Cinnamon 'snails' (Kanilsnúðar) & Jewish Cookies (Gyðingakökur)

An anonymous commenter requested a recipe for Cinnamon 'snails', so here it is. This first recipe is the way my grandmother makes them. The second recipe is included for those who can not get their hands on hartshorn (baker's ammonia).

This is originally a recipe for Jewish Cookies, which are a Christmas staple in many Icelandic homes. I have included instructions for both cookies and 'snails'.

According to Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, author of the Icelandic food encyclopedia Matarást,  Jewish cookies got the name because they were originally made and sold by Jews, who presumably had a different name for them. It's a bit ironic that they should have become associated with Christmas in Iceland.

Cinnamon 'snails'/Jewish Cookies

175 g flour
100 g butter or margarine
1/2 tsp hartshorn powder (baker's ammonia) – see Note
60 g sugar
1 egg
1 tbs sugar

For cookies:

10 almonds

For 'snails':
Sugar and cinnamon, mixed together, approx 4 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon (or more, if you like an intense cinnamon flavour)

The dough:
Mix flour and hartshorn. Add sugar and margarine and mix everything together with your hands until you have a crumbly mixture. Add the egg and knead until solid. Cool in the refrigerator for a couple of hours at least.

To make snails:
Flatten the dough quite thin with a rolling pin and try to keep it an approximately square or rectangular shape. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. Roll the dough up into a roll, then slice into approx. 1 cm thick slices. Arrange slices on a cookie sheet and bake at about 200°C until golden brown.

To make Jewish cookies:
Finely chop the almonds and mix with sugar. Flatten the dough and use round cookie cutters to cut out the cookies. Brush beaten egg on the cookies and dip into sugar/almond mixture. Bake in a medium oven until golden brown.

Note: Hartshorn can be hard to find outside Northern-Europe. In the USA, you may be able to find it in German or Scandinavian markets, drug stores or baking supply stores, or through mail order catalogues. It may be labelled either as hartshorn or as baker's ammonia (do not confuse with regular ammonia!).
Hartshorn gives more lift to cookies than baking soda or baking powder, and cookies made with it turn out very light and crisp. It may be substituted thus: 1 tsp baking powder for 1 tsp hartshorn (the cookies will probably not be quite as light or crisp as when using hartshorn) OR 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda for 1 tsp hartshorn (this is supposed to yield similar results to hartshorn, but I have never tried it, so I don't really know if it's true).

Alternative recipe for Cinnamon snails (no hartshorn):
This recipe is from my home economics recipe book from school. I made these once – they looked beautiful but had very little taste. If I make them again, I will use more cinnamon than the recipe states and perhaps add a little vanilla to the dough.

400 ml flour
100 g margarine
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbl sugar
1 egg
50 ml milk

Cinnamon sugar:
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Follow the above direction to make kneaded dough. Melt the margarine and brush over the rolled dough. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the dough. Roll up and store in the refrigerator for about an hour. Cut into slices with a sharp knife. Arrange the slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 200°C until golden brown.


Bibliophile said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Hartshorn you can find at website in the baking section, Hirszhorn-salz Endora. The piparkokkur sound great, haven't had those since my Amma's passed on.
Olafur G
Amy said…
Hartshorn also appears to be easily available on in the US!
Andreas Fritz said…
This is a great recipe!
We were in Iceland this summer and these snúðar are way better than the bought ones!
A helpful comment could be that there are at least two types of snúðar in Iceland - first the type presented here with its buttery shortcrust-like texture and second the yeast-dough-type which is rather soft or mellow. The second type as far as I know in sightly variated forms is spread over whole Scandinavia.
Thank You very much Bibliophile!

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