It’s that time, friends! The glorious last few days before Christmas and the end of 2015, when we can all legitimately start to unplug and eat way too many carbs and bake our faces off. Today I had my best friend in the whole wide world over for lunch with her two kids and we spent a very stressful two hours refereeing and making sure nobody lost an eye or fell down the stairs or whatever, but there was coffee and good food and a lot of laughs and she left me with a tin of the most beautifully decorated cookies. Plus no one actually broke a limb or anything, so that’s a plus. I think we might make a tradition of it–a lunch and playdate in the days before Christmas while the kids are on school breaks–now that we’re finally both living in the same city together. Although maybe next time we’ll spike our La Croix; kids during Christmas week are brutal, you guys. WAY TOO AMPED.
But luckily I had some Heirloom Sugar Cookies on hand to give us at least five lovely, uninterrupted minutes lunching and gossiping. Those cookies, of course, have made it onto this site, into this book, and all up on my Instagram for years in a row–they are simply the best I’ve ever had and will ever make. But! In the effort of branching out and being attracted to the simplest, quickest baking recipes around, especially those with a charming story from breathtakingly gorgeous cookbooks, I’ve also managed to make two batches of Finnish Sugar Cookies from Trine Hahnemann’s completely perfect book, Scandinavian Baking.
This book does a couple things: it transports you with it’s recipes and stories, dazzles you with the photography and design, and makes a damn fine gift for the bakers in your life, if you’re still running around like a crazy person finishing up your holiday shopping. (There’s a whole utterly enchanting chapter on Christmas baking, people!). There are so many recipes in its pages that I’m looking forward to trying in the upcoming year in every season, but for now, there’s lots of these lemony, buttery little cookies to enjoy. And the best part is, it’s really a dump-and-stir operation, with no portioning of the dough required. You really just sort of form the dough into a rectangular plaque and cut it into teeny blocks with a big knife or bench scraper. They get even better in flavor and texture a few days after baking, making them the ultimate in cookie tin gifting.
And sugar cookies aside, paging through the rest of the book, it becomes abundantly clear: It’s really not fair, how phenomenal Scandinavian life is. They’ve got incredible design sense, turn out loads of supermodels, and have some of the most intriguing recipes and baking techniques I’ve seen in ages, just to name a few. We’re doing it all wrong, America. #2016 goals.
Happy holidays, everyone! I’ll see you back here next year.
Finnish Sugar Cookies
from Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Baking
Makes about 40 cookies
You’ll have the best luck if you weigh your ingredients for this recipe–when you use cups, it’s way too easy to measure too much flour into the mix, which will make for dry cookies (if you do use cups, spoon the flour lightly into the cup until overflowing, then level off with the back of a knife, to ensure a lighter cup of flour). If you can get a European-style butter, like Plugra, which has a higher butterfat content, you won’t regret it.
Regular lemons are called for, but man, Meyer lemons would be amazing here if you can get them. Orange or lime zest instead would be fun, too. I like to use blonder, organic cane sugar/evaporated cane juice for dredging the top of the dough, because it’s just a touch more coarse and sparkly than regular granulated sugar. Lastly, use unwaxed organic citrus. It’s infinitely more delicious.
2 cups (9 ounces/255 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces/75 grams) granulated sugar, plus more for the top (I like coarser, more sparkly organic cane–see note)
14 tablespoons (7 ounces/200 grams) unsalted butter, chopped
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg, well-beaten with a pinch of fine sea salt
Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in the sugar, butter and lemon zest, first by rubbing with your fingers and then by mixing with a wooden spoon, until the dough is smooth and firm. Wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
Position oven rack to upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap, and roll it out to a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Remove the top layer of parchment or plastic wrap.
Brush the dough with the egg wash and dredge sugar densely on top. Carefully roll over it with a rolling pin, so the sugar is pressed slightly into the dough to make the crisp topping to these cookies. Cut into small blocks, each about 1 inch by 3/4 of an inch. Place evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheets, about 20 to a sheet. Bake until golden at the edges, about 18 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for two to three weeks.
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