This post marks the end of my Czech Christmas cookie countdown. Phew! On November 11th, I posted my first of 10 Czech Christmas cookie/confection recipes, with my last posted yesterday, along with a bonus Czech sweet bread. According to my husband, my mother-in-law would make as many as 13 different varieties for their platter. Frankly, I can’t manage all of that baking!
Other very popular Czech Christmas sweets, not included here, are Vánočka (a braided soft sweet bread usually with raisins and lemon zest), decorated gingerbread cookies (Perníčky), the typical decorated cutout sugar cookies, and lard-based vanilla or chocolate thumbprint-style cookies filled with jam or almond (Sádlovky s důlkem plným marmelády). Some families have additional favorites not mentioned in this post. Recipes for the listed Christmas cookies also vary from family to family.
Below, find the photos, descriptions, and links to all of the Czech Christmas goodies recipes I’ve posted. Also included, at the end, is a summary of tips that people may find helpful. All of the mentioned cookies have been made by me, with recipes tweaked. Some cookies I have made many times.
You may need special tools or ingredients for a few of the recipes. Many can be purchased online through sites like Amazon, or at shops mentioned in my post Finding Czech and Slovak Groceries in the US and UK.
Ischelské Dortíčky (Ischl Torte Cookies)
These cute sandwich cookies are a buttery, chocolaty, nutty delight with a delicious jelly/preserves and rum-hazelnut filling. They are almost like a mini fancy torte. The original recipe was created in 1849 in the spa town of Bad Ischl, in Austria, as a treat for the Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Click here to go to Ischl Torte Cookie recipe.
Vanilkové Rohlíčky (Vanilla Crescent Cookies)
My Czech mother-in-law’s Vanilkové Rohlíčky are the most melt-in-your-mouth version I’ve ever tried. This popular buttery vanilla and nut cookie is enjoyed throughout much of Central Europe. It tastes great the first day, and even better as they age. I always make plenty! They are my husband’s current favorite cookie. My mother-in-law used roasted hazelnuts in this recipe, which is our favorite, but other nuts can be used. The pictured vanilla crescents are smaller than they appear. I make them to be a two-bite cookie, which is only one-bite size for my husband. Click here to go to Vanilla Crescent recipe.
Linecké Koláčky (Linzer Tart Cookies)
There are no nuts in these buttery Linzer Tart cookies (Linecké Koláčky)! They have a lovely hint of lemon and a burst of delicious jelly/preserves goodness. I love these so much with raspberry or red currant preserves, but other flavors would work, too. I buy the highest quality preserves available. These are less crunchy and more melt-in-your mouth than other Linzer cookies. They hold up well. I sometimes make a double batch because these are my personal favorite Christmas cookies. Click here to go to Linzer Tart Cookie recipe.
Marokánky (Moroccan Cookies)
A crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie with the delights of fruit and nuts, and bittersweet chocolate on the bottom. The batter is prepared in a saucepan, cooled then baked, and later dipped in chocolate. The original recipe calls for candied orange peel with nuts, but other dried fruit (or a combination) could be used. The combination of candied orange peel and dried cranberries (i.e. Craisins), with the nuts, is especially nice for the holidays. I highly suggest using candied orange peel. It gives the cookie its signature lovely flavor. I have found it in gourmet shops, but usually order it online. Click here to go to Moroccan Cookie recipe.
Pracny or Medvědí Tlapky (Bear Paws)
Pracny (or Medvědí Tlapky) are very traditional Czech nut and spice cookies baked in special cookie molds, some looking like bear paws. The following recipe has a light amount of spices. Other recipes include more. Feel free to increase the ground cinnamon and clove amounts a bit, according to your taste. Too much clove can get overwhelming, though. This is an eggless recipe. Click here to go to Bear Paws recipe.
