Swedish Sliced Chocolate Cookies (Skurnar Chokladkakor)

One day I want to have a selection of recipes that includes all my favorite and traditional Swedish baked goods. Whenever I am in Sweden and step a foot into a bakery - in particular in my mom's hometown which has many beautiful bakeries and cafés - I feel I am at home. It is such a cozy and wonderful feeling. The shelves of the bakeries are filled with kanelbullar, prinsessbakelse, budpestbakelse, wienerbröd, mazariner and other delicious treats which I grow up with and I truly love. I love visiting bakeries and pâtisseries around the world - Paris is probably the greatest place and you know how much I admire French pâtisserie - in order to get inspired but I do not have this feeling of home. I only have this feeling in Swedish bakeries which is wonderful and maybe it is the place where I belong. I always find it uncomfortable when people asking me where I am from because I do not feel that I belong to one place.

Skurna chokladkakor which simply means sliced chocolate cookies are one those baked goods that you will always find in a Swedish bakery and it is a classic Swedish cookie that my grandmother enjoyed, my mom likes and I am very fond of this sligthly crispy chocolate cookie, too. 
Traditionally, these chocolate cookies are topped with pearl sugar. The other day I was retesting my cookie recipe and topped half of the cookies with chopped almonds and it was such a brilliant idea. It never crossed my mind using anything else than pearl sugar; I got probably caught up in tradition! 
If you cannot find pearl sugar - an ingredient that is often used in Swedish baking, for instance Swedish cinnamon rolls are always topped with pearl sugar - or if you don't like pearl sugar use roughly chopped almonds or nuts. It is such a great alternative and I think it taste even better with almonds and nuts but shhh, don't tell anyone.

Makes about 50 cookies

200 g  / 7/8 cup unsalted butter, softened
200 g  / 1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg (large)
1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar *
300 g / 3 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
35 g / 1/4 cup of unsweetened raw cacao powder
Pearl sugar, roughly chopped almonds or chopped hazelnuts
1 egg (small), beaten

* You can make your own vanilla sugar (it is very common in Europe) which is very simple: Splitt one vanilla been into two halves and remove the seeds with the help of a knife.  Fill a jar with granulated sugar, add the vanilla seeds and the used vanilla bean. Let the mixture age for two weeks. Voilà, you have your own homemade vanilla sugar.

Preheat the oven to 200 °C / 400 °F.
Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla sugar.
Sift flour, cacao and baking powder in a separate bowl and mix well.
Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.
As soon as the dough comes together, transfer the dough to a floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth (it gets a little bit messy). If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit more flour.
Divide the dough into four parts. Roll each dough into a log (2 cm / 0.8 inch Ø ). 
Place two logs on each baking sheet. Make sure that there is enough space between each log. Flatten each log slighty until it is about 4 cm / 1.5 inches. 
Brush the logs with a beaten egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar, chopped almonds or hazelnuts. 
Bake the logs for 12 to 15 minutes.
Let the cookies cool for one minute. Take a sharp knife and cut diagonally into 2 cm / 0,8 inches slices. The cookies will be soft but will harden when cooled. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack. 
Store the cookies in an air-tight container up to two weeks. 

Mini Raisin Gugelhupfs

My love for gugelhupf - or bundt cake as it is called sometimes, in particular in the States - has been well documented on the blog. I wrote about the possible origins of the gugelhupf (of course this means my perspective of the gugelhupf history because who knows who holds the truth of cake history and the chair of cake history has yet to be invented). I also wrote about the story behind the Franz Joseph Gugelhupf and there are all different kinds of gugelhupf recipes here on the blog. I cannot have enough of gugelhupf recipes in my life and I cannot get enough of eating gugelhupfs.

Today I want to share a raisin gugelhupf recipe which I developed a few weeks ago. I do not know how many times I made these gugelhupf ever since. I love the taste and the texture of this recipe. The gugelhupfs have a crispy outside; the inside of the gugelhupfs are very moist but they are not too dense at the same time. Describing or analyzing cake texture is really difficult and I am struggling to find the right words for it. You have to taste the food with all your senses and it does not matter how hard you try finding words for it, it always scratches the surface. It is the same in music. Have you ever read anything "smart" about Mozart's piano concertos (by the way, is there anything more beautiful than the second movement of the A-major , KV 488, piano concerto)? I have not and I doubt I ever will.

