Christmas Cookie Time!

December is here! I guess I'm stating the obvious, but december tends to get me in a "jolly" mood. Yes people are running around like crazy, trying to race you on the streets or the supermarket lines, over buying, over eating and maybe forgetting what christmas should be about. Nevertheless, it's one of my favorit time of the year, one reason for this is baking christmas cookies.

I strictly forbid myself from making them all year long, beside those 4 weeks before christmas, otherwise they wouldn't be so special, and I wouldn't enjoy them as much as I do now. It is very traditional in my region, were "bredela" are one of the landmark during this holiday season. So many recipes exist, combining spicies, candied fruits, all kinds of nuts, chocolate, butter...

I have been making christmas cookies before I was tall enough to reach the top of the counter, so I have my "classics" that I make every year, but I also like to change or try new recipes. Like mostly in those situation, I turn to my Grandma's book, she knew her way with sweet things. Even if the look of them are a bit out dated, they still are a great source of information.

So one kind I choose to do "for a change" this year, are not brand new to me, I use to make them with my mother. But I haven't done them in years, maybe because they lack of the "pretty" factor. Even the name "Totenbeinli" litteraly means "leg of the deads", not very appealing, is it? But they are full of flavor and crunch, and around here, they are the most popular in the 6 sorts I've done so far, I guess there's a reason for that.

Totenbeinli, Hazelnuts Christmas Cookies (based on "Betty Bossi Back Buch" 1973)

For 2 to 3 Oven Trays

75gr of Butter, at room temperature
200gr of Sugar
1 Lemon, zested
2 Eggs + 1 White
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Cloves
50gr of Ground Hazelnuts
200gr of Whole Hazelnuts
250gr of Flour

Cut the butter into cubes and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes, and whisk it (preferably with a hand or stand mixer) to give it a creamy consistency. Add the sugar to that and combine well.

Over the bowl where the butter and the sugar is, zest your lemon (buy an organic one, or wash it thorougly). Add the 2 whole eggs, the cinnamon, the ground cloves, a pinch of salt and the ground hazelnuts, mix everything well together.

Now for the whole hazelnuts, I bought mined shelled, but they still have a fine brown skin around them. To get rid of that skin, and add some flavors, we need to roast them a little in a non-sticky frying pan. With no fat, put the pan on a medium heat and add the hazelnut, toss them around until the skins cracks.
Lay a kitchen towel on your working surface and pour the roasted hazelnuts on it, possibly on one side. Fold the empty side of the towel on the side where the hazelnuts are, and start rubbing in order to get the skins off. You can also do it in between your hands, but be very carefull not to burn yourself.

Add the roasted hazelnuts to the previous ingredients, and combine well. And finally, add the flour to make it into a dough, leave it to rest for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C

On a floured worksurface, roll out the dough to a square or rectangle shape of about 1cm thick, and with a large knife, cut the cookies about the size of a finger. Place them on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
Whisk the egg white a little, and brush the cookies with it before putting them in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes.

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