Swiss Walnut Christmas Cookies

18 December 2011

Post image for Swiss Walnut Christmas Cookies

I have never really been a big fan of Swiss biscuits, Christmas or otherwise. In all fairness, I haven’t really sampled too many because, quite frankly, they are not always the most appealing when lined up next to the fancy American cookies or British biscuits. When presented with the choice between a cookie oozing with morsels of chocolate and a Läckerli, the latter doesn’t stand a chance, despite the fact that Läckerli is derived from the German word lecker which means delicious. Indeed, Läckerli - a hard, spiced biscuit made from hazelnuts and honey – is delicious, but just not my everyday biscuit of choice.

Just last week, my lovely neighbours from downstairs knocked on my door to present me with a gorgeous little box filled with homemade Christmas cookies. They had busied themselves the previous day with some leisurely baking and icing of cookies, a day which has since been recounted with much humour after it was found that the only cookie cutters they had were of a dolphin and a penguin. A knock on another neighbours’ door and a further cookie cutter was added to the collection – a mushroom. And so explains the Christmas cookies which were given to me which, at the time, appeared to be a cute but an unusual collection of shapes for this time of year. But I didn’t give it to much thought as I proceeded to devour most of the cookies later that afternoon. Although I had wished that I had been at home when they were in need of some Christmas cookie cutters (given my modest but rarely used collection), their cookies were obviously made with much love and thought, and there is much charm in a dolphin cookie at Christmas, I think :-)

Amongst their selection of homemade treats were some Baumnuss-Guetzli, a Swiss seasonal cookie (Guetzli) made from ground walnuts (Baumnuss). They are a rather wholesome-looking cookie, flecked with different shades of brown and are traditionally glazed with a frosting flavoured with Kirsch. They are sweet and chewy in taste, almost like a macaroon, and taste very similar to the Italian Ricciarelli which are made with ground almonds. In short, they are delicious.

If you are not a fan of Kirsch, you could leave it out of the glaze. I had thought about making a lemon icing instead which would go very nicely with the sweetness of the cookies, but I didn’t want to deviate too much from the traditional recipe. Well, not yet anyway :-)

This recipe comes from Betty Bossi, a popular figure in Switzerland who has a vast array of cookbooks aimed at simple but tasty recipes. Her cookbooks in Switzerland have a similar cult status to the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks in Australia – there is at least one to be found in each home. Stories abound about how some of her recipes are so popular that it is not uncommon to be invited to a Swiss person’s home for dinner and recognise the dish that the host has prepared.

Betty Bossi has been around since the late 1950′s, inspiring Swiss housewives (and husbands) to recreate Swiss classics at home, as well as modern and international cuisine. She is perhaps the most successful businesswoman in Switzerland with a multi-million dollar empire spanning from the aforementioned cookbooks to popular kitchenware and bakeware, and also pre-prepared meals and other food products. She is the Martha Stewart of Switzerland, if you will. Incredible given that Swiss women were only granted the right to vote in 1971 and could only recently open their own bank account. Alas, she is fictitious. Phew. Such a feat achieved by a “real” woman in Switzerland would have been an incredible story, but the history behind the creation and nurturing of the fictitious Betty Bossi is both intriguing and entertaining.

These walnut Christmas cookies are a Swiss classic, something which has slowly prompted in me a change in heart about Swiss cookies in general. And for that, I am grateful to my wonderful neighbours downstairs.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber 18 December 2011 at 2:40 pm

omg these sound delicious! I will be making them with all of my other Christmas cookies when I get home in a few days. can’t wait to taste them!

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eat, little bird 18 December 2011 at 3:14 pm

Oh these cookies are delicious and you won’t be disappointed! Have a safe journey home!

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Caroline 18 December 2011 at 5:56 pm

I really enjoyed this post Thanh and had to chuckle at your neighbour’s cookie cutter exploits! hah! Bless! They really do sound like the loveliest neighbours to have and thats so important, when you have a good one by you.

I love the sound of these biscuits too. The photos of the flower shapes are gorgeous and there is much charm in such a simple adornment of a beautiful, earthy coloured walnut. Gorgeous.

