“Here, you will need to learn these recipes!” My future mother-in-law pressed the cookbook into my hands. She was smiling, but I knew that she was serious. Pete’s mom was 100% Finnish, and now she expected me to help carry on her family traditions.
The Finnish Cookbook, by Beatrice A Ojakangas, was published in 1964, and to a great extent, the contents reflected that era. There were numerous casseroles and few vegetable dishes. Almost half the book was devoted to the “coffee table”—a spread of cookies, cakes, breads, tarts, and tortes all containing huge quantities of butter, cream, and sugar. It all looked delicious—and really, really bad for you. I quickly realized that while I might learn to make these things, I was going to have to ration them carefully!
Over the years, Pete and I have decided to forego most of the book’s recipes. Liver Rice Casserole, Smoked Herrings au Gratin, and Tongue with Cucumber Sauce just aren’t our style. However, Diagonal Cookies, made from a basic cookie dough recipe, are bites of buttery, melt-in-your-mouth heaven. I guarantee that they will become your favorite Christmas cookie.
So here is my Christmas gift to you—definitely the best cookies you’ve ever eaten. Just don’t blame me if you gain 10 pounds this season.
Basic Cookie Dough
- 2½ C soft butter (not margarine)
- 5 C flour
- 1 C sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt
Using your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Gradually add the flour and salt. The mixture will resemble fine crumbs. Work the crumbs between the palms of your hands until their warmth turns the mixture into a dough. (If your kitchen is cold, this conversion process is slow. It helps if you set the bowl in warm water.
- 1/4 recipe Basic Cookie Dough
- Current jelly
- Powdered sugar
Use one-quarter of the Basic Cookie Dough. Divide it into four parts. Roll each into a long log about the thickness of a finger and place on lightly greased baking sheets. With the side of a blunt end of a knife, press a dent down the length of each log. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and fill the dent with current jelly. Return to the oven and bake until the edges are a very light golden brown (about 10 minutes more). Remove from oven and brush with a glaze made of ½ C sifted powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp. hot water. Cut the logs into 1-inch diagonal slices when cool. Makes about 48 cookies.
Pete’s mom added a few hints: “Easier to use cookie press with lady finger die. I use a pastry tube with small star for jelly.” I found that helpful, and I’ll add my own: do not use one-quarter of the Basic Cookie Dough. Use it all, and make four batches. Then hide a few cookies for yourself. Once everyone else tastes them, they’ll disappear quickly!
However, if you want more variety, here are some other ways to use the remaining dough. I will admit that I have not tried most of these—as I said, I prefer to make more Diagonal Cookies.
Cinnamon Cardamom Nuggets
To one-quarter of the Basic Cookie Dough add 1 tsp. ground cardamom and 2 tsp. cinnamon, mixing until well blended. Roll out into strands about the thickness of a finger and chill until stiff. Cut into ½-inch pieces and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes or until very lightly golden. Cool and dust with powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Makes about 50 nuggets.
To one-quarter recipe Basic Cookie Dough add 2 egg yolks and ½ tsp. baking powder. Mix well. Roll into strips about ¼-inch thick and cut these into 4-inch lengths. Shape each into a ring and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes until firm and lightly browned. Makes about 24 cookies. These also make good cookie press cookies.
Aunt Hannah’s Cookies
Use one-quarter of the Basic Cookie Dough. Crumble this and add to it 2 egg yolks, ½ tsp. baking powder, and ¼ cup sugar. Mix well. Chill. Roll out on a lightly floured board to about ¼-inch thickness. Using a scalloped cookie cutter, cut out rounds, then cut each of these in half so you have scalloped half circles. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Makes about 48 cookies.
Knead ½ C ground nuts (almonds or walnuts) into one-quarter recipe Basic Cookie Dough. roll the mixture into a log 1-inch in diameter, wrap it in waxed paper, and chill in the refrigerator. Slice as thinly as possible (about 1/8-inch thick) and sprinkle with additional chopped nuts and granulated sugar, about 1/8 tsp. per cookie. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake at 350°F until a light golden brown, about 7 – 10 minutes. Makes about 48 cookies.
To one-quarter recipe Basic Cookie Dough add 1 tsp. ground anise seed and 1 egg. Mix until well blended. Chill. Roll out on lightly floured board to about 1/8-inch thickness. With a crimped-edge pastry wheel, cut the entire surface into diamond shapes. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with more crushed anise seeds. Place on lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375°F 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Do not over bake. Makes about 24 cookies.