Brunkager are Danish Christmas cookies with a delicious spiced flavor and a wonderful crunch. Perfect to add to your cookie plate.
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I know it's been less than a week since I shared a cookie recipe which, for someone who claims to not be much of a cookie person, is kind of odd. But, 'tis the season of cookies and it seems I find it hard to pass up virtual cookie exchanges.
This time it's an international-themed cookie exchange which if you've read a little here, you can imagine was right up my street. I considered something more familiar but instead I decided to try something new but delicious-sounding. I certainly wasn't disappointed with these brunkager.
What are brunkager?
Brunkager translates literally as 'brown cookie', which is pretty accurate as you can see. They get their brown color from a mixture between the spices used to flavor them and the brown sugar.
You get a sense of all of these flavors combining from the smell as they cook. It only gets better once you are able to enjoy taking a bite. Then go back for another, it's so good.
One of the things that drew me to these Danish Christmas cookies is I love spiced flavors as well as nuts. Both are perfect in Christmas baking in my mind, as Northern European traditions confirm. Many German cookies also opt for spice, like lebkuchen, German ginger cookies (ingwerplatzchen) and others.
The Danish Christmas cookie tradition
In case you think these aren't the Danish Christmas cookies you are familiar with, that is because there are many varieties. Apparently part of the reason there are so many different cookies is traditionally you always have to have some to share through December.
My parents recently visited while I had a good stock of homemade cookies, and I have to say I can see some of the rationale. Not only are they great with the inevitable hot drinks this time of year, but having a few allows for different tastes.
My mum was a big fan of my pistachio oatmeal cookies, my son liked an adaptation I made of raspberry shortbread and my husband liked my cranberry-pomegranate-filled shortbread spiral cookies.
Slightly healthier adaptations
True, these Danish Christmas cookies are not as healthy as some of my other recipes but they taste great and for now and then, why not. I have, however, slightly adapted from recipes I found to be a little healthier without losing too much of what they are all about.
Since they have almonds in them anyway, I used part almond flour, for example, and a bit of coconut oil rather than all butter. Traditionally they're made with light syrup that I don't think is really available in the US - the closest would be corn syrup or golden syrup.
Instead, I used maple syrup that's both a little better for you and has a great flavor. Last point on ingredients, most recipes include candied peel which can be a bit tricky to find so I used marmalade instead which one recipe suggested.
How to make brunkager
Making these cookies is a little different from some but it's still easy to do.
- First melt the butter, sugar and syrup together.
- Let them cool a bit before you add the dry ingredients.
- Mix, scoop onto a floured work surface then make a 'log' with the dough.
- Wrap in cling wrap/film and chill overnight.
- Slice, put slices on a lined baking sheet and bake.
Some recipes would have you make the dough a few days ahead to allow the flavors to come through more.I settled for overnight one time, a couple days another. I think the longer time may have been a bit better but really do as suits.
Also, you can certainly make the dough, slice off and bake a few and keep the rest of the dough chilled for a few days, or freeze if you want to keep longer, baking more.
Most recipes I found for brunkager made great big batches. True, these are smaller, more bite-sized, cookies compared to your more typical American ones but I have kept quantities smaller to make more sense for most people.
I admit, I am starting to see why lots of different cookies are made this time of year. These Danish Christmas cookies are certainly ones I am keeping on my regular list. These are, after all, definitely cookies for sharing.
Looking for more international cookie recipes? Try these:
- Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger thins)
- Cucidati (Italian fig cookies)
- Kolache cookies (jam-filled folded cookies)
- Persian walnut cookies (nan-e gerdui)
- Alfajores (dulce de leche sandwich cookies)
- Plus get more 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.
Brunkager (Danish Christmas cookies)
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil (or more butter, if you prefer)
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 3 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon marmalade
- ½ teaspoon baking soda bicarbonate of soda
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ¾ cup all purpose flour plain flour (or just under)
- ¼ cup ground almonds almond flour
- Melt butter, coconut oil, syrup and sugar in a pan until all are melted and combined. Allow to cool until cool enough to handle.
- Add the almonds, marmalade, baking soda and spices and gradually add in the flour and ground almonds, stirring as you go, until combined.
- Tip out and kneed slightly and form into a log - it will still be a bit soft. Wrap in plastic and chill overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F/180C.
- Re-shape the log of cookie dough if needed and cut it into thin slices and place on a lined baking sheet with some space in between to allow for a little spreading.
- Bake for around 10 minutes, watching them in the last few minutes as they can burn. They should just be starting to darken a little, look relatively dry but will still be soft to touch
- Cool on a cooling rack and store in a sealed container.
This recipe was first shared in Dec 2015 and has been updated, primarily with new photos and video.
Plus some other cookies from around the world:
- The Dominican Republic: The Petit Gourmet- Deditos de novia
- Germany: Cosmopolitan Cornbread- Spritzgeback (Butter Cookies)
- Greece: Tara's Multicultural Table- Kourambiethes
- Italy: Eat Picks -Cujidatta
- The Netherlands: Curious Cuisiniere- Dutch Speculoos Cookies
- Puerto Rico: Sew You Think You Can Cook- Mantecaditos