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eat, little bird 18 December 2011 at 10:19 pm

Thanks, Carrie! They really are delicious, and I love the seasonal use of walnuts. I received a “gift” this year from the Sämi Klaus (Swiss Santa Claus) which was full of nuts and fruit, something which is traditionally given out each year in early December. It’s a fairly health-conscious gift but I was happy to put the nuts to some good use :-)

And yes, we’ve been quite blessed to have such great neighbours. I hope they never move out!

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Csilla 18 December 2011 at 9:31 pm

Beautiful pictures! Also, love love love the recipe! I’m not a huge fan of European style cookies, either but I am sure these nutty ones will be on my Christmas cookie list! Also, your website is very chic, loving it :)

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eat, little bird 18 December 2011 at 10:21 pm

Hello Csilla,

Thank you for your lovely compliments. I just had a quick peek at your website and I look forward to browsing a bit more!

Please let me know if you do try these cookies. They are a bit different for Christmas but really delicious!

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verO 18 December 2011 at 9:46 pm

Sympa votre article sur les biscuits suisses et sur BettyBossy. Ces biscuits sont sûrement très bons. Par contre, je n’en ai jamais vu de tels pendant la période de Noël en Suisse et j’y vis.
En ce qui concerne Betty Bossy, le concept a été inspiré, par son pendant américain, Betty Crocker, qui connaissait un grand succès à cette époque.
En tout cas, vos biscuits sont très réussis et je vais les essayer.
Joyeuses Fêtes.

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eat, little bird 18 December 2011 at 10:10 pm

Salut Vero,

Où habitez-vous en Suisse? Peut-être ces biscuits sont-ils plus populaires dans la partie alémanique de la Suisse? Merci pour l’information a propos de Betty Crocker! J’espere que vous apprecierez ces biscuits; tenez-moi au courant.

Je vous souhaite d’excellentes fêtes de fin d’année!

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Heidi @ Food Doodles 18 December 2011 at 10:40 pm

These are so pretty! I love how simple the cookies are, they sound so delicious. The whole walnut half on top makes them especially pretty!

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eat, little bird 19 December 2011 at 8:43 pm

Thanks, Heidi! I also love the simplicity of these cookies. It’s sometimes rare to find recipes with so few ingredients, but they are usually the best :-)

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Jenny 18 December 2011 at 11:26 pm

How do you just print the recipe?

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Jenny 18 December 2011 at 11:37 pm

I figured it out – click on the recipe – thank you – they look incredible!

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eat, little bird 19 December 2011 at 8:41 pm

Thanks, Jenny! Let me know if you give these cookies a try!

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shweta sylvia 19 December 2011 at 7:42 am

This look so delicious !! We don’t eat eggs in our family, what can i use to replace them in the recipe ? thanks a lot !!

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eat, little bird 19 December 2011 at 8:45 pm

Hello! I’m not sure if you could substitute the egg whites in this recipe, I’m afraid. They act as a binder to bring all of the ingredients together. I hope someone else might be able to suggest an alternative ingredient for you!

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Julia Levy 19 December 2011 at 2:19 pm

What an absolutely delightful story and blog post, truly a lovely read. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Your photos as ever really are a cut above all other, your style is really out of this world.

After much baking and icing of cookies this week i’m tired of the regular cookies and these are just the change i need, I’m lucky i work near “the nut bar”, I guess I’ll be paying a visit today :o)

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eat, little bird 19 December 2011 at 8:49 pm

Thank you for your sweet comments! I really appreciate them :-) I’ve been eyeing your baked goodies on Baking by Julia and only wish I could decorate cookies the way you do! Dipping cookies in icing and decorating them with nuts is as fancy as I can manage ;-)

The “nut bar”?? I like the sound of that! ha ha …

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Manisha 19 December 2011 at 5:45 pm

These are so inviting, whatever shape they might be! I fell in love with kirsch when we visited Zurich last year. These cookies will be a great way to revisit all those fine memories! I must tell you though that I am not much a fan of American cookies as I find them cloyingly sweet for the most part.

