12 Cookies of Christmas Countdown #6
This recipe comes from my dear friend and former office “roomie”, Jess. We spent many happy hours chatting about recipes and my strategy for Masterchef (someday, Jess, someday). I was really looking forward to sharing the holiday baking season with her this year, but then some fortunate opportunities landed her in San Francisco. So while we may not be baking together in the same kitchen, we are still sharing recipes from afar. Awwwwwwh. The Boy loves the butter cookies “in the blue tin” as she says, so I am super excited to give these a try. If Jess can make these in her “tiny ass kitchen” in San Francisco then you have no excuses. Many thanks to Jess, for sharing her family recipe and for spreading holiday cheer, one cookie at a time.
German Butter “S” Cookies by Jess R.
Christmas cookies have always been an epicurean event for my family. My grandparents immigrated from Germany and brought with them wonderful Christmas traditions and recipes! Homemade fudge, tea cakes, lady locks, spitzbüben, chocolate swirl cheesecake, snickerdoodles and so on. Every year is a smorgasbord of Christmas treats. One of my favorites has always been the simple German Butter “S” Cookie. Flakey and not too sweet, this cookie always stand out in a crowd of circles. Their flavor is reminiscent of the buttery cookies in the blue tin that comes out this time of year. My German cousins speculate that since our family is from a region in southern Germany called “Swabia” and this is where the cookies seem to originate from, that this is what the “S” stands for. The dough tends to be more fragile and flakey, so it’s a bit of a challenge to roll and mold but could be molded into other letter shapes if you wanted to do a monogram for your family name! You could also use colored decorative sugar on top to make these more festive.
- 2 Cups flour
- ½ cup butter, room temperature
- 3 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup sugar
- peel of ½ lemon grated
- 1 egg white, beaten
- coarse sugar
- dark chocolate (optional)
- Sprinkle a baking board lightly with flour. With your hands, mix the first five ingredients quickly into a dough. It will be slightly more crumbly than a normal dough.
- Roll into a 2” diameter log and cover with wax paper. Refrigerate or store in a cool place for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter.
- Once firm, remove from the refrigerator. Slice into ½” pieces and roll each slice with your hands (and a little flour if needed) into a rope about 4-5” long. On the baking sheet, shape into an “s”. Repeat until the baking sheet is full.
- Whisk the egg white until frothy, then lightly glaze the tops of the unbaked cookies. Sprinkle with the decorative sugar.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on the sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
If you’re dipping in chocolate…
Let the cookies completely cool. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Dip to your heart’s content. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and let cool. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the ends with decorative sugar to make ‘em pretty.
Dough too dry? Add more butter. That was my Opa’s solution to everything and it still a solve today! Add up to another ¼ cup of butter (to total ¾ cup) if your dough is just too flakey to bind properly. Ends a little too dark? My Oma had a wonderful idea for slightly burnt ends: dip them in chocolate. Dark chocolate is best. I tried milk chocolate since my husband doesn’t like dark, but I think it’s a bit too sweet. I would also suggest different flavored chocolates like orange dark chocolate or raspberry. As much as you might want to in order to make these more “Christmas-y” I would stay away from white chocolate…just too sweet for this delicate cookie.
Joan Boyle says
My father’s family S cooky recipe was brought to the US in the 1870s. it makes a whopping 12 dozen cookies! It’s different in that it calls for 1/4 t of bakers ammonia and 1/4 t of cardamon. It has 7 C of flour and 1# of butter with just 2C of sugar. The instructions were to make them a month or two before Christmas and to store them in an airtight container for them to “ripen.” the cookies were shaped and chilled overnight, then dipped in the egg white and a mixture of hazelnuts with sugar. I’m so glad I found this site as I’d wondered about the history of the cooky. Thank you!
Hi Joan! Wow! Make a month or two before Christmas to “ripen”!? That is so fascinating! Cookies have definitely change over the years! Thanks for sharing your family’s cookie history! Have a beautiful and AWESOME holiday! 🙂
My father came from Germany in ’55 and from Swabia! I’ve been to his hometown and its lovely.
My maternal great great great grandparents brought the S Cookie recipe with them and we’ve made them every year.
I still don’t know why we make the s-shape as my maternal grandparents were from northern Germany.
How funny! I don’t know. I guess “S” is just a good shape for a cookie no matter where you are from! Heehee! I love that this cookie has so much history and tradition! Thank you for sharing Amy! Happy New Year!