Back to the gugelhupf recipe. I really love these little raisin cakes and all my taste testers were thrilled about the cakes.  One of my taste testers liked my gugelhupfs so much that she kept two cakes in a tin for six days in order to save them for a weekend picnic and I was told that the gugelhupfs were still moist. I could not believe this but if I knew how much she liked the cakes I would have given her a batch of freshly made gugelhupfs for her picnic. Even though the gugelhupfs keep moist for several days I think the cakes taste the very best on the day that they are made since they loose the crispy outside over time.
If you do not own any mini gugelhupf moulds you can also use a muffin tin. I tested them out in a muffin tin and it worked out perfectly - the baking time is the same - but I must admit that the cakes taste a a little bit better when baked in gugelhupf moulds. Maybe it is because of the hole in the middle of the gugelhupfs which adds more of a crispy ouside. I can imagine that a donut tin would work as well but I have not tried it out ( I must confess that I do not even own a donut tin).  If you do not like raisins, dried cranberries are a good alternative.

As you may have noticed I always write my recipes in grams. I think it is the best and most accurate way to measure ingredients (and very common here in Europe) but I am aware that some of you might not own a kitchen scale or you are used to the cup measurement method . In order to make my recipes more accessible and convenient I decided to convert the ingredients from gram to cup and add the conversion to the ingredients list. I hope this addition will be helpful to some of you.

Makes 10 Mini Gugelhupfs* or 10 muffins 

125 g / 1 stick and 1 tablespoon butter (softened)
125 g / 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 eggs (medium)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
150 g /1 cup and 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
75 g / 1/2 cup raisins
75 g / 1/4 cup of yogurt (full fat)
50 ml / 1/4 cup milk (full fat)
Confectioners' sugar (for decoration)

* The size of my gugelhupf moulds are: 7 cm / 2.8 inches diameter and 4 cm / 1.5 inches height.

Preheat the oven to 200 °C / 400 °F.
Butter and flour your gugelhupf moulds or muffin moulds.  If you use muffin moulds I recommend not using any cupcake liners because the liners prevent that the muffins will be crispy on the outside. Just make sure you grease your tin well. In case you use silicon moulds you do not have to grease your moulds.
Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time and whisk until well mixed.
Mix flour, baking powder and raisins in a separate bowl.
Add the flour mixture along with the milk and yogurt to the egg-butter mixture and stir until all ingredients are well incorporated but do not overmix the batter.
Fill the gugelhupf moulds 3/4 with the batter.
Bake the gugelhupfs or muffins for 15 to 17 minutes (or until a golden brown surface). If you insert a toothpick and it comes out clear the gugelhupfs are done.
Unmold the cakes and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar as soon as they are completely cooled.

Favorite Madeleine Recipe

Madeleines are one of my favorite tea cakes. Maybe it is because of Marcel Proust, maybe it is because of the beautiful shell-like shape. I guess it is a combination of both that makes it to one of my favorite little treats. Tradionally madeleines are made out of eggs, sugar, butter, flour, sometimes lemon zest and baking powder are added. And the madeleine batter needs to rest in the fridge, so the cakes get this characteristic hump in the middle. Last year I was experiementing with new recipes but I was not happy with any of my madeleines that I made. In my book the cakes were too airy and too light and I want the madeleines to have a more of a dense texture. I am still on the hunt of the perfect traditional madeleine recipe. But I found my perfect "non-traditional " madeleine recipe. In fact I posted this recipe here on the blog almost two years ago and this recipe is my updated version. I love this recipe a lot. Instead of using whole eggs I used only the egg whites, which I happen to have in the fridge all the time, for the recipe and the texture of the batter is very similar to a financier batter.
The edges of my madeleines are crispy and the middle of the cakes are very moist. It is exactly how I like my madeleines. It is perfect - a word that I rarely use (maybe this is not quite the truth because I talk all the time that I am a perfectionist and everything has to be perfect but I rarely archieve this, at least I think so...).
The madeleines taste the very best on the day that they are made. The next day the madeleines are still very moist in the middle but they loose the crispy exterior. I highly, highly recommend to eat the madeleines on the day you make them. You can easily half the recipe. 
Of course you have to dip the madeleines in tea, do not dare to accompany the madeleines with coffee. Proust would not agree.

