Oh my…I remember when I embarked on my endeavour to do 12 festive goodies. It was the middle of November, I had loads of time and dozens of ideas. And, of course, I now realise that I didn’t know quite what I was undertaking. The result? I’ve been very busy and pretty much up to my eyes in baked goods.
Needless to say, colleagues and friends have been frankly pretty delighted at the seemingly never-ending flow of treats. This little challenge has also led to a reawakening of my competitive side – I’ve got a new-found determination to finish the project before Christmas Day!
By now, there are Christmas trees everywhere and the city is decked in lights. And while I know it’s rather twee, I do like edible decorations on trees. Chocolate decorations? Check! Biscuits? check! Even candy canes (even if that’s too much sugar for me).
So why not try making them myself? Well, no reason no to, so I revisited the old Dutch cookbook I used recently to make speculaas, and that’s how I hit upon the idea of making today’s recipe: kerstkransjes.
Kerstkransjes are a Dutch treat which means “little Christmas wreaths”. They are simple crisp butter biscuits, which are cut into the ring shape, then finished in whatever way the cook of the day feels like. You can leave them plain, glaze with milk or egg wash, get smart and match with your tree decor (red? metallic?) or simply apply different toppings (such as pearl sugar, icing, chocolate). Personally, I think almonds are best. I love the rich flavour and intense savouriness they have when they have been toasted in the oven.
The shape of these cookies is traditional, and while it might look rather elaborate, there’s a simple trick to it – remember that the Dutch are one of the few peoples able to rival the Scots for thriftiness (we, of course, win). Use a fluted scone cutter for the outside ring, transfer to the baking sheet, and then use a smaller cutter to remove the centre. Simple!
Now, you may be one of those people that worries about the inherent flaw in edible decorations – they get eaten! You go to all that effort to create some sort of festive arrangement on the tree, only to find that your efforts have been munched away, leaving the tree stripped.
Well, just follow the example of smart Dutch bakers and make more than you need to put on the tree, so that you can replenish regularly. A whole lot tastier than walking in to find someone munching on a glass bauble, eh?
If you’re not so keen to pop them on the tree, kerstkransjes also make an attractive addition to a platter of festive cookies just as they are. However, I think that they do look rather fetching on the tree. What do you think?
To make kerstkransjes (adapted from Het Haagse Kookboek)
For the dough:
• 100g light brown sugar, sieved
• 200g plain flour
• 150g cold butter, finely chopped
• 1 egg white, lightly whisked
• 3-4 drops vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon salt, finely ground
To finish the cookies:
• caster sugar
• flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Put the sugar, flour, butter, egg white, vanilla and salt into a bowl. Use your hands to quickly knead to a smooth dough. If you have time, wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. You can skip this, but it’s just a bit easier to work with chilled dough.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface until just less than 1/2 cm thick. Use a large fluted cutter to make the biscuits and transfer to the baking sheet. Use a smaller round cutter to remove a disc from the middle of each biscuit.
Brush the biscuits with milk and sprinkle with flaked almonds and sugar.
Bake the cookies for around 20 minutes until lightly golden, turning half-way to make sure they colour evenly.
Worth making? Yes! This is a very easy recipe, and although made with store cupboard ingredients, they look very pretty and taste great. The dough is also an excellent standby all year when you want to make simple thin, crisp biscuits.