I'm half Slovak, and proud of it. My mother was from a small village along the Ukrainian border, arriving in the U.S. at age 6. I mention this because the tradition of baking for Christmas that epitomizes Slovak wintertime is the context into which I was presented this particular recipe. Given the name, I'm sure that my mother's Swedish Brandy Rings were not something the family brought with them on the U.S.S. Paris in 1937. But I think of it as one of her Slovak Christmas cookies. We made it every year for at least 40 years, and I continue the tradition. My wife absolutely loves these, and demands them every December.
The recipe is a simple butter cookie that is perfect for accompanying coffee or tea. Unlike other liquor-infused cookies for the holidays, it has only enough alcohol to provide flavor. It's not intended to give a kick, which is good, since I ate a bunch of these as a kid.
Swedish Brandy Rings
- 3 1/2 c. sifted flour
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 T. brandy
- 1 1/2 c. butter or margerine
- 1/2 c. chopped almonds
- 1/4 c. sugar
- colored sugars /sprinkles (particularly green) for decoration
- cinnamon candy and/or silver christmas cookie balls as decorations (optional)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Allow butter to soften.
Sift flour, 3/4 c. sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender. Mix slowly (or by hand using a spoon or pastry blender) until you have a smooth dough.
In a separate small dipping bowl, mix together topping ingredients. Place parchment paper onto cookie sheets.
Flour hands and pinch off a piece of the dough, about 50 cent piece in diameter. Roll into pencil thin strips approximately 8" long. Fold it lengthwise and twist together. Shape into a ring. Press ring into topping mixture and place, topping side up on cookie sheet.
Bake approximately 10 minutes. Cookie does not brown on the top and is initially soft when removed from oven. Bottoms should be a light brown. These are easy to burn.
This is the recipe that I've followed every year, but I'm going to do some experiments this year. It's hard to get the toppings to stick to the cookies, so I may try an egg or water wash and sprinkle the toppings on rather than dipping into them. I'll report back and let everyone know how that turns out. As it is, we used to butter the pans, but I found out last year that parchment paper works much better for these. We used to add the cinnamon candies and small silvered candy balls to make these look more like miniature wreathes when I was young, but I've had trouble finding these elements in recent years.
I'll add a photo of these when I make them this year.