Hi there friends! It’s officially the holiday season.
When did that happen?
I feel like it was mid-summer when I went to bed last night, and I woke up in early December.
So, to try to force myself into the December/holiday spirit, I decided some holiday cookies were in order.
I have a healthy cookbook collection, including some old historic cookbooks, but usually when I’m looking for recipe inspiration I tend to leave the cookbooks on the shelves to collect dust and look to the world wide web instead.
When I was trying to find a new cookie recipe for the holidays this year, I started poking around online at first, but then I remembered a book my mom gave me for Christmas a couple years ago. I’m sure that by now you know this about me already, but when it comes to holiday baked goods, I friggin love an old school German recipe, especially one with a healthy dose of spice in it. The book is titled, appropriately enough, Classic German Baking. There’s even a “Christmas Favorites” section, so this was a no brainer.
I can’t tell you how much I love this book. I could just flip through the pages and drool for hours. I did, in fact, just a few days ago!
The recipe I chose actually originates from Switzerland, but is very traditional and well loved in Germany. The main ingredients in these cookies are finely ground raw almonds and dark chocolate, with a few additions to bind the dough together and add a bit of flavor. The dough is surprisingly simple to bring together if you have a food processor, but without one, I think it’d be pretty difficult to grind the almonds & chocolate finely enough.
By the way, while raw almonds and dark chocolate aren’t exactly difficult to find, they can be pretty pricey depending on where you go. I just want to mention that Trader Joes is a really great source for affordable nuts and chocolate. Three cheers for the Pound Plus bar! You’re welcome.
Rolling the dough out and cutting out the shapes is a little more challenging than making the dough, but no more difficult than any other rolled cutout cookies.
This is a pretty sticky dough though, so my biggest piece of advice here is to be generous with the sugar you’ll use to keep the dough from sticking to your work surface. If the dough is sticking to your counter, it’ll be almost impossible to pick up your cutouts and transfer them to your baking sheet without messing up their shape. I used plenty of sugar before rolling out the dough, and once it was rolled out to the thickness I wanted, I gently lifted the dough to make sure it wasn’t sticking anywhere before I started cutting out my shapes. If it does stick in places, try to gently release it from the counter and add more sugar before you start cutting out your shapes.
Sugar is used to prevent sticking rather than flour because, oddly enough for an old world European recipe, these cookies are actually gluten free! Woot woot.
Once you’ve finished cutting out your shapes you can totally recombine the dough and re-roll it, but it will get sweeter every time since you are using sugar to keep it from sticking. I noticed that by the time I’d recombined and rerolled a third or fourth time, the cookies started to spread a little more in the oven from the extra sugar.
When it comes to the cookie cutters you’ll use, the author says that they’re traditionally cut into heart shapes, but if you want to do something else you should try to avoid any shapes with a lot of fine detail because the dough is too coarse and sticky to hold a detailed shape. The dough doesn’t really spread very much in the oven, but it’s just too hard to get this coarse sticky dough out of a cookie cutter with a lot of fine detail without messing it up. Even the snowflake cutter I used was a little fussy and I did find that some of the detail got slightly muddled.
No matter what shape you decide on, these cookies are crazy delicious. They almost taste like a nutty, subtly spiced brownie. It has the perfect balance of deep chocolate, warm spice, and chewy ground almonds. Heaven.
Since this recipe was so unfamiliar to me with the lack of flour and the addition of ground chocolate rather than melted chocolate or cocoa powder, I was really worried that the chocolate would just melt and turn into a mess in the oven, but my cookies kept their shape really well, so never fear y’all!
They’re soft and tender and delightfully chocolatey. Russell said they taste like a candy bar.
Better yet, they keep for up to a month, so they can be made well in advance and stored, making your holiday season a little less stressful. Just don’t store them with other, crisper cookies, or the crisp cookies will absorb their moisture and get soft.
Happy baking, and happy holidays!
1 2/3 cups raw almonds
9 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate (60% to 72% cocoa)
1 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons dark rum (or Kirsch if you have it)
Granulated sugar, for rolling
Add the almonds to the bowl of a food processor and grind until they’re very very fine, but be sure not to go too far and let them turn into almond butter. If they start to bind together, stop!
Transfer them to a separate bowl and break the chocolate up into the food processor. Pulse until finely ground, but don’t let it melt. If it’s warm in your kitchen you may want to refrigerate your chocolate first.
Add the almonds back in with the chocolate, along with the salt, spices, egg whites, and rum or Kirsch.
Pulse until the mixture comes together in a stiff, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Preheat your oven to 300F (150C), and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Sprinkle your clean work surface with a generous layer of granulated sugar to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the dough on the sugared surface and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll the dough out 1/3″ to 1/4″ thick, and check to see if the dough is stuck to the surface (*see note). Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (**see note) and transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets leaving 1/2″ space between them. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 18 minutes. The cookies should look dry to the touch, but soft. Repeat with remaining baking sheet. Cool cookies completely before trying to remove them from the parchment, or they’ll fall apart.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container or cookie tin, for up to a month.
*If the dough sticks to the work surface in a few spots, I found that it was easier to gently lift the dough and add more sugar underneath before cutting, rather than trying to lift stuck-on cutouts. Otherwise the cookies will lose their shape when you try to pick them up. If all of the dough is entirely stuck to your work surface, you might want to ball it back up and start over with more sugar on the surface next time.
**This dough is coarse & sticky, so avoid shapes with too much detail. Hearts are the traditional shape for these, but any simple shape will work.