I have been happily getting started on our holiday baking traditions. My late mother-in-law was the Provider of Chex Mix to all the family members and I am filling in with my gluten-free version (I add more kinds of salted nuts, gluten-free pretzels and more spicy seasonings and replace the chow mein noodles and broken bagel chips she preferred). Those are baked, packaged and several containers are secretly stashed where I will hopefully find them again during Christmas week.
The cookie baking is also gearing up with a couple of batches of brownies stashed in the freezer and the remnants of a test batch of a cool new holiday cookie from Switzerland, Basler Brunsli. I spied this naturally gluten-free recipe in my vintage cookbook "Woman's Day Gifts From Your Kitchen" (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1976), and after experimenting with it, I am smitten with this aromatic, chewy cookie.
The cookie calls for ground almonds. I stocked up on whole almonds from the bulk bin of my grocery store ($7.00 per pound) and then ground them up in my blender. The cookie also called for kirsch, also known as kirschwasser, which is a cherry liqueur. My local liquor store had a small, dust-covered bottle. I suppose the rise of cherry-flavored cough syrup and other cold remedies has diluted the popularity of this particular alcohol. It does have a strong cherry scent and flavor, but it is perfect for offsetting the chocolate and clove elements of this wonderful cookie.
I had to wrestle with the dough a bit. The cookbook recipe calls for one to roll out the dough on a board lightly sprinkled with sugar and then cut out the cookies in the traditional rosette shape. However, the raw cookie dough was so moist that it slowly sloshed around my mixing bowl and I couldn't see handling it even between waxed or parchment paper. I tried freezing the dough, but the kirsch kept the dough from freezing or firming up, so in the end I just pinched off bits with a metal spoon and plopped them onto parchment-lined baking sheets. They spread to a 1-1/2 inch diameter when baked.
The spiciness of the ground cloves and cherry and chocolate flavors is perfectly balanced and they are exquisite with a cup of hot tea. I think they are more of cookie for an adult palate, being not too sweet or gooey or eye-catching. The texture is wonderful too. They are crisp, yet chewy and are not brittle, so they will make good candidates for holiday gift packages.
Here then is my version of Basler Brunsli, my new found holiday favorite confection:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup grated unsweetened chocolate (one square of baking chocolate, grated on a cheese grater)
2 Tbsp. kirsch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 egg whites
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, except for egg whites. Do not give in to the temptation to add more cloves than a level 1/4 tsp. as this flavoring will already be a dominant note in the finished product. And this advice comes from a baker who likes a lot of spice.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs whites until almost stiff. Fold in almond-chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly, yet gently. Divide dough in half and maneuver each half into a log. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place teaspoonfuls of cookie dough onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Try to maneuver dough into a round shape. Each cookie should be separated by at least an inch or two from its cookie neighbor as these will spread while baking.
Bake 12-15 minutes, or until cookie tops are no longer shiny.
Let cool on baking sheets for five minutes before gently removing them from the parchment with a slender spatula onto baking racks.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.
I'll be linking this post up with Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake and her 12 Days of Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies event on December 12. Check back with Maggie then to see all the other GF sweets others have cooked up this holiday season. But do try these Basler Brunsli cookies if you enjoy a spicy, chewy cookie, even if it is rather plain-looking next to some of its showier, wonderfully decorated neighbors on the holiday cookie plate this season.
You might also enjoy trying some other of my cookie recipes:
Almond Cloud Cookies
Flourless Fudge Brownies
Elegant Sesame-Ginger Cookies
Mexican Cinnamon Cookies (Polvorones de Canela)
Ginger-Nut Lace Cookies
Mocha-Pepper Sandwich Cookies
Peanut Butter Kisses