Rumové Kuličky (Rum Balls with Rum Soaked Dried Cherries inside)
Rum, chocolate, walnut balls with the delight of rum-soaked dried cherries in their centers, pack a delicious flavor punch, and set them apart from other rum balls. No wheat flour needed. They even improve with age, but I tend to eat up the first batch quickly. They are traditionally rolled in unsweetened cocoa, which gives them a nice flavor bite, but you can get even more creative, as I did for the photo (cocoa, finely grated coconut, finely chopped/ground nuts, and multi-color nonpareils). Click here to go to Rum Balls recipe.
Pusinky s vlašskými ořechy (Chocolate Walnut Meringue Cookies)
A nutty meringue cookie with a hint of chocolate flavor. This cookie can last for weeks. Because of that, during WWII, my Czech mother-in-law sent a large batch to Jewish friends that sadly were taken to a concentration camp. These were a favorite of my husband’s father. My mother-in-law spread the batter in a pan, then cut them into squares. I prefer to bake them in individual rounds. I think they’re prettier that way. As with many others, these taste even better as they age. Click here to go to Chocolate Walnut Meringue Cookie recipe.
Vosí Hnízda (Wasp Nests or Bee Hive Cookies)
Vosi Hnizda are cute no-bake rum eggnog filled 3-dimensional cookies. They generally require a special mold to make that’s available throughout Czech Republic, or can be found online, in the US. The traditional version includes a nut-based dough for the “nest” or “hive” part, though people with nut allergies can find no-nut versions online, elsewhere. My mother-in-law made them without cocoa (resembling a bee hive more and highlighting the nuts), but those who like cocoa, can add it. They are traditionally filled with a rum-flavored eggnog, but other flavors and fillings can be used. The cookie dough and base include wafer-like vanilla sponge cookies. The base is a whole cookie and holds the eggnog in. Some people get extra creative and dip them in chocolate. They could even be decorated to look like a Christmas tree. Click here to go to Wasp Nests/Bee Hive recipe.
Princezky (Princess Cookies)
Bite into these chewy nutty meringue-style sandwich cookies to reach the bliss of a delicious chocolate buttercream filling. My mother-in-law usually used roasted hazelnuts or walnuts for the meringue cookie, but some Czechs use blanched almonds. The nut choice will affect the color, a bit. Meant to be a one or two-bite cookie – that is, if you can stop at only one cookie! These were my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie, as a child. The pictured Princezky were made using finely ground roasted hazelnuts, our favorite nut choice. This combination, with the chocolate buttercream, is a little reminiscent of Nutella. Even yummier, in my view. They do crisp up a little over time, but are still great. Click here to go to Princess Cookie recipe.
Marcipánoví Ježci (Marzipan Hedgehogs)
These cute little hedgehogs are not my mother-in-law’s creation, but I couldn’t resist including them in my Czech Christmas cookie countdown. Actually, they’re not really cookies either, but candy confections. Many Czechs (and other Europeans) love both marzipan and hedgehogs – animals that can be seen in rural areas of Europe. If you like, you can use some of the marzipan to make other shaped things. Marzipan can also be colored with gel food coloring, and decorated in many ways. It can also be used in recipes like sweet breads/pastries, baked cookies, and more. Click here to go to Marzipan Hedgehog recipe.
Biskupský Chlebíček (Bishop’s Bread)
Have you ever had Bishop’s Bread? If not, many recipes you’ll see online resemble the notorious fruit cake that Americans joke about as a “re-gifting” item. My Czech mother-in-law’s recipe does contain some lemon zest, but that’s the only fruit. It’s more of a chocolate chip nut cookie lover’s dream. This cake wonderfully combines bittersweet chocolate with hazelnuts (or walnuts or pecans), with the right amount of pleasant lemon zest. Unlike chocolate chip nut cookies, this sweet bread contains lots of beaten egg whites. It tastes great fresh, and is even appealing a little stale. Click here to go to Bishop Bread recipe.
