Iceland is a country with a special place in my heart, as it is where I went on my honeymoon and saw the Northern Lights for the first time with my wife. The cuisine there included a few unusual native ingredients such as puffin and rotten shark that have become semi-legendary – but the vast majority of the food was based on hearty vegetables as well as the most amazing butter, lamb and seafood I’ve ever tasted.
This particular recipe is for Loftkökur, or “Air Cookies” – a chocolate cookie traditionally made during the Christmas season that are actually quite simple to make. They are literally as light as air and melt on the tongue as you eat them. This unique texture is achieved through the use of a special leavening agent – Bakers Ammonia.
IMPORTANT NOTE: BAKERS AMMONIA IS NOT THE SAME AS CLEANING AMMONIA — DO NOT SUBSTITUTE ANY OTHER TYPE OF AMMONIA FOR IT!!!
Bakers Ammonia was used in many heirloom recipes from 100-200 years ago before the invention of baking powder. Northern Europeans still use it because it makes their springerle, Loftkökur and gingerbread cookies very light and crisp. Bakers Ammonia provides many times the leavening capability of baking powder, but at a cost. It will make your kitchen smell of ammonia while the cookies are baking – please don’t panic, the smell dissipates quickly and the cookies have zero taste of ammonia!
There is no substituting this ingredient – you cannot make these cookies without it! I provide an easy mail-order source for this ingredient in the list below – it is well worth trying, Citizens…and ekkert að þakka – “you’re welcome” in Icelandic. 😉
Battle on – The Generalissimo
3 1/3 cups (750 grams) icing sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp hartshorn salt – aka Hjartasalt in Icelandic aka Ammonium bicarbonate aka Bakers Ammonia – you can obtain it from some specialty grocery stores or via mail order from King Arthur Flour here
5 tbsp cocoa – the darkest you can find, I prefer the King Arthur Black Cocoa
5 drops of vanilla extract (this is not traditional, but I like the slight flavor of vanilla it adds – omit if you prefer)
Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate the mixture overnight.
Roll the mixture into sausages a bit thicker than your thumb and slice it every 1/4″. Then press down on the flat side with a fork to provide decoration.
Place on well-greased trays and cook at 300 degrees. They are cooked when they slide on the tray when pushed, approximately 10 minutes.
Watch out for the fumes when you open the oven door!