Friday, December 21, 2012

Jødekager (Jewish Cakes)

Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes which is a literal translation, are one of my favorite cookies.   I've made them pretty much every year since I learned how to bake.   And helped out my mom and sisters for years before that.
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes

I'm going to throw in a little teeny history lesson first though, before I get to the nitty gritty on how to make these cookies.   We Danes love to bake, OK, so I know that's a generalization, but many of us do.  And Danish bakers are famous for 'borrowing' recipes from other countries and cultures and making them their own.  But they do like to at least acknowledge where the original recipe came from.   Danish bakers brought home Weinerbrød from Vienna, which translates to Vienna Bread, took hamburgers home from Paris and called them Pariserbøf.   Which is probably how Jødekager came to be, a baker somewhere along the line tasted this cookies and brought them back to Denmark, where they are now one of the traditional cookies.   And made sure he acknowledged where he got them from, in the name.

 I made Jødekager and Fransk Vafler this year.  I was going to make Brunkager, but my social calendar got a little full, and I ran out of time.  I'm also making some Marzipan fruit,  and I have some Home made Caramels, Truffles and the fruitcake I made over a month ago.  I think I have enough goodies to take me to the New Year now.    And since I'm going to a party this weekend, I also have some goodies to take with me there as well.

Here's the recipe and the how to's on making Jødekager. 

Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes
The recipe I use is the one my mom used, and quite frankly I see no reason to try any other one.   When I bite into one of the cookies, I get transported back to my childhood, sigh.  Christmas's past remembered are always the best.   I can see my sister, my mother, my brother, sometimes my dad or one of my older sisters sitting at the kitchen table, and all of us having a hand in making the cookies.  Making Christmas cookies was a family affair and sometimes, it turned into a marathon cookie making session.  Now, I do it by myself so I've learned how to stream line the process a lot.  One essential thing I've found though, is I have to have Christmas music playing.  For some reason the cookies taste better that way.  Well, I think they do.

So many Danish cookies are rich in butter but short on sugar, we don't decorate cookies with frosting, we decorate them with chopped nuts and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon in the case of Jødekager.   And that's OK with me.  I'm not too fond of overly frosted sugar cookies, but then again, I didn't grow up with them either.
The following recipe is by weight, but I'm got the American measurements as well to the right.  

1/2 Kg. Flour                                                             or               2 cups Flour
180 grams Sugar                                                     or              3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 Kg. Butter                                                           or               1/2 lb. Butter
2 Eggs
1 teaspoonful Hjortetaksalt (Baking Ammonia)      or             1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

For the topping:
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Cinnamon mixed with a half cup sugar or to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds mixed with a half cup sugar

To start with, cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy.  Very light and fluffy, then add the egg.   Last add the flour and baking powder, mix well.  This year I was able to get some Baking Ammonia, (YIPPEEE!!!  sorry, got excited there),  and used that instead of the baking powder.  It does make for a lighter, crisper cookie, but baking powder works well also.   I use my stand mixer, cause it saves on the old shoulder, I just can't mix stuff up like I used to.   Once the flour has been well mixed in, form the dough into two or in my case three equal sized disks, wrap well and put into the fridge for a couple of hours.   You want the dough to rest and cool down.  Otherwise it's very hard to roll out, with all the butter in the dough it is very soft.   I flatten the disks quite a bit before I put them in the fridge, they're much easier to roll out then. 
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes dough

Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes  dough wrapped and resting

Take one of the disks of dough out of the fridge, and flour your board very lightly, you don't want to add more flour than you need to, this is a delicate dough.   Roll out thinly, then cut out circles with a small cookie cutter, or in my case a wine glass.  I've been using this glass for years, I don't know what I'd do if it ever broke, makes the perfect size cookie.

Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes  dough

 Brush tops with a beaten egg white, and sprinkle on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar or finely chopped nuts and sugar.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes.   Check to make sure the cookies aren't browning too fast.   I check at the seven minute mark and take off the cookies which have browned just a little, returning the cookie pan to the oven again.  Sometimes, you'll put the same pan back in the oven two or three times for about 1 minute at a time.  I didn't say this recipe wouldn't be time consuming, but oh, is it worth it.  
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes

Now since I'm a one man band when it comes to cookie making here, I prepare two or three pans full at a time, putting the cookies on parchment paper and then transferring them to the cookie sheets proper when it comes time to bake them.  
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes

Now don't those look good enough to eat?

I need to go and finish off my Fransk Vafler now.    I'm making a new frosting to put inside this year.   I'm going to use my Best Ever Frosting instead of the Buttercream I usually use.   I think it will be good.   Of course I'm going to experiment on a couple of them first, make sure they taste OK.   If I can't experiment on myself, who can I experiment on?   
Sid Munkholm
Sid Munkholm

Sid loves to cook, feed people and have fun in the kitchen. She shares her successes and the involuntary offerings she sometimes gives the kitchen goddess as well. And she's still looking for the mythical fairy to help her clean the kitchen after a marathon cooking session. Currently working on a cookbook showcasing the recipes from her Danish heritage.

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