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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Since Conan won't eat Finnish, I'm baking German cookies today. Bärentatzen

Conan issued a severe statement to Finland today, no more Finnish food until he is back on the air in his favorite country!  In honor of his hunger strike, today I am making a German cookie, Bärentatzen, that we have been making for over a decade.

If any of my friends in the Finnish government are reading my blog, I think that Finland should demand that Conan take a fully traditional Finnish sauna before allowing him back on the air.  If I remember right, last time he was there, he was too shy.  Of course, this would require him to take another hilarious trip to Finland.

The real reason I am making these is that my daughter requested some of these cookies to take to her teachers tomorrow, I've spent 4 hours making them and just can't bear to cook any more today.

My friend Maria gave me this recipe, but she has moved back to Germany now.  Maria is probably the best dessert baker that I know.  She made these cookies for us over a decade ago, and we have made them for Christmas ever since.  Originally they were large circles sandwiched with apricot jam and one edge dipped in chocolate.  We started making them as very small hearts years ago, they are so rich that a small one almost tastes better.

The original recipe has all ingredients listed in grams, and is very brief.  I'll convert it to both American cups and liters where appropriate.  It seems quite a few people are following along from Finland, and I think a lot of people in Finland use deciliters for measuring dry ingredients more than grams.  Hope this doesn't make it to confusing for you.

1 cup butter = 250 grams butter
3/4 cup sugar = 175 grams sugar = 2.1 deciliters sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or vanilla sugar
1 egg
1.5 cups flour = 175 grams flour = 3.3 deciliters flour
3/4 cup corn or potato starch = 175 grams = 2.2 deciliters
1 cup ground almonds = 75 grams = 2.5 deciliters

The only directions that Maria gave me were to bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celsius) for 10-12 minutes, then use apricot preserves to double and chocolate to dip.  I will try to fill in the blanks here.

Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla in my stand mixer and then beat in the egg.  Next add the flour and corn starch a little at a time until it makes a very stiff dough.  Then add the ground almonds, if you can't find ground almonds, whole or sliced almonds can be ground in a food processor.  Do not use almond paste, it isn't the same thing.  At this point you can refrigerate the dough for a while to make it easier to roll out.  Today I was in a hurry and just rolled it carefully, it is very stiff.  The less flour you use rolling it, the better the cookies taste.  This is a difficult concept for children!

I love my nonstick rolling pin, and the cookie cutter I use is out of an old Tupperware set.  Here is a link to the rolling pin if you are interested, my favorite part about it is that besides being nonstick so less flour is required, it also has the handles raised so my hands don't hit the counter while rolling out the dough.  I'm not sure if the cookie cutters are being made anymore, my set is a nesting set from the '70s, you can tell by the orange color!  Any simple shape would do, but putting the jelly between them will be a lot easier if you don't have much pattern to match up.

I was a little rushed making these, some got more brown than I like, but they still taste delicious.  They really don't bake for long, and when you put them in the oven, they are like a shortbread and don't spread much at all, you can put the cookies fairly close together with no problems.  This picture shows the cooled cookies waiting for the jelly filling.

Today we used a mixed berry filling, they are also delicious with seedless raspberry preserves.  The original apricot is also good, but tends to be difficult to spread on such a small cookie, it might be better to blend it in the food processor first.  A very diligent assistant like the one below really helps the cookie process.

After the cookies are (FINALLY) sandwiched or doubled, we get to the fun chocolate dipping part.  I use Ghirardelli double chocolate dipping bars, I have tried other chocolate, but none are quite as good.  Ghirardelli also makes a white chocolate dipping bar which we use to drizzle.

After carefully melting the chocolate in the microwave, stirring after each minute, we dip one edge of the cookie.  Then we put melted white chocolate in a zip-lock bag and carefully cut a very small hole in the corner.  The kids love to drizzle the white chocolate and make designs.

After all the chocolate had hardened, we put the cookies in clear cups with some more Ghirardelli chocolates and covered the tops with plastic wrap and a ribbon.  I think the teachers will enjoy their little afternoon treat at school tomorrow.

My daughter made the yarn elf following the instructions in my other blog, Brushes and Paint.  Of course her elf had to be a girl, not a boy as shown in my blog...

These cookies melt in your mouth, I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.


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