Actually just deer antlers, not reindeer antlers. I thought reindeer antlers sounded more, oh, Christmas-y. At least until we get to the part where we eat them.
Several years ago I bookmarked a Gourmet recipe for Drommar, or Swedish Dream Cookies, because it called for coconut, which I love, and ammonium carbonate, which piqued my interest. According to On Food and Cooking by legendary food geek Harold McGee, ammonium carbonate breaks down into ammonia and carbon dioxide and makes baked goods extra light and crisp. Due to the ammonia smell, it’s generally used only in small or flat foods like cookies and crackers where the smell can dissipate. It’s sometimes called “hartshorn” because it was made from distilled deer antlers.
I don’t know if ammonium carbonate is still made from distilled deer antlers, and since I A) am not a journalist, B) am lazy, and C) don’t really want to know, I’m not making any phone calls to find out. You can purchase it here or here. If you’d like to make it yourself, I’m afraid I am not the person to ask. Even Mr. McGee does not provide that information. I did find that the rumored ammonia smell wasn’t that strong, manifesting mostly as flashback to my college dormitory bathrooms and the mop I had to grab whenever I waitressed in a retirement home dining room and dropped ice on the kitchen floor. The clouds of noxious gas that I thought would pour out of my oven and make me collapse on top of my silicone spoonula didn’t happen. Since cookie recipes aren’t usually fraught with unknown drama, I was kind of disappointed.
The cookies, however, did not disappoint. They ammonia smell disappeared, and they were as dry, crunchy, and light as expected. The ample sugar and sweetened coconut seemed excessive on paper, but the level of sweetness suited the crisp texture. The coconut and almond together made me happier than I thought they would—so happy that I’ve added this to my short list of go-to cookie recipes, especially since they’re easy to make and keep so well. They actually improve the day after after baking when the flavors seem to meld, which makes it a good gift cookie. It’s a simple, attractive, and unusual addition to any holiday sweets platter. I plan to make another batch to share on Christmas day.
Happy holidays, everyone. I wish you all sweet—and if you’d like, even Swedish—dreams.
SWEDISH DREAM COOKIES
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes about 55 cookies
The original recipe calls for flaked coconut, not shredded, and I’m not sure if there’s a difference. I used shredded coconut because that’s what I had on hand. If this recipe is a blasphemous travesty of a cookie and I’ve offended any Swedes, please feel free to make angry Swedish comments that I will not understand and will assume are about how great I am. Genuinely complimentary comments may be in English.
· 1 teaspoon ammonium carbonate or baker’s ammonia
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
· 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
· 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
· 2 cups all-purpose flour
· 1 7-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut, more or less
1) Preheat oven to 325ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease lightly) or silicone mats (may increase baking time a bit). Thoroughly mix salt, ammonium carbonate, and 1/4 cup sugar together in a small bowl.
2) Beat butter briefly to soften. Add remaining 1 cup sugar to butter and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the ammonium carbonate/salt/sugar mixture and beat for two minutes. Beat in almond extract until combined well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3) Add flour and beat at low speed (or mix by hand) until most of the flour is incorporated. Add the coconut and finish mixing, breaking up any coconut lumps. If the mixture is very crumbly, use your hands to knead the dough until smooth and cohesive, but try not to overdo it. The dough will adhere to itself when you start shaping it.
4) Form the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on prepared pans about an inch apart and bake for 22 to 26 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Remove cookies from pan and cool on rack. Store in airtight container.