Who is a fan of hazelnuts, especially around the holidays? If you are, you’re in for a treat: I present you Totenbeinli cookies, a traditional sweet from the Swiss canton of Graubünden, and a regular fixture on Swiss menus around the holidays!
My love for hazelnuts has been going strong since childhood. I fondly remember short summer outings of years past, with me and my parents driving to the moutainside. Once we arrived at our destination, we would spend the entire day breathing the fresh open air and foraging in the forest. Our usual findings were wild berries and hazelnuts – such a delicious combo to take home or to eat on the spot, in the midst of the freshness of nature! I may have grown old and may have departed those years of peace and bliss, but I know for sure these memories of me and my loved ones finding hazelnuts in the forest will forever remain imprinted in my memory.
I started researching Totenbeinli for an Instagram advent calendar collaboration featuring Swiss recipes. I saw these cookies had hazelnuts, and I was sold on the idea immediately 🙂 While doing the research I came across quite a few variations of the recipe, some involving ground almonds, others involving both almonds and hazelnuts, and others leaving the lemon zest out completely. In the end, I modeled my recipe for an American audience (with cups instead of grams) largely after two recipes, featured here and here, respectively. I loved Linno’s (author of the second recipe) description of Totenbeinli – she writes that “when you bite into each cookie you are guaranteed to get a good helping of whole ones, and the ground ones will linger in your mouth helped along by the sweet tang of the lemon zest.” The perfect description!
With their crunchy texture and addictive flavors, Totenbeinli brim with large pieces of hazelnuts, a quintessential holiday ingredient – but that’s not all: add ground hazelnuts and freshly grated lemon zest, brush the top with beaten egg, and see the magic happen in 20 short minutes in the preheated oven:
As you bite into Totenbeinli, you realize its crunchiness is a work of sensory heaven, and as you delve deeper and deeper, the mix of hazelnuts and lemon makes you keep coming back for more. I find new joys and simple pleasures every time I taste another cookie – the magic keeps being reinvented, there’s always something else at stake, an alluring bite, a voluptuous crumb.
I should say these cookies make great gifts, but do I really want to gift these? Maybe not – not now, anyway. I want to keep these to myself 😉
You are welcome to check out the #2021SwissAdventCalendar hashtag on Instagram to discover scrumptious Swiss recipes recreated by foodies from all around the world.
Have you had Totenbeinli before? Let me know in the comments – and happy holiday baking, everyone!
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
- 1/8 cup ground hazelnuts
- 4 tbsp butter, at room temperature
- 1 medium size egg (for the dough)
- 1 medium size egg, beaten (for the top of the cookies)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Zest of 1 medium-size lemon
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350F. Toast the whole hazelnuts in a pan on the stovetop or in the oven until golden-brown. Let cool slightly and remove the skins.
- Mix butter and sugar in a medium size bowl. Add one egg, ground hazelnuts, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt, and mix until fluffy and homogeneous.
- Add flour and whole toasted hazelnuts and knead into a dough. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough to 1/2in thickness and cut into approx 3in long sticks. Coat the top of the cookies with the beaten egg. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden-brown. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool on a rack.