Early December marks the beginning of a Christmas cookie-baking marathon in our family. My mother and I carry on the long tradition. And even though we can’t be together for baking sessions as we live too far away from each other, we constantly exchange recipes, photos, tips and tricks by messages all along this period. We got this tradition from my paternal grandmother (originated from Alsace, eastern French region close to Germany). My grandfather and she used to come each year for Christmas by car, a little plum-coloured Renault 5, whose trunk was full of XXL-sized metal boxes filled with home-made Christmas cookies. This sensational arrival marked the beginning of the festivities.
Here in Denmark, December invites everyone to get ready for Christmas. In the supermarkets, shelves are filling with food traditions and one celebrates Christmas everywhere. At work or with some friends, we enjoy a julefrokost (Christmas lunch); at daycare, children and parents are invited for a julehygge (untranslatable: kind of cosy Christmas gathering), churches open their doors for a julekoncert (get it?). Mind you, the greyness of winter has spread over the city, and when by chance we have a decent weather, night falls at 3:30 pm. So, all in all we’d better light up a few candles, switch into a wool-socks-and-plaid mode and stock up for cold days. Between that and trying to keep up cycling in such a lousy weather, I chose my side.
Each year since we live here, I try a new Danish Christmas recipe, and this year I set my mind on vaniljekranse (vanilla crowns). These circular and crenelated-shaped biscuits are a must for Christmas in Denmark. Careful! They are completely addictive. I already baked 4 batches (what the story doesn’t tell BTW is who ate them). So I adjusted the recipe and I finally found out the right amount of sugar – so that they are crunchy but not cloying, nor giving diabetes; the right amount of butter – so that they are “shortbread-ish” without having to use the whole pack of butter; and the right quantity of almonds to have the taste without covering the vanilla. On top of that, these vaniljekranse are very easy and quick to bake.
The recipe of Vaniljekranse, vanilla crowns
For circa 50 big or 100 small Christmas cookies
Preparation time: 10 min • Cooking time: 5-10 min per batch
- ½ vanilla pod (or a whole one for a stronger taste)
- 160 g of sugar
- 200 g of soft salted butter (or 200 g of soft butter + a pinch of salt)
- 1 egg
- 100 g of ground almonds
- 250 g of plain flour
- Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds with a knife.
- Mix the seeds together with the sugar and soft butter, until the vanilla seeds are completely separated.
- Add the egg to the mix, and then add the ground almonds and plain flour.
- Fill in a piping bag with a star nozzle (Ø 8 mm for small cookies or 12 mm for bigger ones*) and form circles on a baking tray covered with baking paper. The dough is a bit firm, so you have to get the hang of it to make regular circles.
- Bake your vaniljekranse in the oven preheated at 200°C for about 5-10 min, until they are slightly golden. Keep an eye on them while baking, because the cooking time can vary depending on the oven and the size of your cookies.
- Let the vaniljekranse cool down on the baking tray, and then store them in a metal box.
*Vaniljekranse are usually made with the biggest star nozzle (Ø 12 mm) but a Danish friend of mine advised me to make them smaller, and she was right, it’s even crunchier.
Have you baked Christmas cookies this year? What are your favourite ones? Where are they from?