I’m so glad I found your beautiful blog!

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eat, little bird 19 December 2011 at 8:55 pm

Hi Manisha! I’m happy that you’ve found my blog, too :-) You are right to point out that American cookies can be quite sugary and sweet, but sometimes a whole packet of Chips Ahoy is just what one needs ;-) European cookies tend to be on the more health-conscious side but I’m starting to like them more and more.

I love that these cookies make use of the walnuts which are in season, and I also love Kirsch … especially in my cheese fondue! I hope these will bring back good memories of Zurich for you!

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Julia @ Mélanger 19 December 2011 at 7:52 pm

I think there’s something very special about Christmas cookies, and there are so many wonderful ones from around the world. I’ve never heard of these, but they look just delightful. I am a fan of kirsch (Black Forest Cake is my husband’s standard birthday cake), and have plenty always on hand so will have to give these little cuties a whirl!

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eat, little bird 19 December 2011 at 8:59 pm

Mmmm, I *love* Black Forest Cake! I mostly have Kirsch on hand for cheese fondue but you’ve just alerted me to another potential good use! I’m loving what you are doing at the moment on your blog with Finnish Christmas specialities. I love everything about Christmas cooking and it’s so much fun to discover new Christmas recipes and read about the seasonal goodies in other parts of the world.

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Frau Dietz 19 December 2011 at 9:26 pm

Hi Thanh, I just stumbled across your blog whilst looking for an Ottolenghi recipe (much as I’d love to, I can’t cart his books round with me everywhere, and I’ve come back to the UK from Germany for Christmas – Yotam had to stay at home!) and had to stop and have a good root through it – it’s fab. Will be keeping up from now on :)

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eat, little bird 19 December 2011 at 9:54 pm

Guten Abend! I’m so glad you like my blog :-) It sounds like we have a few things in common, although I do actually cart around cookbooks with me wherever I travel! It’s not always intentional as I try to have some favourite copies on my iPad, but I inevitably see a hardcopy of some book and can’t resist buying it. Lovely to know of another Ottolenghi fan! Have a wonderful Christmas in the UK.

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Ann 21 December 2011 at 4:31 pm

I just had to check out your blog when I saw the cookie photo on Tastespotting. Will definitely be making these cookies. thank you. ~Ann

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Shayna 21 December 2011 at 10:49 pm

My husband’s family doesn’t care for hazelnuts. Suggestions? Substitutions?

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eat, little bird 23 December 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hi Shayna, the traditional recipe uses ground hazelnuts. I suppose you could use ground almonds as a substitute but I haven’t tried this. The dominant flavour is actually the walnuts and the hazelnuts are mostly, I think, to act as a filler.

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Carole 10 December 2012 at 9:15 am

Merci pour cette délicieuse recette ! :)
Je l’avais vu l’année dernière mais je n’avais pas eu le temps de la réaliser… Cette année, c’est fait !

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Paula 12 December 2012 at 9:13 pm

I follow a blog written by a Spaniard girl whose family is Swiss. She publishes many recipes of cookies, especially for Christmas, and I love them all! And much of them are from Betty Bossi, so your cookies must be infallible!! I love them!! With so many nuts, and glazed with kirsch, can’t think about anything better!!

And in fact, compared with French or English biscuits (that I like), my favorite cookies are always German, Austrian, Swiss ones…

As always, yours looks too cute! :P

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SME 26 October 2013 at 1:13 pm

Thanks so much for posting this…. I had the pleasure of living with a Swiss family several years ago and LOVED sampling from their tins of assorted Christmas cookies during our coffee break in the afternoons. These are my favourite cookies (ever), and I’ve been half-heartedly looking for the recipe for some time. I made them last night and they are wonderful–just as I remember them!!

Thanks again!!

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eat, little bird 27 October 2013 at 12:05 pm

I’m so glad that you tried and loved this recipe :-) If your host family had homemade Christmas cookies at home, they were most likely made from a Betty Bossi recipe. I can’t wait to make these again soon, although I ought to post on other Swiss Christmas cookies too …

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