These simple shortbread type cookies are sort of the Czech equivalent of Pecan Sandies in the US. The main difference is the use of whole hazelnuts/filberts, instead of pecans. Hazelnuts (called “lískové oříšky” in Czech) are quite popular in Czech desserts. They also add unique circles in each cookie slice. Beyond the time it takes for the dough to chill and cookies to bake, the preparation process is quick and and very easy.
This cookie’s name is for the first president of independent Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who was born in the Moravian region of the country. It is said that these were his favorite Christmas cookies. They’re simple to make, yet delicious as the hazelnut slices get fragrantly toasted during baking. Add unsweetened cocoa for dark versions, or leave it out for lighter colored ones.
These cookies go great with a cup of coffee or tea! I enjoyed my first from this batch with some Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar. They’re simply made for each other!
- 120 grams unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 50 grams of confectioner’s/powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon real vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon real vanilla sugar)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 170 grams unbleached pastry flour (i.e. Bob’s Red Mill) or hladká mouka, sifted
- Optional: 1 ½ teaspoons unsweetened cocoa (I use Dutch process). I make one batch of each. Both are good, but I confess I best like the version without the cocoa.
- 100 grams whole hazelnuts/filberts, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
- Optional: Light/golden brown sugar for rolling in, before baking
- Optional: Confectioner’s sugar for dusting, after baking
Soak whole hazelnuts/filberts (skin-on is fine) in cold water for about two hours, no less. It’s OK if skins remain. Put aside. The purpose of this soaking step is to soften the hazelnuts to be easier to slice within the dough, later in the recipe. Without the soaking step, you would struggle and the cookies might break apart.
In a medium sized bowl, cream together the softened butter and confectioner’s sugar. Add the vanilla (or vanilla sugar), then egg yolk, and beat in until well incorporated. If using cocoa in the recipe, combine with sifted flour in a separate bowl. Then, slowly beat it into the batter to make a soft dough. Knead in the whole soaked hazelnuts/filberts so they are distributed mostly evenly. [You can lightly flour your hands, if the dough is too sticky, but I didn’t need to.] Divide the dough into two equal size parts. Roll each into a log with a diameter of about 3 to 4 cm (1 ½ inch). Feel each of the logs to ensure that the hazelnuts are in all areas, stealing a couple here and there to redistribute, if necessary.
Wrap the logs in waxed paper, or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a few hours, to overnight, to firm up. If you like, after the dough logs are firm, you can work them a bit to look more perfectly round or square (the shape you prefer). It’s easier to do so when chilled.
Preheat the oven to 170° C (335° F). Prepare two large metal baking/cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Remove the wrapping from the refrigerated dough rolls. If desired, gently roll the whole logs in light/golden brown sugar to very lightly coat. [I always do this.] Then, cut the logs into 1 cm (between one-third and one-half inch) slices with a sharp thin knife.
Place the slices on the parchment lined baking sheets, with a little space between each. If they still seem odd-shaped, quickly press them into nicer circles, as desired. Don’t handle too much. Bake for about 14 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown (ones without cocoa) or just firm to the touch (ones with cocoa). Remove from oven to cool on racks. I simply transfer them to racks with the parchment paper.
If desired, very lightly dust cookies with confectioner’s sugar, while still warm, but not hot. You don’t want to hide the little hazelnut “eyes”, as I call them, though a light confectioner’s dusting will fade a bit once fully cooled.
Want even more cookies? Visit More than 10 authentic Czech Christmas cookie recipes, plus.