{10} Loftkökur (Icelandic Air Cookies)

Sometimes,  just do something random. And it doesn’t come much more random than Icelandic cookies.

I have no connection to Iceland, and have never been. However, it does intrigue me. I would dearly love to visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa at some point in the near future and spend some time walking across the lunar-like landscapes. I was also vaguely affected when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that brought European air travel to a standstill last year. But…that’s it. Being honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever even eaten anything Icelandic.

Nevertheless I read about these air cookies and it struck me as a bit of fun. So here we go – my tenth Christmas bakes post!

The point of these cookies is exactly as their name suggests – they should be light, light, light. They are a doddle to make – icing sugar, cocoa powder and egg. But the magic is the raising agent – ammonium carbonate – which means they puff up spectacularly. As you can see – a six-fold increase in volume!

You can see above the traditional way to make them – use a biscuit press with a ridged attachment, then cut into individual pieces about 5cm (2 inches) long. 

Then I put them in the oven…and boy did they rise! What was less exciting and, frankly, rather alarming was the fact once they were done, I almost managed to gas myself on ammonia fumes.

OK, somewhat of an exaggeration, but there was certainly a pong that filled the house, and I am very, very glad I attempted this on a sunny but breezy winter morning. The doors could be opened, and the stink was dispersed relatively quickly. I knew this stink-fest was on the way from when I made Swedish drömmar biscuits but even when you know it is coming, the sheer impact of the smell never fails to surprise.

Anyway, with the drama of the mystery smell overcome, and the house once again fresh-smelling (i.e. not of ammonia), the cookies were ready. They look good and, given the earlier smelly experience, they don’t stink. That’s what I want in a biscuit – one that doesn’t make the eyes water! The cookies are crisp and like a little like dry meringue, but not quite the same texture. But fun. They are also hollow in the middle, so they are indeed light as a feather!

The “ridged” look is traditional, but if you don’t have a biscuit press to hand, then fret not! A little online research revealed that you can also make other shapes, and I was very taken with this idea of straws – I tried it, and the result was great – I still got “lift off” and the resulting straws were light and crisp

I’ve written a little bit about the history of ammonium carbonate before (here). It’s funny stuff, but if possible it’s worth getting hold of it – in fact, if you want to make these air cookies, you must have ammonium carbonate to make them work. Nothing, but nothing, will work in its place!

So try them – and good luck! Or gangi þér vel as they (apparently) say in Reykjavik. But of course, I’ll need to visit to be sure!

To make Loftkökur:

• 300g icing sugar
• 1 teaspoon baker’s ammonia (ammonium carbonate)
• 2 1/2 tablespoons (30g) cocoa powder
• 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Lightly grease a non-stick baking tray.

Mix the icing sugar, baker’s ammonia and cocoa powder in a bowl. Add the egg and mix well. Use a spoon at first, but you’ll need to use your hands to get the dough to come together. It will be quite stiff.

To shape the cookies, you have two choices: (1) put the mixture into a cookie press and press. Hey presto, the dough comes out. Cut the resulting strip into pieces – aim for cookies about 5cm (2 inches) long; or (2) roll into very long, thin “sticks” of dough.

Bake the loftkökur for 10 minutes – watch them puff up, but be careful of the fumes when you open the oven door.

To get ammonium carbonate in London, you can buy this from Scandinavian Kitchen in the city centre (61 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7PP), tel: 020 7580 7161. Tube: Oxford Circus.

Worth making? Loftkökur are worth trying for the novelty factor alone! Normal chocolate meringue is a bit easier on the nose, but if you’re looking for something quick and easy to do with kids (who will screech with delight when the pong makes itself known), then this might just do the trick. Just make sure it’s a nice day, and there is plenty of wind outside so you can air the kitchen out as necessary

12 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Sweet Things

12 responses to “{10} Loftkökur (Icelandic Air Cookies)

  1. The “traditional” way to make them if you don’t have a biscuit press or an attachment for your mincer is to roll them into a fat thumb sized sausage, cut off rounds that are about 3mm thick and then press them with a fork. Also, whilst the Icelanders have embraced them, I’ve always been told they are a Danish import, originally called in DanishRutebiler but I can’t confirm that though.

    Also, if your mixture is a little dry – which can often be the case if you are making a 1 egg batch, only use egg to moisten it, just a little teaspoon at a time (it is very easy to make it too moist). Do not in any circumstances use milk or water as it reacts with the Hartshorns and you don’t end up with loftkökur but bubblekökur.

