I spent this past Thanksgiving with my family, and in addition to eating the same dishes we do every year, I helped my mom get ready for Christmas. Mostly because it just wouldn't get done otherwise, and I do really enjoy decorating since I don't yet have a permanent home of my own.
But you're thinking, "Brianne, what do garland and ornaments have to do with MyRecipes, and well, food?" Well, baking season starts at my house when the decorations come out! And that means I get to make (and then devour) one of my all-time favorite cookies -- Berlinerkranser.
This word can be translated to Berlin wreaths or little wreaths, and despite the German reference, this is actually a traditional Norwegian treat. Why? I have no clue! I've tried researching this but haven't found a satisfactory answer. My best guess is that a similar type of cookie originated in Germany, somehow made it to Norway, and this is the result.
Strange origins aside, above all other traditions, this is our ulimate holiday family tradition. My dad goes on high alert as Christmas approaches for the day that my mom and I make these. I swear he has a built-in Berlinerkranser detector as he is always present when the first tray comes hot out of the oven.
These cookies are rich, buttery, and soft. I can't think of another cookie that I've had that compares. Maybe soft shortbread? And they are a lot of work, but that never seems to take away from the joy I get rolling them out, dipping them in sugar and waiting for them to come out of the oven. Seeing them cooling on the counter, I can sigh and think, "Christmas is finally here."
What about you? What holiday foods are a tradition in your family?
Like so many other recipes, each family seems to have its own version, but this is the one we always make. I've included some insider tips to ease your baking and you should give yourself two days to make them. On the first day you should make the dough, refrigerate overnight, and make the cookies the next day. This recipe also halves and doubles easily. Two sets of hands also makes the work go faster.
Yield: For the size of these cookies, you'll get roughly 18 dozen cookies. I don't think you can make them any smaller but you can certainly make them bigger!
4 hard cooked egg yolks
4 egg whites (you'll use 2 in the dough and save the other 2 whites for dipping the cookies)
4 raw egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 lb. (4 sticks) butter
6 cups flour
colored sugar (red and green are perfect for Christmas)
Tip: A hand mixer or a stand mixer will be very useful!
1. Put your butter out on the counter and let it soften to room temperature while you're getting everything else ready.
2. Hardboil your eggs.
3. While your eggs are cooking, measure your flour into a large bowl. This way you won't accidentally miscount as you add it later, cup by cup.
4. Go ahead and cream the butter and sugar and set it aside.
5. When the hardboiled eggs are done take out the yolks and save the whites for snacking or discard.
6. Place the yolks in a bowl and with a fork, mash them until they resemble a soft powder. You want them as fine as possible at this stage with no big lumps of yolk; this ensures a smooth cookie.
7. Add the raw yolks to the mashed yolks and blend well.
8. Add the egg mixture to the sugar and butter. Blend well with a mixer (hand or stand).
9. Pull out your 2 egg whites. You will alternate adding the whites and flour.If you do a full recipe, you'll alternate each ingredient 6 times (1/6 of egg whites, then 1 cup flour, repeat).
10. So add a little of the whites to the dough and mix well.
11. Add a cup of flour to the dough and mix well. Continue alternating egg whites and flour until they're gone. You may need to mix the dough with your hands on the last one or two cups of flour as the dough will become very heavy and thick.
12. Now it's time to test the dough! If you haven't done so already, mix it a little with your hands. When the dough's ready, it will not stick to your fingers at all, or break (bottom of photo) when you pull a hunk out of the dough. It will be smooth when you pinch it or try to roll it in a ball (top of photo).
Another good test is to take a hunk and try to roll it into a pencil shape. If you can't or it's breaking, add more flour.
13. If the dough is still breaking, add 1/8 cup of flour, mix, and test it again. Continue this procedure until the dough is smooth, doesn't stick to your hands, and/or rolls well.
14. Leaving the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Making the cookies:
15. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pull out the reserved egg whites and colored sugar. Place each item in its own bowl for dipping.
16. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit for 10 minutes or so. Use a butter knife to cut out a palm-sized hunk of dough.
17. Work the dough briefly with your hands to warm it slightly. It's easier to work with when it's a little colder, but you'll get the feel for how warm you need to get it so it will roll.
18. Roll the dough with your palms and fingers into a pencil-sized rolls, no longer than 12 inches. You can pick the thickness you like, but just make sure all the cookies are consistent.
19. Take one end of the dough roll and pull it back and over the top of its "tail." This forms the wreath shape. For the size we make, you'll end up using about three inches of dough.
20. Using your butter knife, cut the cookie and set aside. Make up as many wreaths as you can with the rolled dough.
21. When you've got enough cookies (36-49 to a standard cookie sheet), dip the tops of the cookies into the egg whites, then into the sugar of your choice. You can do solid color, or half of the cookie in one sugar color and the other half in the other sugar.
22. Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. These cookies do not spread or rise, so you can cram them in.
23. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. You'll know they're done when the bottoms and sides are just starting to brown.
24. Let them cool for a few minutes before moving them to paper towels to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.