Finskbrød is Denmark's version of the Christmas shortbread. One observation of my Scandinavian heritage is that everything tastes better with almonds. So it is no surprise that they have decorated this worldly classic with 'their' signature nut for extra taste and texture.
Like all great shortbreads, finskbrød is particularly light, buttery and ever so tender but firm. They pretty much melt in your mouth. The sugar/ground almond topping adds an extra je ne sais quoi that takes it from semi-formal to black tie. A beautiful food presentation is characteristic of Danish hospitality.
Maybe you have enjoyed many thistle stamped shortbreads over the years. Could this be the Christmas your cookie platter hops over a border or two?
* If you are interested in a variation, this latest recipe from fri.dk is a twist on the classic and has a spot of cognac in the dough. It is also less sweet than the recipe I make. If your Danish is rusty, Google translate does a terrific job. What I like about this recipe is that the almond used for the topping is made from a raw almond with the skin remaining. I think it is a sharp look if you want to go 'upscale rustic'.
500 grams all-purpose flour
350 grams butter, cool but not chilled
125 grams granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons ground almonds
Weigh the flour and sugar. Mix together. Cut in the butter until the pieces are very small. Work together with hands until a ball forms.
Wrap the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4".
With cookie cutter or knife, cut dough in 3/4" long strips and then on an angle every 2" to form a diamond shape, technically parallelograms.
Brush on beaten egg. Combine the equal parts ground almond and sugar. Sprinkle the almond/sugar mixture over the cookie dough and make sure all cookies are well covered.
Using a small offset spatula, gently lift each cookie and place on an ungreased baking sheet. They will rise a bit and also spread out a bit, but they can be placed reasonably close together on the cookie sheet.
Bake in 375ºF oven until golden brown. Check them at 10 minutes to see how they are coming along. Rotate the pan 180ºfor the last few minutes. In my oven and with my pans I find 12 minutes works well.
- Use fresh butter. This is critical. My favourite butter is Lactantia. When I buy it, I store the extra bricks in the freezer until I need it in order to preserve its freshness.
- Use salted butter for this recipe. Unsalted butter will leave a bland taste. Typically in baking you use salted butter unless noted. The balance of salt in the Lactantia butter is to my taste.
- Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper. This way you avoid adding more flour to the dough and throwing off the balance of the rich buttery taste. (I push in the edges to re-form them because they will split apart during rolling.)
- Egg wash the cookies and sprinkle the almond/sugar mixture BEFORE they are placed on the pan. Not only is it faster, this minimizes the mess on the pan and potential over baking of many small sugary nutty crumbs. A smell I don't want permeating into the cookies.
- Cut the diamond shapes before putting on the topping. This allows you to pull away the imperfect pieces of dough at the edges so that the extra dough it can rolled again and not wasted.
- Make sure to use fresh nuts. I buy my ground almonds at Rainbow Natural Foods, Inc. here in Ottawa (Lincoln Fields). They store their ground almond in a refrigeration unit. I do the same at home.
- DIRTY FAMILY SECRET: If you use these cookies in a baking contest at work, always test them before sharing! No one should ever taste a flawed finskbrød. Consult an 'expert' if in doubt. ;-) You never want to run the risk of losing your job.