Sarah Bernhardt Cookies
Sarah Bernhardt cookies (also spelled Sara Bernard) were developed in Denmark and named after a French actress, but they’ve become popular cookies to make during Christmas here in Norway. Though really I wish people would make these year-round, as they’re so delicious. Update: my friend’s boyfriend just made these for her birthday in June, so I guess some people do make these year-round!
Sarah Bernhardt (1844 – 1923) was known for her extravagant lifestyle and eccentric manner, as well as her turbulent love life that featured her husband as well as several famous lovers. In 1883 she visited Copenhagen and praised the delicious Danish chocolates. And so years later, in 1911, pastry chef Johannes Steen named the Sarah Bernhardt cookies after the actress, and it’s no surprise that the cookies are also extravagant.
My grandmother’s neighbor in Telemark always made Sarah Bernhardt cookies as part of her Christmas seven, and they were a huge hit with everyone. So of course I always wanted to make them for Christmas, but to be honest I was a bit intimidated by them.
Sarah Bernhardt cookies have an almond cookie base, topped with a chocolate cream filling and then dipped in chocolate. Norwegians also like to make a version filled with yellow egg cream – I’ve shared the recipe for Sarah Bernhardt cookies with yellow cream here.
I’m usually a one bowl sort of baker, so any Christmas cookie recipe that calls for three separate parts seems a bit excessive to me, especially when the dough has to rest in the fridge overnight. But after making these I can now say that Sarah Bernhardt cookies are absolutely worth the extra time and effort.
When I started researching Sarah Bernhardt cookies, I was surprised to find that almost all the recipes I looked at were quite different from each other. No one seems to agree how to make these. And I’m now continuing that tradition, because I ended up trying several recipes before coming up with my own variation.
Some recipes opt for a very light almond meringue base, to make a cookie similar to a macaron. And some even use marzipan instead of a cookie base, to make Sarah Bernhardt chocolate sweets. But I prefer using a kransekake dough for a denser almond cookie. Plus these dense almond cookie base is so delicious, and not too tricky.
Traditionally you are supposed to use an almond grinder to grind the almonds, as in a food processor the almonds can release a bit of oil, which can cause the cookies to spread out a bit while baking. But I’ve used a food processor for these in the past and the cookies still have turned out great.
I roll the dough into balls and then lightly press them flat – they will flatten out a bit more in the oven, but not too much.
Be sure not to bake these too long as then they can become hard. I bake them for 10 minutes for a softer cookie, and 12 minutes of a slightly chewier cookie (I usually bake them for 12 minutes).
While some recipes made a dark chocolate cream filling, I think these are best with milk chocolate cream.
If you don’t have a piping bag you can simply spoon the chocolate cream onto each cookie. Don’t worry too much about how it looks, since you’ll be dipping it in the chocolate covering anyway.
Don’t worry too much about your dipping technique either – Sarah Bernhardt cookies are actually meant to look a bit lopsided – even the ones in bakeries here look imperfect.
If you’re not eating these immediately you can store them in the freezer – they thaw in 15 minutes.
You can switch the recipe from US measurements to metric by clicking from “US Customary” to “Metric” under Ingredients.
Sarah Bernhardt Cookies
- 1 piping bag for cream filling
- almond grinder or food processor
- 1 and 1/3 cups milk chocolate
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp honey
- 3.5 tbsp butter (room temperature)
- 1 and 2/3 cups almonds
- 1 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 egg whites (egg whites from 2 eggs, or 60 grams)
- 1 and 1/3 cup dark chocolate
- 2 tbsp delfia/coconut fat or shortening
- Bring the cream and honey to a boil in a saucepan and then take off the heat.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate in a bowl. Let the chocolate stand for a couple of minutes before stirring quickly in the center of the bowl with a spatula until smooth.
- Stir in the butter until smooth.
- Store the cream in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Grind the almonds in an almond grinder or food processor.
- Stir the powdered sugar together with the ground almonds. Stir in the egg whites. It’s best if you can weigh out exactly 60 grams of egg whites so that you get the right consistency for baking.
- Roll the dough into small balls and then set them on the baking sheet. Slightly flatten each cookie with your hand.
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the tops just start to turn golden. Cool on a wire rack.
- Whip the chocolate cream gently by hand with a spoon. Put the cream in a piping bag with a large round tip.
- Pipe small peaks of chocolate cream onto each almond base. Put the cookies in the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes.
- For the chocolate coating, melt the dark chocolate with the delfia fat (coconut fat or shortening) on low heat in the microwave or over a water bath.
- Dip the tops of the cookies in the chocolate, leaving the almond base without chocolate.