Special notes about the recipes:
- Unbleached pastry flour is sold by US companies like Bob’s Red Mill and is often shelved in organic or health food sections of larger grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market. This is a recommended substitute for the smooth flour (hladká mouka) available in Czech and Slovak Republics. If you can get actual hladká mouka, all the better. I’ve also used Polish “Maka Puszysta – Tortowa Typ 450”, which seems to be the same. If you want to use US all-purpose flour, just know that I have not tested its effect in some of the recipes, unless otherwise noted.
- Wondra flour in the US is a product sold in the bakery sections of most US grocery stores. It is in a blue canister. In a pinch, a combination of 50% of this product and 50% of US all-purpose flour can be used as a substitute for Czech coarse flour (hrubá mouka). If possible, I recommend ordering hrubá mouka online. The results are always the most reliable.
- Vanilla sugar packets are available in some larger grocery stores in the US, usually under the brand Dr. Oetker, and in the baking sections. The ones referenced are 0.32 oz (9 g) packets of powdery (not granulated) vanilla sugar. Most 9 g packets provide vanilla flavor of the equivalent to 1 ½ to 2 tsp vanilla extract. Vanilla extract can be used in many cases, except when needed for rolling cookies in vanilla sugar mixtures, when confectioner’s sugar alone can be used. Some people even make their own vanilla sugar by putting a vanilla bean in confectioner’s sugar for a while. Google that, if interested.
- Cocoas in recipes below are always unsweetened. High quality recommended.
- Baking chocolates are found in the baking sections of grocery stores. Do not use regular chocolate bars. Some recipes call for unsweetened or bittersweet, or either. Semi-sweet might work, but may affect the outcome and be too sweet for some tastes.
- Candied orange peel is available online or in gourmet grocery shops. I highly suggest finding it, though the Moroccan cookies could be made with other chopped candied (or even just chopped dried) fruit.
- Nuts are contained in several of these recipes. Some need to be skinned. Some are best roasted first. Pre-skinned/roasted are available in some stores (i.e. Trader Joe’s). If not, you can easily blanch and skin, or roast, nuts at home. Google “roasting almonds/hazelnuts” or “blanching/skinning almonds/hazelnuts”.
- Raw egg yolks or whites – In a few of these recipes, there are raw egg yolks or whites that are not cooked/baked in the end. This increases the risk of salmonella infection, though it is still rare. Pasteurized eggs decrease that risk. They can be found in some (not all) grocery stores in the US, with “pasteurized” on the box. There is also a method one can use to pasteurize eggs at home. Don’t confuse “pasteurized” for “pasture raised”. They have different meanings. If you are using pasteurized egg whites for a meringue-type cookie or the Bishop’s Bread recipe I have posted, beat for a minute, then add about 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar (or ¼ teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar) for each egg white used. One of these additions will help the whites form peaks. Cream of tartar is recommended unless an added lemon flavor is desirable.
- Cookie molds and/or cutters are available online or from many kitchenware shops or Czech/Slovak online grocers (weeks before Christmas). See link at top of post.
- Weights of ingredients (in grams) are more common in Czech recipes than cups, and I recommend weighing for accuracy. Teaspoons and tablespoons can be considered the same as in the US. I’ve provided some weights in ounces, as well. Inexpensive digital food scales are available online or in stores, and are invaluable.
- Low/Lower carb? I have not used sugar substitutes in my Christmas cookies, but some could potentially work with them. Since some use nut flours instead of wheat, it could be possible to create a lowered carb cookie/confection. Products like Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute may not weigh exactly the same as standard. Try at your own risk.
Do you have other authentic Czech (or Slovak) Christmas cookie recipes you’re willing to share? If so, I’d love to see them. Feel free to post a web link to one or include it in a comment.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (Veselé vánoce a šťastný nový rok!)
HUGE thanks go to my Czech husband! He provided translations for all of the recipes, and various ingredients (mostly hastily handwritten ones from his mother). He gave helpful feedback, and helped eat the cookies (bringing some to work), so I wouldn’t gain too much weight. He also took some of the photos…especially the better ones.