Murbteig cookies were one of my favorite Christmas cookies made by my mother. The basic pastry is German or Viennese depending upon what book you are reading. It is extremely easy to put together. Mother made this in a mixer but I find it easier in the food processor. Both versions are included.
In addition to these cookies, Murbteig has many applications in the pastry world. In my book, "The New Pastry Cook", I devoted a chapter and many more recipes to this marvelous pastry.
I still remember my mother rolling out gobs of these cookies every year. We also had Murbteig cookies at Easter which I suppose explains the chicken. The basic cookie was always made with a set of cutters in the shape of the four suits of cards. I still have the small cutters that came from Penny’s for twenty nine cents. She also included a small little chicken. I have no idea why the chicken or the card cutters but they are a dainty cookie and look just beautiful on a cookie tray.
The Murbteig cookies have an unusual topping that I have never seen anywhere else. Sugar cubes are broken up and combined with coarsely chopped pecans. The cookies are brushed with egg white and covered with the topping.
If chopped pecans cannot be bought, coarsely cut the pecans by hand, not in the processor. You can control the size cutting by hand more easily.
As with most European cookies, this is full of flavor but is not as sweet as American cookies are. There is no leavening but the cookies are light and literally melt in your mouth. Successive re-rolls of Murbteig are a bit heavier but no less delicious. Butter is necessary to the taste of the cookies.
If the Murbteig is too soft to cleanly cut the cookies out, place the dough in the refrigerator or freezer until firmed up. If the cookies are too soft to pick up after cutting, again place them in the refrigerator or freezer. Murbteig has a high butter content and as such will become soft in a warmer room. However, a few minutes of chilling makes it a dream to work with.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. double pan 18 to 22 minutes, depending on size
2 cups flour (285 grams or 10 ounces)
2 sticks unsalted butter, refrigerated (225 grams or 8 ounces or 1 cup)
½ cup sugar (100 grams or 3 ½ ounces)
1 medium lemon, zested
3 egg yolks
Yield: 650 grams or 23 ounces.
½ cup sugar cubes
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans (60 grams or 2 ounces)
1 recipe Basic Murbteig Pastry
1 egg white
Place the sugar cubes loosely in a plastic bag and pound lightly with a heavy pan, meat pounder or hammer. Sieve to remove the fine sugar, keeping the coarsely broken pieces. If large pieces of sugar remain, place them in the bag again and pound. If chopping the pecans, sieve them to remove any powdery residue. Mix the sugar and pecans together. Set aside.
Divide the Murbteig pastry in half (325 grams or 11 ½ ounces), refrigerating one piece. Roll the remaining piece between two sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of ¼ inch. From time to time, remove the top piece of waxed paper, then replace it. Flip the dough over and repeat removing the waxed paper and replacing it. This facilitates rolling the dough smoothly without any marring of the dough caused by the paper scrunching up. It also helps the dough roll out better.Remove the top piece of waxed paper and cut into the desired shapes with small cookie cutters. If you are using multiple cutters as I am here, place them touching each other for the best use of the dough. If the dough is too soft to get the cookies out, place in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes. Transfer the cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet. I do this with a pancake turner to prevent softening the butter laden dough. If the cookies are too soft to transfer, slide the waxed paper with the cookies onto a cookie sheet and freeze for 5 to 10 minutes to firm before transferring to the baking sheet. Re-roll the scraps of dough as necessary.
Beat the egg white with a fork until foamy. Brush the cookies with the egg white but do not let it slide down the sides. Cover well with the sugar-pecan mixture. Double pan the cookies. (Place the tray with the cookies on top of another one.) See Double panning.
The number of cookies depends upon the size of your cutters. The cutters shown here are 2 to 2 ½ inches. I got 48 cookies with re-rolls.
These cookies improve with age, so be sure to make them a week or more ahead. Store them in an airtight container where they will keep well for weeks. They may be frozen unbaked and undecorated with the sugar and pecans. Thaw, decorate and bake as above.