Milano cookies

12:58 PM

Golden Milano cookies, a Swiss Christmas classic

It's that time of the year again! And true to tradition, I am baking batches of Swiss Christmas cookies. Mailaenderli are that big Classic in my homeland, everybody loves them, for their rich buttery and zesty taste and their warm golden hue. They instantly bring back childhood memories of eating the raw dough, and the smell of them baking spreading to the whole apartment.
They also stand for simplicity, they are made with only 5 ingredients, and the dough can be made well in advance and kept in the freezer until one is ready to bake. And you don't need any mad cooking skills whatsoever to pull them off...none!

You don't even need that much space to make them...look at my kitchen above, I have been baking them for years in my small Microwave/convection oven (using the convection mode that goes without saying). I have a knack at having one tray baking in the oven while the other is getting filled with the next batch.

To make the dough you will need :

250g of salted butter (if you are using unsalted one, add a pinch of salt to the recipe)
225g of caster sugar
3 large eggs
the zest of two Indian lemons (or the zest of one regular sized lemon if you live in Europe and US)
600g of plain white flour (maida)

Just before backing, for the egg wash :

2-3 egg yolks

1) Leave the butter at room temperature for a little while, so that you can beat it to a cream more easily. You can do that with a fork, or an electric whip if you have one (if you bake one, they are cheap and a real time saver)

2) Add the sugar and eggs to the butter and mix well to combine. Grate the lemon zest and mix well again.

3) Sift in the flour and knead to a dough. You should end up with a very soft dough that is greasy, but not sticky, it should stay in one ball, not get stuck to your finger. At this point, you may need to add a little more flour to get the desired consistency.

4) Wrap in cling film and keep in the fridge for an hour. At this point you can also just shove it in the freezer where it can stay until you have the time to bake, it keeps well in the freezer for a few months.

Once you are ready to bake, take your dough out of the fridge or freezer, and let it become soft again. Preheat your oven to 200 C and line two oven proof trays with baking parchment. Get your egg yolks ready in a small bowl.

Roll down your dough to a thickness of about 5mm and start cutting shapes out with cookie cutters of your choice and place them on one of the baking tray

Once a tray is filled, brush the cookies with egg yolk using a pastry brush (or a teaspoon if you don't have one, it works fine too). Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the egg wash has a nice golden hue.

While one batch of cookie is baking, continue filling the other tray, chances are you'll have that second one ready just when it will be time to get the first batch out of the oven.

Transfer the hot cookies straight to a cooling rack using a spatula or the pliers used to flip chapati rolls, and continue shaping cookies using the now empty tray to process the next batch...keep on going until you run out of dough. This is that easy!

Once all your cookies have cooled down, transfer them to an airtight container or a cookie tin.

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  1. Anonymous2:30 PM

    These are sweet and nice. I wonder if you could use some ajawain (carrom seeds) or saunf (fennel seeds) to give that sweet salty taste to it. These could be made salty also with the use of dry coriander/mint flakes, heeng and a hint of red chilly powder.


    1. Ouch, these are a big time Swiss classic meant to be enjoyed sweet as they are :-) I would not alter the recipe :-)

    2. Anonymous6:05 PM

      A) This is sacrilege and
      B) I'm not convinced you know what 'salty' means. Salt makes things salty. Not fennel, or carrom seeds, or coriander, or mint, or hing, or chilli.

    3. This is indeed sacrilege, in fact adding those spices to that recipe would make them pretty gross

  2. Anonymous4:36 PM

    Well, you can call it "Cyn's Creation- When Swiss Milano met Indian Mathri"

    Talking about steamed snacks, this is one famous bengali steamed dish:


    1. Nope, 8 really won't mess with this ultimate Christmas classic, that is the taste of my childhood, and heritage, I am experimenting in my kitchen often, but not with milano cookies :-)

  3. Anonymous6:36 PM

    One of my fellow blogger lived in Basel and Zurich for quite a few years and I think I saw something like this on one if her posts. " Christmas is in the air if you find the smell of Milanderli waving in any household".
    Most if these cookie recipes are quite simple to make and more importantly they taste so heavenly. I don't know if its a German/Swiss thing but most Europeans I have observed bake these simple cookies without icing and put them in those fancy tin boxes.