In my childhood I used to travel a lot with my parents. We used to go on road trips across Europe and visit cities, museums, churches, little villages and such. When I was 16 years old my parents and I traveled to Illiers-Combray where we visited the La Maison de Tante Leonie. At that time I have not had read Proust (when I cam back from the trip I started to read Proust) but nevertheless I was mesmerized by the beauty and atmosphere of the village and the surroundings. A decade later I still have such fond memories of this place. One of my favorite art books that I own is a book by Francois-Xavier Bouchart ("La Figure des Pays") who took photos (black and white) that are connected to Marcel Proust. It is such a delight too look at Bouchart's photographs and whenever I read Proust and I have a look at  Bourchart's photos. 

The photo above is the Maison de Tante Léonie. I took this photo while my parents and I visited this place. It is such a beautiful house (unfortunately, the quality of the photo is not the best since I had to scan the photo) and to our surprise there were no tourists at all.
In the photo below you can see an empty madeleine bag which is more than a decade old. There is still a pâtisserie around the corner of the Maison de Tante Léonie that sells madeleines. Of course we had to buy a bag of madeleines. The madeleines were not that great (who cares because I have my won recipe) but the bag is very pretty and it is a nice souvenir as well that I keep in one of my Proust books. 

Makes 14 madeleines

100 g unsalted butter
100 g powdered sugar
35 g all-purpose flour
75 g almond flour
100 g egg whites (about 3 egg whites)
Finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Grease ad flour a madeleine pan, in case you use a silicon pan, you can omit this step).*
Sift the powdered sugar and flour into a bowl. Add almond flour and mix well.
Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until the egg whites form a light foam.
Make a well in the flour-almond mixture and dip in the egg whites.
Melt the butter on medium heat until the butter turns into a golden brown color and develops a nutty flavor.
Add the melted hot butter gradually and mix until all ingredients are well combined.
Fill the batter into the madeleine pan all the way to the top since the madeleines rise just a little bit.
Bake the madeleines for 12 to 14 minutes until they are slightly golden at the edges.
Remove the madeleines from the pan and sprinkle the cakes with powdered sugar.
I cannot recommend highly enough to eat the madeleines on the same day you make the cakes. 

* For this recipe I am using a silicone madeleine pan. If you use a metallic nonstick pan the baking time may be a bit shorter since silicone moulds require longer baking time. Just make sure that the edges of the madeleines are golden brown, then you know the cakes are done.


Today I want to share a recipe of Kejsarkronor; sometimes these delicate little cakes are also called Polynéer. Kejsarkronor - it means crowns of the emperor in Swedish and I think the cakes look like crowns - are little shortcrust tartlets with a nut filling. I love the combination of the shortcrust which is a little bit crunchy and the moist nut filling. I also think these petite tarts look sweet and of course they taste sweet as well. Occasionally one can find Kejsarkronor in Swedish bakeries but the cakes are not as popular as they were once. I cannot understand this because Kejsarkronor are such delicious treats and just writing about them is making my mouth water. When I made these little nut tartlets for the first time and surprised my mom with the cakes she told me that it brought back memories of her childhood and Kejsarkronor used to be a staple in every Swedish bakery. I hope this will change again. 

