Most Czech Christmas cookies use butter, but these old traditional ones have always included lard. “Sádlovky” is simply the diminutive of “lard”, kind of meaning “Little Lards”. Lard cookies are about a simple as they get, with only a few ingredients, and easy to make. They are melt-in-the-mouth and let the beautiful flavors of cocoa (or vanilla) and the jam (or other filling) shine. To most Americans, like me, they look like a thumbprint cookie. As seen in the above photo, they are often filled with a bit of fruit jam, and sometimes a nut, but you can get creative with both the cookie flavor and filling. Nutella is especially nice in the cocoa versions.
- 150 grams unbleached pastry flour (smooth flour)
- 150 grams confectioner’s/icing sugar
- 125 grams lard (I suggest store-bought, usually sold in the dairy or baking sections)
- Flavoring(s): unsweetened baking cocoa OR vanilla extract (or combination vanilla & almond extracts)
- Filling: Jam/marmalade is traditional, but Nutella, or even just a nut half is good)
- Optional decorations: almond or walnut half pushed into the filling or a dusting of confectioner’s sugar
In a large bowl, combine the flour and confectioner’s sugar. Then quickly cut or crush in the lard to form a crumbly mixture. At this stage, you need to decide if you want all cocoa-based lard cookies, all vanilla or other flavor ones, or some of each.
All cocoa-based ones – Mix in about 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa to the whole mixture.
All vanilla (or other flavor) – Mix in about 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 8 g vanilla sugar) or even ½ tsp vanilla extract and ½ tsp almond extract to whole mixture.
Half cocoa and half vanilla – Simply first divide the dough into two equal portions before adding flavoring(s), halving the above-mentioned flavoring quantities, accordingly.
Once the flavoring(s) has/have been added, work the dough by hand to fully incorporate and to form into a dough ball. Then, wrap the ball(s) in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hours.
Preheat your oven to 185 C (360 F), with the baking rack in the middle position.
From the chilled ball(s) of dough, we now form small balls. You could either tear off some pieces a little at a time, or form into a rope and then slice chunks off in more reliably even-sized pieces. Each ball of dough should be small and weigh approximately 6 grams (0.2 oz). After you take each chunk, simply roll it in your hand to form the perfect ball shape. Then put on a large parchment paper lined baking sheet, spacing cookie balls a bit for slight expansion. When all balls are on the sheet, press indentations in the top middles with either a pinky or narrow index finger, or the narrow end of a wooden spoon. If you ONLY plan to fill the cookies with a nut (whole almond or half walnut), this is the time to put the nut in the middle. Otherwise, you will fill them after baking and cooling.
Bake the indented cookies in the preheated oven for about 15 to 18 minutes (ovens vary). Remove baking sheet from the oven, and cool for a few minutes. Then transfer the baked cookies off of the sheet to a cooling rack (I slide them still on the parchment paper to the rack, since they are a bit delicate). Cool completely.
Fill the indentations of the lard cookies with your favorite filling, such as room temperature jam/marmalade or even something like a little Nutella. If you like, you can further decorate it with nuts on top of or pressed into the filling. Let the cookies set for a bit, and then transfer to an airtight box for storage. The fillings continue to set further by the next day.
The whole recipe makes just under 2 baking sheets worth of cookies.
Click Authentic Czech Christmas Cookies & Sweet Breads for additional recipes.