As much as I love mince pies and things coated in chocolate, I also like more simple cookies, so that’s what we’ve got today.
These are Swedish butter biscuits called finska pinnar. The name translates cryptically as “Finnish pins”. I’ve tried to find out why they are called this but with no success. I did find an article on the website of the august Swedish Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and even they don’t know the origin of the name. A mystery for the ages.
These are very quick and easy cookies to make – there is no elaborate rolling and shaping of cookies. You just roll it out, flatten with your hands, and cut into pieces, so this is a good one to make with children where you want to keep it easy. There is also no need to leave the dough to chill before you shape it, which is good when willing but impatient elves are keen to get going!
The dough itself is not that sweet, so you are relying a generous topping of chopped almonds and pearl sugar. You need an egg yolk for the dough, and then you use the egg white to glaze the tops. The art is then to get as much chopped almonds and pearl sugar on top, so you’ve got extra sweetness and some crunch to contrast with the buttery shortbread.
Of course, it would not by my Christmas basking selection if there was not some sort of random ingredient in here. Many recipes I looked at call for a bitter almonds to give finska pinnar their almond flavour. That’s the way to go if you’re keen on a bit of drama and some danger in your life, as apparently you need to be careful just how many you use. They contain cyanide and can be toxic if you eat too much! In the end I went for the easier option and just added a dash of almond extract to get all the flavour without the danger. Okay, so I might be exaggerating just a touch for dramatic effect…
To make Finska Pinnar (makes around 40)
For the dough
• 375g plain flour
• 250g unsalted butter
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 125g caster sugar
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 egg white
• 40g whole almonds, roughly chopped
• pearl sugar or granulated sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Prepare three sheets of greaseproof paper.
2. Put the flour, butter, salt, sugar and almond extract into a bowl. Rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and quickly mix to a soft dough.
3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each into a long rope, about finger thickness. Press them lightly to around 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 4cm slices.
4. Transfer the cookies to the greaseproof paper. Brush lightly with the beaten egg white, then sprinkle generously with chopped almonds and pearl sugar. Put on a tray, and chill in the fridge for a few minutes.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden, turning half-way to get an even colour. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for a moment, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.