[Not So] Traditional Swedish Butter Cookies
I was recently invited to a cookie exchange — my first. The party sounded like fun, but I was completely stumped by what to make.
Let’s face it, everyone knows cookie exchanges are basically beauty contests for baked goods, and even though this one wouldn’t involve judges or prizes (thank heavens!), I didn’t want to be the one bearing the ‘platter of shame.’
I needed to find a recipe that didn’t just taste good, but looked pretty, traveled well, and was unique — yet easily mass-produced.
After polling friends and family for suggestions and experimenting with several different recipes (including these White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal cookies which were very good but rather homely), I decided to stick with tradition: a Swedish butter cookie. I’m a quarter Swedish and my family has been making a version of these old-fashioned cookies — pressed with a fork and dotted with red and green maraschino cherries — nearly every Christmas for four generations.
I started with my great-grandmother’s original recipe which calls for cake flour, an egg and very little sugar and (for me, at least) yielded doughy, flavorless lumps. Not exactly what I was going for.
So I decided instead to try a fresh take on tradition by adapting this recipe. I increased the maple syrup to enhance the flavor and add some chewiness (it’s still not at all maple-y tasting), added a dash of vanilla and salt, and dipped a corner of the finished cookie in melted chocolate to make it a bit more festive — and decadent.
The result? A crispy, slightly chewy, buttery cookie that resembles shortbread in flavor but is lighter in texture.
They were a big hit with the at-home taste-testers, and although I think we were all too sick of making cookies to actually eat them at the exchange, mine passed the most important test: I came home with an empty platter.
Just one batch yields 48 – sufficient for most cookie exchanges. [Note: There are no eggs in this recipe.]
[Not So] Traditional Swedish Butter Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
6 oz. good quality chocolate (I used a combination of ½ dark and ½ milk)
Neutral vegetable oil (optional; for thinning chocolate)
2 oz. white chocolate chips (optional; for drizzling)
In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add vanilla and maple syrup and mix well to combine. Add 1 c. of the flour, the baking soda and the salt to the creamed mixture and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated. Add remaining flour and mix just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (At this point the dough can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped in plastic, then allowed to rest at room temperature before proceeding.)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Divide the dough into eight equal portions (I patted it into a disk, then cut the disk into eight wedges) and form each portion into a semi-log shape.
Flatten the logs (I used a rolling pin) to make 9”-long rectangles and place about 1.5 inches apart on two ungreased baking sheets. Don’t worry about making the rectangles too perfect — they’ll flatten and im-perfect themselves during baking. Just part of the homemade charm.
Bake at 300°F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Use a pizza cutter to trim ends (if needed) and cut six cookies from each rectangle; cool on wire racks.
While cookies are cooling, put 6 oz. of chocolate in a glass bowl (a coffee mug works perfectly for the size and shape of these cookies) and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Continue to heat and stir, 15 seconds at a time, until completely smooth and glossy. Allow to cool slightly. (You can add a small amount of vegetable shortening or neutral vegetable oil, such as canola — ½ teaspoon at a time — if chocolate is too thick.) Happy accident: When baking my last batch, I needed more chocolate but didn’t have the time or inclination to make yet another trip to the grocery store. I used 3 oz. butterscotch chips and 3 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli) — just enough butterscotch flavor to complement the buttery-ness of the cookie without overpowering.
Dip a corner of each cookie into chocolate and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes.
Put white chocolate chips in one corner of a snack-size Ziploc bag and microwave about 10 seconds or until melted. Snip off a tiny corner of bag and drizzle over the chocolate portion of each cookie.