It is not that many days until Christmas anymore and I spent the whole Sunday baking gifts for my family. Cookies are always great because they don’t take that much time to make and their ingredients are easy to find. This year I decided to make one batch of simple shortbread and one batch of jam-filled sandwich cookies.
For the shortbread cookies I used a traditional recipe from Northern Germany. Heidesand (heath sand) are shortbread cookies which are made by browning butter and letting it cool again before adding the other cookie ingredients to the dough. They are supposed to have a texture and colour similar to that of heath sand, therefore the name.
One can find many recipes for Heidesand online and I used this one.
Heidesand (Northern German Sand Cookies)
125 g (9 T) vegan margarine
200 g (1 2/3 cups) flour
90 g (1 cup sugar, 1 T removed)
1/4 t powdered vanilla
1 pinch salt
1-2 T soy milk (if necessary)
Melt and brown the margarine in a small saucepan. (Melt it and let it cook for one more minute, bubbling.) Set aside and let cool completely. When it has cooled down and is solid again, whip it up until fluffy (using a hand-held blender).
Note: Some margarines will not set. If that happens, just mix the melted, cooled margarine with the remaining ingredients. In this case you probably won’t need the soy milk to make the dough come together.
Add remaining ingredients and knead into a smooth dough. If the dough doesn’t come together, carefully add 1 -2 T of soy milk until the dough is smooth and holds together. Shape into a log and wrap in plastic foil. (I shaped the dough into a rectangular log, 4 x 4 cm wide [1.5 inch x 1.5 inch]) and 28 cm [11 inches] long). Transfer to fridge and let cool for an hour. Preheat oven to 160 °C (320 °F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough into slices, about 1 cm thick. Place on a baking sheet leaving enough space between the cookies as they will spread a bit. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until golden with a slightly brown bottom. Let cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
The second cookie batch I made are Walnut Cookies with Blackthornberry Jam Filling. Blackthornberries (sloes) have the same colour as blueberries, they grow on shrubs and have a very tart and astringent taste when eaten raw. Their taste gets better when frozen. They are often used for jams, liquors or wines. If you happen to get a batch of these berries or even some homemade jam from your nice neighbour like I did you are lucky. Blackthornberry products are rare and not sold in grocery stores.
Blackthornberry jam is sweet with a bit of tartness and the taste is similar to blueberry jam with a bit of rosemary. You can substitute any dark berry jam in this recipe.
100 g vegan margarine or coconut oil (refined but not hydrogenated)
120 g flour
75 g ground walnuts
5 T raw sugar
2 t barley malt syrup (brown rice syrup is a good substitute but agave will work too)
1/8 t ground vanilla
1 pinch salt
a few rosemary sprigs (optional)
blackthornberry (or other) jam
Combine margarine and flour in a food processor and process until the mixture has turned into fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and add remaining ingredients except for rosemary and jam. Knead until everything is well combined. Form into a ball and roll out into a disk of desired thickness. Wrap in plastic foil and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 160 °C (320 °F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use cookie cutters or even a glass to cut out circles. Press a rosemary leaf on into each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your dough until golden brown. Let cool completely before spreading on half with jam. Put another cookie on top. Happy Holidays!