Sarah Bernhardt Christmas Cookies – Sörur

Icelanders love baking Christmas cookies; it is a great family tradition to get together and bake a few types. Some of the most common ones are chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread cookies, licorice meringue tops, and butter cookies, similar to shortbread cookies.

Then there is “sörur.” They are more like small cakes and take much longer to make. Not everyone can be bothered to make those cookies, so they are sold on the “Christmas black market”. It’s a lucrative business before Christmas. It’s not really the black market, but if you do not have a licensed kitchen, you aren’t strictly allowed to sell what you bake, but that doesn’t stop people – they’re just that good.

sarah bernhardt, sörur
Georges-Jules-Victor Clairin (1843-1919). “Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt (détail)”.

The name in Icelandic is the plural of the female name Sara and people have wondered why they have this name, but there is a simple reason. The cookies were invented in Denmark and are named after the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

When the actress visited Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1911, the Danish pastry chef Johannes Steen created the cookie to honor her. He was famous in his time, and naming cakes after famous people was a popular practice in the 19th century. The most notable are Napoleon’s Hat and Pavlova, named after Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova.

christmas cookies, sörur,
Photo: Ljúfmeti og lekkerheit

It can be assumed that the small cakes came to Iceland reasonably quickly, but it wasn’t until a few decades later that the Icelandic name “sörur” stuck. And for many, it isn’t Christmas without these Christmas cookies.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the ingredients

Ingredients for the Sörur Christmas Cookies:

This recipe makes about 60 cookies.

Meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 250 g (1,5 cups + 3 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 300 g (10.5 oz) almonds (skinless)
  • ½ tsp almond extract

Cream:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 150 g (1/2 cup + 3 tbsp) sugar
  • 150 ml (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) water
  • 370 g (1 ½ cups + 3 tbsp) butter (room temperature)
  • 2 ½ tsp cocoa
  • 1 ½ tsp ground coffee

Chocolate coating:

  • 300 g (10.5 oz) dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
christmas cookies, sörur
Photo: Himneskt

Method:

Cream:

  • It’s best to start on the cream and let it chill in the fridge while you make the meringue. Turn the oven to 180° C (356° F) and place baking paper on two baking sheets.
  • Add water and sugar together in a saucepan over medium-high heat and boil. Stir from time to time. This will take about 5-7 minutes and thicken into the syrup as it cools. Take the pot off the stove and let the syrup cool down.
  • Beat the egg yolks until they become light in color. Slowly add the syrup while stirring. Add the butter (it must be at room temperature). Stir until the cream is smooth and fine.
  • Mix cocoa with the coffee; it is good to crush the coffee a little so it will be finer. Stir until everything is well mixed and the cream is smooth and fine. Put the cream in the fridge while you bake the meringue.

Meringue:

  • Whisk the egg whites until foamy, slowly mix in the icing sugar and stir until the meringue is firm and forms peaks.
  • Add the almond drops and stir well.
  • Chop the almonds until they’re finely ground, and mix them gently with a mixing spoon until everything is combined.
  • When forming the cookies, you can use two spoons. They should be about 1 tbsp in size. But you can also use a piping bag with a round nozzle.
  • Bake the cookies at 180° C (356° F) for 10-12 minutes. When done, cool them down completely before you put the cream on them.
  • Put the cream on the cakes. You decide which side to put the cream on, but it’s easier to put them on the side that faces up when you take them out of the oven. Add 1-2 tsp of cream on top; you can also add it using a piping bag. Smooth them down with a spoon or spatula. When that’s done, cool them down for a short while (outside or in the fridge) while you prepare the chocolate.

Chocolate:

  • Add the chocolate to a bowl with the oil and put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. It’s good to stir in between to ensure the chocolate melts completely. You can also do this in a pot.
  • Next, you need to dip each cookie into the chocolate.

And you’re done! Store the Christmas cookies in the fridge or freezer.

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