Christmas is just around the corner. Every country, town and family have their own traditions. In Denmark we have many traditions and we do seem to agree on what cookies we like to eat for Christmas. Brunkager, klejner and vaniljekranse are the most popular cookies for Christmas. These are my recipes for the most popular Danish Christmas cookies.
I recently covered a German Christmas tradition, but this time the time has come to my native Denmark.
We have many different cookies we make for Christmas, but these three: brunkager, klejner and vanilljekranse are the most popular and beloved ones.
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The history of Danish Christmas Cookies
During the middle ages spices were used as a sort of a preservative and the brunkage is a prime example of that.
Earlier incarnations of these cookies were called peberkager (“pepper cookies”) because they contained ground black pepper. We still have a Christmas cookie with black pepper that’s called pebernødder (“pepper nuts”).
In Sweden they still eat pepper cakes for Christmas, but the Danish cookie diverged.
The brunkage became a Christmas tradition around the middle 1800’s. Stoves became more common and it was possible to make the cookies at home.
The klejne is a very old cookie. It’s from the Middle Ages were pots and fats were the way to prepare baked goods.
Back in the Middle Ages a wide array of spices were added to the klejner, but more recently recipes have been switching between cardamom and cinnamon.
One thing that’s common in the more recent variations of klejner is lemon. In the Danish recipes we use lemon zest. The Norwegians have a klejne that is covered in a lemon glaze.
What makes the klejne especially iconic is the shape and the twisting.
Vanilla wreaths are a more recent cookie, having it’s beginnings in the middle 1800’s.
Many people shape them using a meat grinder using a special star shaped attachment. Another way to shape them is to pipe them using a star shaped nozzle.
The ingredients for these Danish Christmas cookies recipes
To make these cookies you should use the highest quality ingredients available to you.
For the flour you should be using a cake flour, which will make for a more tender and brittle texture in all of these cookies.
As for butter, use butter made from milk from grass fed cows. It’ll really make a difference for the taste.
Please shape these recipes for Danish Christmas cookies on social media
These are my recipes for Danish Christmas cookies. If you like the recipes please consider sharing them with like-minded cookie lovers on social media.
If you make it and post it on Instagram, please tag me as @foodgeek.dk so I can see it. That would make me very happy.
Brunkager (Brown Cookies)
Prepare wet ingredients
- Melt 125g or ½ cup of butter, 125g or ½ cup of packed brown sugar and 70g or ⅕ cup of corn or golden syrup
- I use my microwave on low
Prepare dry ingredients
- I the meantime add the following ingredients to a bowl:
- 250g or 2 cups of cake flour, 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ground all-spice, 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger, ½ teaspoon of ground cloves, and 75g or ½ cup roughly chopped almonds.
- Then add 25g candied cedrat peel.
- Mix it all up thoroughly.
- Then mix 1 teaspoon of potassium bicarbonate into 1 tablespoon of water.
- Grab the butter mixture from the microwave and mix it up. It shouldn’t be too warm at this point. Add the mixed leavener.
- Add the entire butter mixture to the flour mixture. Work the mixture together using a spatula.
- Then when it becomes too dry, dump it out on the kitchen counter and knead it until you have a smooth, somewhat sticky dough.
- Roll it into a log about the size cookies you want. Then add it to a piece of parchment paper and roll to cover it.
- Put the dough in the fridge for at least four hours.
- When you are ready to bake, heat your oven to 175°C/350°F.
- Grab a parchment lined baking sheet, a cutting board and a sharp knife.
- Cut the dough into very thin slices and put them on the baking sheet.
- When the oven is hot, add the sheet and bake for about 6 minutes.
- The cookies shouldn’t brown, but that can be a bit hard to tell. Take them out and put them on a wire rack.
- Continue with the rest of the dough until you’ve baked them all.
- Note that they are really soft when they come right out of the oven and won’t be crispy until they’ve cooled off.
- 75 g butter
- ¼ tsp vanilla powder
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 3 spsk whipping cream
- 90 g sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp ammonium bicarbonate
- 275 g cake flour
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp table salt
- Zest 1 lemon and chop it finely.
- Squeeze a ½ lemon into a small bowl.
Prepare butter mixture
- To a small bowl add: 75g or a ⅓ cup room temperature butter, ¼ teaspoon vanilla powder, the lemon zest, 3 tablespoons whipping cream, and 90g or ½ cup sugar
- Whip it up. After it’s pretty well whipped together add 1 egg and mix it in.
- Then mix up one tablespoon of lemon juice with ammonium bicarbonate. It should foam.
- Add the leavener to the butter mixture. Mix it up.
- To a small mixing bowl add: 275g or 2 cups cake flour, ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom, and ¼ teaspoon table salt. Mix it up.
- Then add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix with a spatula until it comes together.
- Dump it on the counter and knead it until you have a cohesive dough.
- Put it in a ziplock bag and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.
- After it’s rested, grab the dough from the fridge and roll it out into a rectangle.
- It should be pretty thin. About 2 mm, a bit less than an eighth of an inch.
- Then cut them into rhombus shapes with a pastry wheel cutter. They should be about 3 cm by 8 cm, about 1 inch by 3 inches. Cut a hole in the middle of each rhombus.
- Pick one up and stretch the hole a little then put one end through the hole and tug on it so it becomes this little knot.
- Put them all on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- After they are all shaped, heat a pot of 1 liter or 4 cups of neutral tasting oil. I used rapeseed, but you can use peanut, grapeseed or canola, for example. It should be 180°C/360°F.
- Add a couple of klejner at a time, and let them cook on both sides until they are golden brown.
- I can fit 6 klejner at a time in my pot, and stagger the timing so I have some that are halfway done, when I add the next batch.
- Let them cool on a wire rack with kitchen paper underneath.
- They are great when they are still warm, but good for a few days after they are made.
Vaniljekranse (Vanilla Wreaths)
- 1 vanilla pod
- 80 g sugar
- 75 g almond flour
- 100 g butter
- 1 egg
- 100 g cake flour
- Heat your oven to 175°C/350°F.
- Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds.
- Add some sugar and mash it into the seeds to separate them.
- To a small mixing bowl add: the vanilla sugar, 80g or ½ cup sugar, 75g or ⅘ cup almond flour. Mix it up.
- Add 100g or ½ cup butter and mash it into the mixture with a spatula.
- When it comes together add an egg. Mix the egg into the dough.
- When it’s mixed in add 100g or ⅘ cup cake flour. Mix until the flour has been dispersed.
Pipe vanilla wreaths
- Then grab a piping bag and fit a star shaped piping nozzle.
- Pipe wreaths out until a parchment line baking sheet.
Bake vanilla wreaths
- Add the sheet to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The wreaths should be just golden brown on the edges.
- Grab them and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
- They won’t be crispy until they are cooled down completely.
I am crazy about food, cakes, snacks and everything in between. I love to do tons of experiments to find the best recipe, so that you don’t have to.