Since the recipe contains a nut filling I want to share a few thoughts about hazelnuts. Ever since I read an article about hazelnut harvesting and researching more about this topic I got an entire new perspective of hazelnuts. I knew about child labor in the production of such as coffee beans, cacao beans, sugar canes and bananas (and I, as a consumer, have the possibility to purchase these groceries under fairtrade conditions) but I did not associated the hazelnut harvesting with child labor. Until a few weeks ago I had no clue that Turkey is the main supplier of hazelnuts in the world market. 75% (!) of the entire world hazelnut production comes from Turkey. Domestic migrant workers harvest the hazelnuts. Many migrant workers come from villages in the Southeast of Turkey and travel to the Black Sea Coast in order to work as seasonal workers. Entire families work on hazelnut farms (11 hours a day/ 1,30 € per hour) and they are living in unacceptable conditions. The Turkish government signed an agreement to ban child labor in agriculture until 2015 (here is an interesting video from the International Labour Organization). I do hope that changes will be made in the near future but I do think that banning child labor from agriculture is not enough since it does not include factories and children will continue working in factories.
This year we will also notice a significant change in the price of hazelnuts but not due to better working conditions and prohibition of child labor but because of bad harvest. Last March there was unusual cold weather which caused the damage of half of the hazelnut crops in Turkey. I cannot imagine what impact it had and has on the people who are involved in the hazelnut industry (2 million people are directly and 6 million people indirectly involved in Turkey). The almond production is facing a similar situation but not the cold temperature is a problem but the drought in California. 80 % (!) of the world almond production comes from the Central Valley in California and that is why the price of almonds is constantly increasing and the almond farmers constantly worry about their harvest.
While researching about this topic I also made an interesting observation about the labeling of hazelnuts versus almonds. On the front side of almond bags there are big letters that indicates that the almonds are from California. In the back of my head it was always present that that the almonds that I buy on a regular basis are from California ( I was only surprised to learn that 80% of the almonds are produced in California). However, I had no idea that the hazelnuts that I purchase at the grocery store were from Turkey. On the front side of hazelnut bags there are no big letters that advertise that the hazelnut are from Turkey. On the backside of hazelnut bags one can find the producing country Turkey in very small letters. Why? Does Californian almonds sound better than Turkish hazelnuts?
I hope you did not mind my little nut excursion. I do not like to preach about things - this is not a blog about politics or ethical questions - but the hazelnut harvesting story was an eye opener for me and I really wanted to share it with you. Maybe you are or were also wondering about the increase prices of hazelnuts and almonds. Maybe you will experience a shortage of hazelnuts in your local grocery store. Or maybe you are wondering why the price of Nutella jar is increasing (by the way, Nutella contains only 13% hazelnuts and 70% sugar and saturated fat, is it really a hazelnut spread?). Now you know why.

The Kejsarkronor filling can be made with hazelnuts or almonds; both version can be found in Swedish bakeries. I personally prefer the hazelnut filling. The Kejsarkronor in the photos are made with a hazelnut filling. 
Little tart tins are often used for different kinds of cakes in Swedish baking. My tart tins are 6 cm (2,4 inches wide and 2 cm (0,8 inches) tall. If you do not have such small tart tins on hand you can also use little muffin tins. Depending on the size of your tins the baking time might be a little bit longer. But I must confess that I do love the size of my tiny tart tins. Making little treats - or bakelse as I say in Swedish - in these tins are the perfect size for an afternoon pick-me-up without feeling too guilty about it. Next time I am in Sweden I will buy a few tartlet tins and do a little giveaway on the blog. 

Makes about 16 Kejsakronor

150 g all-purpose flour
100 g unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
50 g granulated sugar
1 egg (small)
100 g hazelnut meal or almond meal
175 g powdered sugar (sifted)
75 g egg whites ( 2 egg whites)