    1. Oh yeah, they give a heavenly smell when you bake them, they are the true symbol of Christmas in Switzerland, along with the Zimtsterne, which is another type of cookie I will share the recipe of very soon. The Zimtsterne is iced, but with a plain white royal icing. I don't think I ever saw a fancy iced cookie in Europe, we like them in their sheer simplicity. They are also made with very basic ingredients.

      I had two tin box, one got lost when I sent Ishita to school with eggless chocolate chip cookies to share last April, fortunately that was the less fancy one, I am yet to find a holiday themed one for sale around here. The one I have came free with cookies I bought in Cookie Man years ago, but I really don't want to buy mass produced cookies when I can make my own for the holiday :-)

      The tin boxes usually sit all around people's home to share with friends and guests, my mom used to bake enough cookies to fill about 5-6 of these tins, and we would literally dip into them all December, and often January long. We also gift these cookies to our school teachers, putting them into little waxed paper goodie bags. Christmas in Switzerland inevitably means having cookies around, they are omnipresent in December.

    2. I would add that the 'heavenly' taste in these simple European cookies is all that delicious European BUTTER!!!
      If Apple wants a 'spicy' European cookie perhaps he should try pfeffernusse, speculaas, lebkuchen or springerle.
      I'm getting ready to make "Golden Stollen'-
      It's a pumpkin flavored stollen made with baking powder instead of yeast, I've never made it, hope it turns out well!

    3. Oh yeah, the European butter is unamatchable, I can't get that here, but the cookies still taste great. Swiss butter is low in water and high in cream content, so it usually stays soft even in the fridge, I never had to put the butter outside the fridge for an hour before planning to make a Sandwich in Switzerland, but I have to here. Though I love the salty taste of the Indian one, and it is convenient because I don't have to remember the pinch of salt in recipes anymore, it is already there :-)

      I have a recipe for spekulatus, but making the almond paste from scratch is putting me off :-)

      Let me know how that stolen turns out, sounds yummy

  4. That sounds really yummy, Cynthia! Pinning them to my cookies board.

    :) Sorry but I had to stop and laugh at your previous comments. Somebody should tell them people eat bread all over the world and call it by different names! You are doing a good job girl!

    1. Thank you dear,
      Yeah, it is funny, I am really not going to mess with one of my cultural heritage holiday classics, there are so many other cookie recipes that are spicy, or need to commit a sacrilege :-)

  5. Looks really yummy!! Yes, I found the previous comments asking you to completely massacre the recipe pretty hilarious too!!

    1. I can guarantee the instant feel good effect these cookies can give. If you try them you will be won over. To me it shows how much the simple things are worth. And that festivals do not have to equal spending hours sweating in the kitchen :-)

  6. Cynthia,

    Had never heard of these milano cookies..

    The pics are inviting :)

    1. I think they are one of the variant of butter cookies which we find accross Europe. We only really make them for Christmas in Switzerland, and I don't even know why we call them Milano :-) but they taste absolutely divine, best enjoyed with a steaming cup of tea.

  7. Anonymous7:13 PM

    If you omit the zest and egg wash isn't this the basic recipe for shortbread?
    They look so tempting, will be nice for tea time. I can't wait to make them. One of my friends gave me the recipe for Swiss carrot cake, cinnamon star cookies and Basel honey cookies. Their names are quite complicated so I can't really remember them. I'm no good with royal icing so I can't really try it.

    1. Yes they are a type of shortbread, with a strong egg taste and a hint of lemon. The Basel honey cookie is called "Laekerli" it is another classic, though they are enjoyed year round, not just for Christmas. I will post the Cinnamon star recipe soon as it is one of these Christmas classic, in German they are called Zimtsterne, and translates exactly as Cinnamon star, Zimt being the cinnamon and Sterne the star. If you have issue with eggs, you can make cinnamon stars using eggless royal icing, I know there must be recipe out there for it, the entire cookie is made with royal icing in it as it binds the almond powder together. If you have no problem with egg whites, then the way to pull royal icing is to have a handheld electric beater, it is impossible to do it otherwise, I never ever achieved stiff peaks in the White beating with a manual whisk


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