Adventures in Baking: Basler Brunsli + Winter Solstice Festivities

I hope everyone had a cozy Winter Solstice yesterday! I celebrated with friends, charcuterie, mulled wine, The Nutcracker at the OKC ballet, and basler brunsli!

Basler Brunsli is a traditional Christmas cookie from Basel in Northern Switzerland. They’re a naturally gluten-free spiced chocolate almond cookie. I discovered them when I was researching gluten-free cookie options for my nephew who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. I wanted him to be able to enjoy treats at Christmas along with the other kids, so I thought I’d give these cookies a try at my Winter Solstice party to see just how delicious they are!

Basler Brunsli unbaked

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk equipment. You pretty much have to have a food processor or some type of food chopper to make these cookies. The almonds and chocolate need to be finely ground. I suppose you could use a mortar and pestle if you have one, but it would probably take you forever. If you don’t have a food processor, consider borrowing one from a pal or checking one out from your local library if they offer this service. But besides that, the necessary equipment is fairly standard: cookie sheets, parchment paper, your favorite open cookie cutter, and a rolling pin.

The recipe I’m using is adapted from this recipe.

My Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dark chocolate
  • 8 oz slivered almonds
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

As you can see, I made some tweaks to the ingredients list. I used slivered almonds instead of almond meal, reduced the sugar to one cup, and added a tablespoon of cocoa powder. These changes are based on traditional basler brunsli recipes that I’ve seen that call for freshly ground almonds, bit less sugar, and more chocolate.

My Instructions:

  1. Measure 8 ounces of slivered almonds into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until semi-fine and grainy. Add the chocolate and pulse until chocolate is fine and mixed well with the almonds. Do not allow the chocolate to melt or the almonds to reach the almond butter stage. It should look and feel like garden soil.
  2. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and cloves. Pulse to combine.
  3. While your food processor is on, slowly drizzle in the egg whites through the spout. The dough will begin to combine. Pulse until the dough is fully combined, however the dough will still be sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour up to overnight.
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle a clean surface or silicone pastry mat with granulated sugar. Roll the dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Stamp shapes using your favorite open cookie cutter. Transfer the stamped shapes to the lined cookie sheets and re-roll the scraps to stamp more cookies, sprinkling more sugar as necessary to prevent sticking. Lightly sprinkle the tops of the cookies with more sugar. Allow the cookies to air out on the counter for 30 minutes up to overnight.
  5. Heat the oven to 300 F. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until slightly puffed. The cookies will still be soft when you take them out of the oven. Let them cool on a cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes or until easily moved without breaking and transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Recipe Notes

I deviated from the original instructions by combining everything in the food processor rather than using another bowl. This makes them easier to make, and it creates less dishes!

When I say “open cookie cutter”, I mean one that doesn’t have a backing. As you can see, I used one that had a backing and it was a pain to get them out because this is a naturally sticky dough. Many recipes also advised to avoid cookie cutters with intricate details. Just stick with basic shapes, people: hearts, stars, trees if you have a tree shape, or whatever else you have that leans on the side of “simple”.

I only aired my cookies for 30 minutes, but many recipes call for overnight airing. I didn’t have the time for overnight, but I plan to try this next time.

The Verdict

Holy smokes these were incredible and so easy! These paired magnificently with the mulled wine I served at my Winter Solstice gathering, and they’d be great with tea and coffee as well. I’ve never had anything quite like these cookies. They’re not too sweet, but deliciously chocolate-y and the spices really make them special. I’ve had chocolate biscuits before, but these are not at all like a normal chocolate biscuit. They’ve got a slight crunch while still being chewy in the centers. I like that these are naturally gluten-free, and not something trying to be gluten-free. You don’t have to fuss with gluten-free flours and you don’t have to worry about hidden gluten in other ingredients. You can rely on these being delicious when you make them for your gluten-free friends and family!

The only thing I’d do differently is add one teaspoon of vanilla extract. I think this would give them a bit of extra oomph without adding more sweetness. You could also add a small amount of espresso powder for coffee-lovers; while not traditional, this would be tasty!

Winter Solstice Festivities

Claude and I celebrated the Solstice with two of our dearest friends. The basler brunsli were a sweet accompaniment to my best to-date charcuterie board! Every single cheese on the board came from Aldi, as did the bottle of Christkindl Mulled Wine. I tend to favor the cranberry cinnamon goat cheese log, but every cheese from Aldi is so delicious and well-priced. I used some grocery bags I had stored as the “board” for easy clean-up.

charcuterie winter solstice 2019
From left to right: port wine and almond cheese ball, Spanish olives, red table grapes, meat assortment, honey and pecan baked brie, whiskey white cheddar, cinnamon cranberry goat cheese log, and blueberries all surrounded by roasted hazelnuts and pretzels!

After we had our fill of charcuterie and cookies, we made our way to the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City to watch OKC Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker. If you are ever in Oklahoma City during the holidays, this is a must-see! I have been going to this show every year since I was 8 years old and ever year, it gets more and more impressive. The Civic Center is decorated lavishly with greenery and a massive Christmas tree, and the set and costume design of the ballet is just as impressive. And of course, the dancers are perfectly poised and their technique is distinguished and inspired. The accompanying orchestra doesn’t miss a beat, either. Nothing will get you into the holiday spirit more than this fabulous show!

Nutcracker 2019

If you make basler brunsli, let me know how much you enjoy it! There is no doubt that this will be a permanent addition to my holiday cookie list and I hope it is for you, too!

Happy Winter Solstice 2019!

 

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