Basler brunsli are a traditional Swiss Christmas cookie made with almonds, chocolate and a touch of spice. You might need to wait a little, but these cookies are easy, naturally gluten free and deliciously good.
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I wasn't brought up with the tradition of baking cookies in the run up to Christmas, as in some places. And since I don't have a huge sweet tooth, I wasn't so quick to pick it up. However in recent years, I've grown to love trying new cookies (and my kids have been more than happy to taste-test!).
I've made a few new cookies of my own, but I also love discovering traditional cookies from around the world, as I mentioned when I shared Greek melomakarona recently. I love the variety, there's always something new to discover.
I've had Basler brunsli on my list to try a while, and finally got round to it recently. But now I think these might become a regular as we really enjoyed them. They are pretty sweet, but the rich dark chocolate flavor and hint of warm spice balance it out.
I also like the fact these are naturally gluten and dairy free, so a few friends can have these that couldn't try others. Especially during a time when sharing treats is so common, it's nice to have some options that fit different diets.
What are the origins of Basler brunsli?
Basler brunsli, or just brunsli, are a "Wiehnachtsguezli" (Christmas cookie) from Switzerland. "Basler" means from Basel, a city in the German-speaking part of the country. "Brun" means brown and the "li" ending means little.
While some other countries might have more famous cookies, the Swiss most definitely take Christmas cookies seriously. In fact there's even a word in Swiss German for making cookies, "guezle", which is only used in reference to Christmas time.
There are a number of classic cookies that people of all ages make, and this is one of them. To me, it's not so surprising that a Swiss favorite includes chocolate. But I particularly like the flavors added here.
Traditionally, these would be flower-shaped, but these days other shapes are also popular, including stars as I have made here.
Cookies worth the wait
One thing that is interesting about these compared to many cookies is they need time to rest. The dough is relatively moist, but then you leave the cut out cookies to air dry a bit before you bake them.
It's a technique used in a few Swiss cookies and while it might seem unusual, it works. French macaron are also left to dry in a similar way (but these are much easier to make).
The result is a lovely crisp outside with a little chewiness inside. Along with the delicious flavor, it makes them most definitely worth the wait.
You have a couple options on letting them rest - you can either roll and cut the dough when it is first made, or chill it first to be firmer. Having done both, I would say the chilled dough is a little easier to make sure the cookies keep their shape.
These need to be left to dry a good 3 hours so that they have a matte look to them and are no longer sticky. You can also leave them overnight, if that works better time-wise. It does mean they will dry more, which again means they keep shape a little better, but it's up to you if that matters enough to wait longer.
After they have baked, you can either enjoy them as they are or add a dusting of powdered sugar, as I did to some here. Some people also add a chocolate glaze - you could use the one I used with my German ginger cookies if you want to add some here.
We've tried a good number of cookies over the years, and these Basler brunsli are already a favorite, not just in our family but with others I have shared them with. I think they're going to have to happen much more often than just Christmas-time. Try them yourself and you'll soon love them too!
Try these other gluten free cookies:
- Persian walnut cookies (nan-e gerdui)
- German cinnamon star cookies (Zimtsterne)
- Oatmeal pistachio cookies
- Spiced maple cookies
- Plus get more snack recipes, both sweet and savory, as well as Holiday recipes in the archives.
Tools to make these cookies
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Basler brunsli (chocolate almond cookies)
- 1 cup almond flour fine ground blanched almonds
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup bittersweet chocolate (around 70% cacao)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 egg white
- Put the almond flour, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon and cloves in a food processor and process until you are left with a fine powder.
- Add the egg white and pulse until everything combines. Bring the dough together into a ball. At this point, you can wrap and chill the dough for around 30 mins if you prefer to make it a bit easier to work with.
- Place a piece of parchment on your worktop. Sprinkle it with sugar, flatten the dough slightly and put on top then sprinkle with a little more sugar. Cover with another piece of parchment then roll out. I have rolled to around ¼ inch (3mm) but you can make these a little thicker.
- Cut out shapes (eg stars, flowers or as you prefer) and transfer the cut cookies to a lined baking sheet/tray. Leave to air dry for at least 3 hours but overnight is also fine.
- Preheat the oven to 325F/160C then once it reaches temperature, bake the cookies for around 12-15 minutes until the tops are gently puffed up and dry.
- Leave to cool 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight box until needed (they'll keep a week or two). You can decorate with a dusting of powdered sugar or a chocolate glaze, if you like.