This rich, buttery cookie is one of the crowning glories of the family cookie collection. As Grandma Oksendahl wrote to me in an email once, “Not many people have the patience to do them as thin as they should be. But if they weren’t raised Norwegian they can’t be expected to do them perfectly …. That’s a joke, sweetie.”
To “perfectly” press a sandbakkle is indeed a talent that requires some time to master. Even when you’re good at it, you can expect to spend about 60 seconds per cookie. That’s why my primary memory of Christmas as a girl is sitting around the kitchen table at our house with my mother, grandmother and Aunt Tanis while we all pressed sandbakkles. Many hands might light work and all that.
Unfortunately, most cooks now lack the patience to do them right. Almost all you see anymore are thick, hard cookies – and even ones that are filled with whipped cream or fruit! Yuck.
Makes 5-6 dozen
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and almond, then incorporate flour. Chill dough.
See Christmas Cookie Basics for more information about preparing the dough.
To press the cookies:
You need sandbakkle tins, or small tart tins. Use about a walnut-sized piece of dough for each cookie.
Start by pressing dough into the bottom of the tin, getting a nice thin layer on the bottom, and forcing the rest up the sides of the tin. Use your thumbs to shape the dough against the sides of the tin, and the edge of your fingertip to press the dough into the little ridges. This is the really time consuming part – individually pressing the dough inside of each little ridge to the same thickness, while being careful not to make bare spots.
The finished cookie should not be smooth on the inside! It should be ridged just like the outside. Not only is it lazy craftsmanship to make cookies that are smooth on the inside, the thick walls make for the entirely wrong texture for the cookie. They’re supposed to be light and crisp, not hard and dense!
This is a batch that I made with Laura and the girls a couple years ago. The stack in front is especially well done (I’m pretty sure I made those teehee) – see how the insides are ridged just as much as the outsides? You’ll also notice that except for a few in the back that just started to get a little brown, none of them are overcooked either. 😉
Here are a whole bunch of ways they’ve been done wrong, courtesy of virtually all the images on Google:
These aren’t AWFUL: they’re still relatively thin, but there’s not an enterior ridge to be found. They’re especially lazy around the bottoms, where the sides meet the base of the tin – see how thick they are??
These overflowing fatties are just …. No. Dear God, no.
They’re also WAY overcooked. These cookies should basically still be cream colored when they’re done. They don’t “brown,” like chocolate chip cookies do.
Below are what happen when you press them too thin at the top. First are the raw cookies, with the tins shining through; and then are the finished cookies with all kinds of unsightly gaps around the top ridges.
In this photo, the ones on top are slightly undercooked and raw-looking. The ones peeking out from the bottom layer that have started to brown are better, but should have been taken out of the oven 30 seconds earlier.
To remove cookies from the tins, arrange them upside down on a sliced-open brown paper bag as soon as you take them out of the oven. Tap the bottoms of the tin with a knife and the cookies should slide right out, because of their high butter content. Lift the tins off and allow cookies to cool while you start on your next batch.
To store, layer them between sheets of waxed paper and keep in the freezer.