Knead together all dough ingredients until it is a smooth dough (if the dough is too sticky add more flour, if the dough is too dry add a little bit of cold water). Form to a ball and flatten the dough slightly. Wrap the dough into clingwrap and let the dough rest in the fridge for one hour. 
Butter and flour the tartlet tins. 
Mix powdered sugar and hazelnut flour. Add the egg whites and mix until all ingredients are well combined. 
Preheat the oven to 175 °C.
On a slightly floured surface roll out the dough until 3 mm thick.
Cut eight stripes (0,5 cm wide) with a fluted pastry wheel or a knife. Each stripe should be 24 cm long which you cut into 4 pieces. If you use bigger tart tins the stripes must be longer of course.
Cut out circles (the circles should be a little bit bigger than the tartlet tins) from the reaming dough. Gently press the circles into the tins. Trim away any excess dough with a sharp knife.
Fill the tartlet shells with the nut filling but no more than 2/3. Take two stripes and arrange them over the center of each tartlet to form a cross.
Place the tartlet tins on a baking sheet and bake the Kejsarkronor for 20 to 25 minutes until they are slightly golden in color. If you use bigger tartlet tins the baking time will be a few minutes longer.
Keep the Kejsarkronor in an air-tight container up to a week.

My Christmas Baking 2014

Before 2014 comes to an end - at least in my part of the world it is still 2014 - I want to share the different kinds of cookies that I made this Christmas season. I wrote a post about my Christmas baking last year and it is fun to look back at it.  As much as I like sharing recipes with you my dear readers, this blog is also my baking diary. Maybe one day I lose interest in baking which I cannot imagine at the moment and then I can look back at the recipes that I made over the years and I might be astonished what a strange baking  passion I once had.

This year I made 27 different kind of Christmas cookies. Besides Christmas cookies I also made a lot of Lussekatter which are sweet saffron buns which are traditionally eaten on December 13th in Sweden and these buns are one of my all time favorite Christmas food. I also made a few Swedish Christmas Spice Cakes.
I wish I could tell you the exact number of cookies I made this year but I am afraid that you have to be patient. I counted every single cookie that I made but as I write this post I cannot find my cookie statistic notes which makes me a little bit mad. I know that I kept my notes on my desk but somehow my notes disappeared or are hiding in a cookbook. As soon as I find my cookie notes I will update this post. But I can tell you one thing: I made more than 2000 Christmas cookies (last year I made 1298 cookies) this year. I do not know if I am proud of it or if I am embarrassed about it. I tend to the latter one because I think people must think I am meshuge. Maybe I am.


My dear readers I wish you all a very Happy New Year! May 2015 be filled with lots of delicious cakes and cookies, wonderful moments, love and health!
Thank you for reading my blog.

1 Elisenlebkuchen (German Soft Gingerbread Cookies)
2 Linzer Auge (Cookies sandwiched with jam)
3 Bärentatzen (Bear Paws)
4 Pepparkakor (Swedish Gingerbread Cookies, my recipe is here)
5 Wölkchen (Dark Chocolate Clouds)
6 Havreflarn (Swedish Crispy Oat Cookies)
7 Zitronen Terrassen (Lemon Curds Terraces)
8 Russinkakor ( Swedish Raisin Oat Cookies, my recipe is here)
9 Weihnachtssterne (Christmas Stars filled with jam and covered with dark chocolate and chopped pistachios)
10 Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Stars, my recipe is here)
11 Formar (Swedish Shell Cookies, served with whipped cream and jam or cherries)
12 Haselnuss Nussknacker (Hazelnut Nut Crackers)
13 Spekulatius (German Speculoos/ Almond Spice Cookies, my recipe is here)
14 Grenobler Nussplätzchen (Grenoble Nut Cookies)
15 Geminzte Ecken (Mint Corners)
16 White Clouds (White Chocolate Clouds)
17 Havrekakor (Swedish Oat Cookies)
18 Vanillekipferl (Austrian, German Vanilla Crescent)
19 Kokoskakor (Coconut Macaroons)
20 Spritskransar/Spritzgebäck (Spritz Cookies)
21 Schokoladenstäbchen (Chocolate Sticks)
22 Überraschungsiglus (Surprise Igloos)
23 Gewürzkugeln (Chocolate Spice Balls)
24 Spanisches Brot (Spanish Bread Cookies)
25 Orangenmonde (Orange Moons, cookies filled with orange jam)
26 Glühweinschnitten (Mulled Wine Squares)
27 Kokoswürfel (Coconut Cubes), not pictured