We’d probably call them “walnut cookies” today, but the actual name in Cajsa Warg’s cookbook Hjelpreda i hushållningen för unga fruentimber from 1755 is Bakelse i façon af walnötter, or loosely translated: “Cakes in the shape of walnuts”.
Cajsa Warg’s cookbook contains recipes for all kinds of dishes and many of them are still important members of the Swedish cuisine, such as meatballs and cabbage rolls. Other recipes, like this one, have received decidedly less attention. These walnut cookies required some fidgeting, but the result was pretty nice.
If you want the original recipe in Swedish, I’ve featured it in the Swedish version of this post. Here’s Cajsa Warg’s recipe from 1755 in my rough translation (trying to stay close to the original):
Cakes in the shape of walnuts
“Stir together 3 eggs, 3 spoons sweet milk, sugar, and some ground cinnamon, add so much chocolate that it becomes a thick mix and gets a dark color. Work it on the table with some good wheat flour, so it becomes a dough, and cut so large pieces as suits the walnut molds, which first should be well floured, and then press it into each half, so it looks like a walnut shell. Add to each half some ground almond, with some bitter almond mixed in, which is stirred with egg white and sugar, and make sure that the dough sticks together when the halves are squeezed together, and then cut away all dough that extends when the halves are pressed together, and knock out the cake from the mold. Continue this way for as long as the dough remains, and then boil the walnuts in butter.
The mold should be of tin with a loop on each side. In lack of molds, walnut shells can in the worst case be used.
Following recipes from the 18th century
For those who are unaccustomed to following older recipes, it may feel frustrating to not get exact measures, but instead to cook based on the consistency. Cajsa knows what the result should look like, but the modern reader won’t have the same references.
Shaping dishes after something else to fool the eye seems to have been popular — Warg also has a recipe for bakelse i façon af morötter, cakes in the shape of carrots, with a similar dough with boiled, grated carrots. If you didn’t have carrot tops, you could use parsley instead for decoration.
Cajsa Warg seems to have had walnut molds, probably of tin and with a loop on each side”. I’ve had a hard time finding anything like that in Sweden. Instead, I used molds for Russian oreshki cookies that I found on Etsy.
So, what is the verdict for the walnut cookies?
According to Warg, you should boil the walnut cookies in butter. This wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Even if the butter flavor is nice, it was difficult to keep the butter at a high enough temperature while at the same time preventing it from burning. Plus, the cookies were happy to stick to the bottom of the saucepan when I deep-fried several at the same time. Therefore, I’d instead recommend deep-frying them in neutral cooking oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed oil. If you do want to use (unsalted!) butter, you’ll need about 500 gr (2 cups).
You should grate the chocolate in the recipe. I have a hard time imagining that Warg had access to the type of baking chocolate that we have today. But, as she mentions melting chocolate at another place in the cookbook, I’ll have to assume that she had access to some kind of processed chocolate bars.
When it comes to the flavor, the cookies tasted a bit too much of flour. I tried to prevent this by letting the dough rest for a while. Maybe you want to try swapping some of the flour for cacao powder or add a bit more sugar to the chocolate dough.
Cajsa Warg’s walnut cookies
This carefully modernized version is a third of Warg’s batch. I got 14 walnut cookies.
85 gr dark chocolate, such as baking chocolate
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp sugar
1/5-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
up to 1 1/2 dl (2/3 cup) flour — start with 1/2 cup
1 dl (4/5 cup) almonds
1/2-1 bitter almond (can be omitted)
1/2 dl (2/3 cups) socker
slightly less than 1 egg white
A couple of tablespoons of flour to the molds
About 2-3 cups of neutral cooking oil, for example sunflower or rapeseed oil, for deep frying
- Finely grate the chocolate.
- In a bowl, stir the chocolate together with the egg, milk, sugar, and cinnamon — you want a thick paste.
- Add most of the flour and shape into a thick dough. Let the dough rest for a while (I let mine rest for about 45 minutes) so the flour has a chance to swell and you don’t need as much flour. Meanwhile, prepare the filling:
- Grind the almond and bitter almond finely.
- Mix the almond with the sugar in a bowl. Add a little bit of the egg white at a time and stir. You want it to become a thick batter, but try to use as little egg white as possible.
- Flour the molds. Make sure the dough isn’t too sticky — in that case, add the rest of the flour, a little at a time.
- Press a bit of dough into each mold, letting it go beyond the edges. I thought the easiest way was to carefully remove the unfilled, walnut-shaped dough, and then fill half of each mold with the filling.
- Carefully press the walnut halves together. Pinch the hales together carefully. It may look like a clam at first, but you can then roll the edge against the work table.
- Prepare a plate or cutting board with kitchen paper. Make sure to have a lid close by.
- Heat the oil in a high saucepan or pot. You’ve reached the right temperature when it takes a small piece of bread a minute to become golden in the oil, which has a temperature of about 160°C (320°F).
- Gently fry a few of the cookies at a time. Lower the cookies so they don’t get stuck in the bottom of the pot and burn. Use a slotted spoon in metal or wood to lower them and take them up. Cook the walnut cookies for about 2-3 minutes until they have swelled a little and are cooked through.
- Place them on the kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
You don’t necessarily need walnut molds to be able to bake these. I wouldn’t try to shape them after real walnuts, either, but please let me know if you try. My suggestion if you don’t have any suitable molds is to create flat circles of dough, add a small dollop of the almond filling, and then adding another circle on top and closing it — like making ravioli.
I experimented with baking a few of the cookies at 175°C (345°F) for about ten minutes. The cookies cracked in the seems (you need to be meticulous when sealing them) but they still turned out really nice, so baking is a real alternative to deep frying.