Icelandic Culture
27 October 2017

Our secret recipe for Icelandic Presidential Cookies

Let’s begin with a history lesson.

Once elected, the Icelandic president moves to a house called Bessastaðir (Bessi’s place). You might say it’s the Icelandic equivalent to the “White House” in the US or “10 Downing Street” in the UK.

People have lived at Bessastaðir since the settlement of Iceland. Over the years, the place was inhabited by very respectable people like poets, governors, and congressmen. After Iceland gained full independence and elected a president in 1944, he moved to Bessastaðir and the tradition is the same today. Bessastaðir is now the home of Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the president of Iceland, his wife, and children.

Well, anyway… about the cookies…

In the late 1800s, a woman named Jakobína Thomsen lived in Bessastaðir and she originally made the recipe for the “Bessastaðakökur” (cakes of Bessastaðir). Some of the Icelandic presidents have served them to their guests since they’re delicious! There are a few versions of the cookies floating around, be we have the best one, of course.

Icelandic presidential cookies - bessastaðakökur

Bessastaðakökur – Icelandic Presidential Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams butter – melted and then cooled in the refrigerator
  • 500 grams regular flour
  • 500 grams of icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150 grams of raw, chopped almonds

Method:

  • Heat the oven to 180 °C or 170 °C if you have a fan oven
  • As mentioned above, prepare the butter by melting it (in a pot, preferably) and then cooling it down in the fridge
  • Cube the butter so it’s easier to work with
  • In a bowl, mix flour and icing sugar roughly together
  • Add the cubed butter and mix. It might take a while before it all comes together. If it’s not going well, try mixing by hand to soften the butter a bit.
  • Take a part of the dough and roll it out so it’s around 1 cm thick.
  • Take a small glass and use it to cut circles (around 4 cm in diameter) and place them on a baking sheet. Make sure they don’t get too warm.
  • Whisk the egg.
  • Us a teaspoon to place a few drops of the whisked egg in the center of each cookie and the bottom of the spoon to smear it a little bit, maybe 2 cm or so.
  • Sprinkle a few chopped almonds on top of each cookie
  • Bake for around 15 minutes. Please note that the cookies should not brown, they should remain white.
  • Cool them down and eat!

Tips:

  • Try to keep the room temperature on the cool side when you prepare the cookies.
  • This is actually quite a large recipe, you can easily reduce it to 250 grams of everything instead of 500.
  • Some people like to roughly crush sugar cubes and mix with the almonds before sprinkling.

Icelandic presidential cookies - bessastaðakökur

Photo: mbl.is