It is not difficult to find out what the word hálfmánar means in Icelandic when you see this cookie: it clearly has the shape of a half moon. This traditional hálfmánar cookie from Iceland is usually baked around Christmas. The filling can be any jam that has been made in the short summer before. I used rhubarb jam because the pale pink juicy stalks are just beginning to push up in my garden. When I baked these cookies the first time I used a raising agent that is used a lot in Iceland: hartshorn or ammoniam carbonate. I was warned about the terrible smell that would come from the oven during baking, but was assured that I would not be able to smell or taste any of it after the cookies had been taken from the oven and had cooled down. I had opened all the windows and doors of my kitchen, but my whole kitchen still smelt awful! After I had taken my – wonderfully risen – cookies from the oven and let them cool down, they still smelt faintly of ammonia. It might have been my imagination, but I baked my next batch with ordinary baking powder. If you want an original Icelandic taste, you can order ammonium carbonate online. I found out that it is exactly the same as the smelling salts that were used to bring round fainting ladies with too tight corsets. I think I would have come to very soon, just to escape the terrible smell! If you like this cookie, try my own variation: the sesame spiral cookie.
Hálfmánar cookie from Iceland
For about 20 cookies
180 grams (1¾ cups) flour
70 grams (⅔ cup) sugar + extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
100 grams (1 stick) unsalted cold butter, cubed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
± 1 tablespoon ice water
grated rind of ½ lemon
about 100 grams (⅓ cups) rhubarb jam
In a bowl mix the flour with the sugar, the baking powder, the cardamom and the salt.
Add the butter, the egg yolk, the lemon juice and grated rind.
Rub the flour mixture into the other ingredients with the tips of your fingers until rough crumbs form.
Add the water and quickly knead into a nice ball of dough.
Press flat into a disc and wrap in cling film. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF Roll out the dough until about ¼ cm/⅛ inch thick.
With a round cookie cutter or large glass cut out circles of about 9 cm Ø(4 inches).
Place on a cookie sheet covered with baking paper.
Place a scant teaspoon of jam in the middle of each cookie.
Fold over and leave a little edge free. Press down firmly.
Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with some extra sugar. Leave to chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-15 mins. Or until light brown and done.
Take out of the oven and leave to cool on the cookie sheet.
This post is also available in: Dutch