Holiday recipe: Scandinavian honey heart cookies

These Danish holiday cookies are so pretty, some people decorate their Christmas trees with them, says Scandinavian baking expert Nichole Accettola, owner of San Francisco’s Kantine Scandinavian bakery and cafe and author of the new “Scandinavian from Scratch” cookbook(Ten Speed Press, $29.99).

The first time she encountered these cookies, they were decorated with glossy Christmas-themed  cutouts. Upon further inspection, Accettola says, she found that the “cookie under the chocolate shell was as chewy as a soft oatmeal cookie but more substantial and flavored with all the best warm spices.”

Unlike other recipes for these cookies, which advise making the dough an entire month before baking them, her recipe creates cookies that can be baked right away and that produce the same texture and taste. Topped with tempered chocolate and decorated with royal icing, they’re stunning.

Honey Hearts (Honninghjerter)

Makes 8 to 10 hearts

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (250 g) honey

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

1⁄3 cup (75 g) unsalted butter

4 cups (512 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

5 ounces (141 g) 63% (or higher) bittersweet chocolate, broken or chopped into pieces

DIRECTIONS

In a small saucepan, whisk the honey, sugar and butter over medium heat until melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and salt.

By hand, whisk the egg into the honey mixture. Add the flour mixture to the honey mixture and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed until uniform in color, about 3 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky, so wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before using. It can also be safely refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, line two 13- by 18-inch baking trays with parchment paper. Arrange two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour, then roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. (These cookies are meant to be thick.) Cut the dough into hearts using cookie cutters — my favorite size is a 5-inch heart — and transfer to the prepared baking trays, spacing them 1 inch apart. Feel free to re-roll your scraps to make more cookies.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking trays halfway through from top to bottom and front to back, until light brown and firm to the touch. The baking time will depend on the size of your cookies.

Transfer the hearts to a rack to cool.

When completely cool, transfer the cookies to an airtight container and cover them with a piece of parchment paper followed by a damp kitchen towel. Seal the container and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 day or up to 4 days. Putting the hearts in the refrigerator is not obligatory but strongly suggested: It makes the hearts magically and wonderfully chewy.

Tempering chocolate is a process of melting chocolate slowly to give it a smooth and glossy finish and allow it to set well on baked goods. Place three-quarters of the chocolate in a medium heat-resistant bowl. Fill a saucepan with about 1 inch of water and bring to a low simmer. Place the bowl over (but not touching) the simmering water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until almost entirely melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan (keep the heat on) and stir to melt remaining bits. Add the rest of the chopped chocolate to the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Place the bowl back over the simmering water and heat, stirring often, until almost entirely melted. Be sure not to let the chocolate get warmer than 88 degrees. Dip the fronts of the hearts in the chocolate and allow them to dry on a rack. Decorate the chocolate-covered hearts however you like. The cookies can be served right away or stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

— Courtesy Nichole Accettola, “Scandinavian from Scratch” (Ten Speed Press, $29.99)

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Author: Kate Bradshaw

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