Little Christmas Day is a busy day.

What?! There is a Little Christmas Day? I hear you think.

Little Christmas Day is simply the day before Christmas Eve. So, it's Little Christmas Day/Eve on December 23rd. The day has never had any significance in the church, but in homes, it used to be the focal point of a cooking tradition: Baking cookies for Christmas – vanilla rings, klejner (you know, we talked about this on December 9th), and Brunkager (see below).

Little Christmas Eve has always been a busy evening. Finishing touches to all the preparations for Christmas, maybe even some last minute gift shopping, and that is still the case.

But according to Danish superstition, you should always offer visitors something (to eat and drink) from Little Christmas Eve and all the way until Epiphany, on January 6th. If you fail to do so, the guest that did not receive a treat will take Christmas with them when they leave, and joy and happiness will disappear from your home.

We can't be responsible for that, so here's a recipe for the most delicious Brunkager so you have a treat for your visitors.

The Danish gingerbread cookie or Brunkage, as it is called in Danish, is a very traditional Danish Christmas cookie. Brunkager is eaten throughout the month of December and January (if you have any left)

Brunkager

Makes 70 brunkager
Prep: 1 day
Cook: 15 minutes

 

Recipe

  • 50 g almonds, blanched and coarsely chopped
  • 125 g / 4.4 oz butter, unsalted
  • 65 g / 2.3 oz light syrup
  • 125 g / 4.4 oz dark brown sugar or granulated sugar
  • 250 g /8.8 oz flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground clove
  • ½ orange, organic (finely grated zest and 1 tbsp juice)
  • 1 tsp “potaske” (a Danish product containing potassium carbonate) – can be substituted with baking soda, but the result will not quite be the same.
     

Method

  • Remove almond skins (if necessary) by pouring boiling water over whole almonds and soaking for 10 minutes. Then press the almonds out of the skins, adding additional hot water along the way to keep the skins loose. Coarsely chop blanched almonds and set aside.
  • Melt the butter, light syrup and dark brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and remove from heat. Transfer the sugar mixture to a new bowl to cool.
  • In a bowl, mix the flour with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, grated orange zest and chopped almonds.
  • Dissolve the “potaske” in 1 tbsp orange juice and stir into the sugar mixture. Baking soda can be used as a substitute, but the texture will not quite be the same.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture, adding a little at a time. Knead thoroughly and let the dough cool completely.
  • Divide the dough in half and roll into two cylinders, approximately 4 cm /1.5 in in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the next day. You can also prepare this dough several weeks in advance, and it can keep in the freezer for up to three months.

 

Baking

  • Heat the oven to 180°C / 355°F on standard setting (not convection).
  • Remove dough from the refrigerator and cut in thin slices. Bake the cookies on a lined baking sheet for 5 to 7 minutes. All ovens are different, so keep a close eye on the cookies as they bake.
  • Cool the cookies on a rack and store in a cookie tin.

Recipe Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark