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Dump the dough onto a sheet of waxed paper or Saran Wrap and gently knead it into a disc that is about six inches across. Handle the dough as little as possible; overworking it will make it tough.
To make by hand: Dice the butter and let it come to room temperature. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, potato or corn starch, and powdered sugar). Add the diced butter and mix gently with your fingertips, a pastry blender, or two forks until it looks like course meal. Combine the egg yolk and vanilla in a small bowl, add it to the dough and gently knead until the dough comes together. Form it into a six-inch disc. Handle the dough as little as possible; overworking it will make it tough.
For both methods: Wrap the disc of dough in the waxed paper or saran wrap and refrigerate for about an hour, until it is firm enough to roll.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Reynold’s Release no-stick aluminum foil. In a small bowl, beat the egg white until it is frothy. Combine the three tablespoons of finely chopped almonds and the three tablespoons of granulated sugar, mix well, and pour onto a small plate.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, place it between two sheets of waxed paper or saran wrap, and roll until it is just slightly less than a quarter of an inch thick.
Remove the top sheet of paper or wrap and cut out cookies with a two inch cookie cutter. Brush some egg white on the top of each cookie and dip the top in the almond-sugar mixture or sprinkle the mixture over the egg-white. Place the cookies on the prepared cookie sheet, about half an inch apart. Make a small, shallow indentation in the center of each cookie. (I used the back of the bowl of a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon to do this; you could also use the end of the handle of a wooden spoon.) Place the cookies, on the cookie sheet, in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until they are quite firm to the touch.
Remove the cookies from the freezer. Fill the indentation of each cookie with a dab of sour cherry preserves. Don’t overfill them or the preserves will run when heated in the oven. Bake them for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they are firm and just starting to color around the edges and on the bottom. Remove them from the oven and, after about 4 minutes, slide them from the pan to a rack to cool completely. Once cool, store the cookies air-tight, for several days or freeze them. If you want to serve them at their very best, you can refresh them after storage or defrosting by placing them in a 325 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Check before serving to see if the sour cherry preserves have dried out; if they have, add another dab of preserves to each cookie.
Makes approximately 36 2-inch cookies.
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.