Saturday, November 21, 2020

Norwegian Butter Cookies

You can't beat a great butter cookie - and these Norwegian Butter Cookies are some of the best! Using a high-fat European style butter is crucial here since you taste it in every bite, and the tiniest bit of almond extract rounds out the whole thing. Beware, they are addictive!

It's generally held in my family that the best butter cookies belong to my mom - no ifs, ands, or buts, if we buy butter for baking between November 1st and January 1st, its almost exclusively earmarked for shortbreads. However, the type of butter we buy for those perfect cookies is (almost hilariously) specific, and pedestrian. I am not kidding - the fanciest we get for those cookies is the ubiquitous grocery store staple butter, if not the "no name" discount brand. We have tried "fancier" or more expensive brands, but none of them work quite right.

That said, I am a sucker for gourmet ingredients every once in a while, and when I was at the farmer's market last year (yes, pre-COVID) I splurged on a $6, 8-oz brick of high fat, European style butter. I originally planned to make croissants with it, but life and school and work got in the way and I wound up tossing it into the freezer and admittedly forgetting about it. Only when our fridge freezer's door guiderails broke and we had to de-bulk the baskets to try and lighten the load did I "rediscover" it - still in it's own little zip-top bag and foil wrapping. Since the holidays are coming nigh (though I think I am dangerously overloaded with cookie dough at the moment) I decided to try out another recipe from my mom's Reader's Digest Recipes from Around the World (the one this lovely loaf and these cookies came from) for Norwegian Butter Cookies.

Now, what makes these Norwegian, I cannot tell you. Is it the almond extract? No clue. What I can assure you is that there are absolutely no trolls or maelstorms in these tender, decadently rich yet simple cookies! You absolutely taste the butter in every bite, so unfortunately skimping on the quality / butterfat will not do you any favours here, and because they are so spartan in their ingredient lists it really is key to make sure every single ingredient is the best it can be. It sounds ironic to be harping on quality ingredients when there is also shortening in the ingredients list, but I believe that it's inclusion (and I used a good quality, non-hydrogenated brand) helps the cookies from becoming too flat or greasy. The cookies I made are not lily-white either, as the vanilla I used is naturally dark and I opted for unbleached flour, but when it comes to taste who cares?

I will have far more cookies coming to the blog in the next few weeks, but suffice it to say these are some of this year's favourites! 
Norwegian Butter Cookies
Makes ~30
1 cup high-fat, European style unsalted butter, softened (I used Stirling, Kerrygold or Plugra will also work)
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Beat together butter, shortening, sugar, salt and extracts in a large bowl.
  2. Add egg and beat well.
  3. Add flour and baking powder and mix until just combined.
  4. Wrap well and chill 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  6. Scoop dough into 2 tbsp balls onto the baking sheet about 2" apart.
  7. Flatten to about 1/2" thick with back of a fork.
  8. Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until edges are golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack.

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