Christmas Cookie-Palooza: Scandinavian almond bars.

Christmas cookie-baking has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember, and I have a notebook of old recipes that I return to year after year. Recently as I was thumbing through this collection of yellowed recipes cards, handwritten notes and recipes clipped from magazines, I came across a holiday cookie that I recall from many years ago. The note I jotted on the recipe reads, “First made with Mom when I was in school. Rediscovered in 1997 Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookies magazine.” I made them, and they’re every bit as good as I remember.

Scandinavian Almond Bar Cookie Recipe

(makes approx 48 cookies)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract (you could bump this up to 3/4 tsp. if you want more almond flavor)
milk, for brushing the dough
1/2 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp. almond extract (ditto adding more if you want a pronounced almond flavor)
1 Tbsp. milk (or more)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Onto a sheet of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the butter for a minute or two until it's nicely soft and creamy; add sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and almond extract; stir to combine. Add flour mixture and mix gently until well combined.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions; form each portion into a roll about 12 inches long. Place 2 rolls 4 to 5 inches apart on 2 ungreased cookie sheets. Using the heel of your palm, gently press each roll to flatten it so that it's about 3 inches wide. Brush the flattened dough with a bit of milk and sprinkle generously with chopped almonds. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges. Remove cookie sheets from the oven and, while the dough is still warm, cut each piece crosswise on the diagonal into strips about 1 inch wide. Let cool a bit on the pans, then transfer to a cookie rack to fully cool.

Make almond icing: Stir together sifted powdered sugar and almond extract; add milk until the icing is a good consistency for drizzling. Spoon the icing over the cooled cookies in a back-and-forth pattern.

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