    I would also ensure that you use good quality cocoa – the darker the colour the better, they not only look nicer when they are a darker brown but taste nicer as well.

    I hadn’t planned on writing that much but it is lovely to see someone else making Loftkökur.

    • Hi Helen – thanks thanks thanks for your comment! Great to get some tips from an expert😉

      The tips are great – when I made the dough, it did seem quite dry to start with and was thinking about adding a few drops of water. Lucky I didn’t as when I kept mixing, it did come together in the end. Good to know that the trick is to use more egg though. I will be making them again, might also try the “manual” solution too.

      What was interesting was that I made them in two batches – the first ones went in at 175 centigrade, the next lot at 150 centigrade. The second lot took off evenly and looked great, but some of the first batch went lop-sided and did indeed bubble at the sides. It’s funny stuff that baker’s ammonia!

      The cocoa is also a good tip – I used Green & Black’s – I saw some recipes that used just a tablespoon of cocoa in the recipe, then I saw that you used a lot more in yours. I thought that with all that sugar, more cocoa would be better, and I think I agree with you. The flavour is great – very chocolaty – and they have a slightly paler colour on the outside and a darker colour inside.

      So, that just begs one question…how do you think mine compare to the real loftkökur?

  2. I love that you use baker’s ammonia and other ingredients that are much easier for me to find here in Norway than many other blogs!🙂 These loftkökur look really, really good! Great pictures too🙂

    • Hi Marion – I’m always happy to try new things! It took me aaaaaages to get hold of the stuff in London, but it’s worth it if you want to make certain traditional recipes. And glad that you like the pictures – sorry people cannot taste them, they are great with a cup of tea (in the British way – strong, and with milk).

  3. Interesting! I would make them if I could get the ammonia but I think I’ll struggle to find it outside of London.

    • Hello! I see I’ve just committed the sin of reeling off a list of stereotypes about Iceland (blue lagoon, volcanoes). Oops!

      If you’re keen to try them, Scandinavian Kitchen has an online shop too and will ship it to you. The packets are quite cheap and you don’t need much. Otherwise there will be other online sources, or perhaps try your luck at a pharmacy or specialist baking shop. Just be sure to make it clear that it is for baking!!!

      • Ha ha! I didn’t even notice. The stereotypes are true anyway. : ) Thanks for the tip, I will check this out. I didn’t realise it was a common Scandinavian baking ingredient! I haven’t ventured into Icelandic recipes yet but that will be fun!

    • You should be able to get ammonium bicarbonate from your chemist or they will be able to order it in for you. Back when it used to cost a lot more to post items from Iceland to Australia, my mother discovered that the chemist can supply it – actually the Greeks or the Italians have some treats that they use it in as well and in Australia that is where they used to get it from (just like in Australia they used to get their olive oil from the chemist as well but that’s another story)

      Don’t get too much at a time as at least in Australia the ammonium bicarbonate the chemist supplies has an additive in which sometimes doesn’t make them puff just as high as they normally do (thankfully I’ve a sizable supply that I’ve been sent from my siblings in Iceland).

      Also make sure that you store it in a super air tight container as ammonium bicarbonate draws in moisture like a sponge.

      A side note, as kids we used to have so much fun making people “smell” the secret ingredient in Loftkökur and would just about roll round the floor in laughter when they started to gag.

  4. peasepudding

    That’s really funny about the stink when you opened the oven, I will remember that when i try them. Do you think a cinnamon flavour would work too? I don’t have a biscuit press so will make shapes instead. have a fabulous Christmas. Alli

    • Hi Alli – yes, the stink is quite something, but it’s all part of the fun. There isn’t any flavour in there apart from the cocoa, but I guess you could add a dash of cinnamon. If you’re making them by hand, check Helen’s comments – she’s explained the way to do it with a fork.

      You have a great Christmas too! We were expecting another big freeze, but it’s pushing 15 degrees now, so looking like a green Christmas. And a Happy New Year too!

  5. Pingback: Not quite seven types of biscuits at helenthura.com

  6. Oh yeah, we have these in Denmark as well only we call then Rutebiler ( like in a bus, public transportation). Anyway, it makes total sense since Denmark and Iceland is joined at the hip…well not anymore. Btw, if you ever go to Iceland you must experience the Blue Lagoon. Heads up, not the most pleasant smell from the sulfa BUT fantastic with the opaque turquis hot water. An amazing place!!

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