Basler Brunsli Cookies

by Jenn on December 7, 2011

in Dairy Free,Desserts,GF Ratio Rally,Gluten Free

Basler Brunsli

Today marks another fantastic gluten free ratio rally day – this month, the theme is cookies hosted by the lovely Caroline of The G-Spot Revolution! Cookies, which have been my gluten free baking nemesis for years (along with puff pastry).  Be it complicated macarons or simple chocolate chip, I can never seem to get them right.  In fact, I have an entire category on this blog devoted to stories of my gluten free baking flops, and quite of few of them are taken up by cookie trials.

So when the theme was announced, a bit of anxiety overcame me – must I really face my long-standing baking foe?  What if I can’t figure out a working version in time?  Will cookies forever be my GF baking downfall?

But we all know where worry and negativity gets us in the kitchen.  Nowhere.  I think I need to come to terms with the fact that you are never going to see a chocolate chip cookie recipe on this blog, nor a beautiful macaron either.  If you are ok with that, then I am too.  Let’s just cut our losses and move on.

Thankfully, there is a whole wide world of cookies beyond macarons and “Tollhouse” style chocolate chip.  So I started looking to other cookie traditions to see what other types of options there were – afterall, if there were only macarons and chocolate chip cookies in the world, then we would all be sorely missing out on a number of delicious treats in life.  There are flourless cookies made from nut butters, bar cookies like these colorful seven layer venetians, and let us not forget the macaron’s totally unrelated but similarly named cousin, the macaroon, made with coconut and often dipped in chocolate, and much much easier to execute.

As it turns out, Switzerland loves cookies at Christmastime, and there are myriad lovely varieties that seem to turn up in stores and the markets about as soon as the roasted chestnut stands appear outside.  Basler brunsli, zimtsterne, mailänderli, chräbeli, spitzbuben, berner haselnusslebkuchen, berner honiglebkuchen, and tirggel to name a few (and I am sure I am missing others).

I was looking through the various Swiss cookies, and noticed that a few are actually mostly made of nut meals which seemed like they would be very amenable to making gluten free – and nothing complicated like the infamous macaronage!  So I decided this month, rather than continue to beat my head against the wall with failed cookie after another, I would try something completely new.  Different.  Let’s move on from chocolate chip cookies and macarons, shall we? :)

basler brunsli

Basler brunsli are mainly a mixture of almond meal, sugar, egg white, and chocolate – in an entire batch, there are only 2 tbs. of flour – yep, that’s it!  So I tried them making an easy switch to use all purpose GF flour instead, and they worked like a dream – a little firm on the outside, soft on the inside, a great almond flavor and the scent of chocolate wafting from the oven, sure to put anyone in the holiday spirit.  The ratio is thus completely unchanged from the original recipe –
5 : 5 : 1 : 2 : 0.2 sugar : almond meal : egg white : chocolate : flour,  and those 2 tbs. flour hardly even count in the ratio (10g?), so I don’t even think it really worth much assessment as to the appropriate amount – it is clear the other ingredients are doing most of the work here.  The result is an incredibly easy to adapt Christmas cookie with a chocolatey and nutty flavor, that can even be dairy free as long as you use dairy free chocolate (see, not even butter in the recipe).  Who needs chocolate chip cookies when one can have a cookie entirely infused with rich dark melted chocolate?  I’ve found my cookie, and it’s going to be hard not to make this Christmas cookie all year long!


Basler Brunsli

adapted from just about every version of them I could find on the internet
Preptime: 30 minutes to make and roll out the dough
Total Time: 10 hrs(includes leaving cookies to dry overnight though active time really just about 15 minutes beyond the preptime)


  • 250g (8oz.) sugar
  • 250g  (8oz.) almond meal**
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour (use all purpose GF flour if need to be gluten free)
  • 60g egg whites (2)
  • 100g (3oz) dark chocolate, melted

*note my English measurements are only rough conversions, the metric ones are what I used.
**almond meal can easily be made by grinding almonds in a food processor if it cannot be purchased – don’t use almond flour in its place, you actually want coarse almond meal

1. In a large mixing bowl add almond meal, sugar, cinnamon, and flour, stirring well to combine.
2. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and fold into dry ingredients.  Don’t worry about preserving the airiness, just make sure all everything is wet.
3. Fold the melted dark chocolate into the dough – when well enough mixed it should actually resemble a dough, though it may look a little crumbly – just work it with your hands a couple minutes and it will eventually start looking and feeling more like a dough.
4. Working in batches, roll out the dough onto a sugared surface until about 5mm (1/4″) thick.  If it breaks can just press it back together.
5. Cut out cookies with a cookie cutter, recombining and re-rolling the dough as necessary.  Set out to dry for about 8 hours, or overnight.
6. Preheat an oven to 250C(480F).  Bake 5 min. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.


A note about the photography – I am submitting the top image to Culinographie’s Challenge de Nöel, and the theme is “White and Gold”.  Right away when I heard about this challenge I had an idea for a mood I wanted to create – old rustic twined together decorations, a bright and somewhat dreamy mood, trying to capture the holiday spirit without necessarily having a nativity set or Santa in the background.  The mood immediately dictated to me broad soft backlighting that wrapped around the dish – luckily it was a dreary gray and rainy day, perfect for soft light that poured through our balcony window and thus did not need any diffusing.  I set up the tripod and leaned my white foam board on it to bounce a little bit of fill light up from the front.

The most fun part of this image was all the prop shopping! I had a lot of fun in the Christmas section of our local department store, finding stars, golden orbs, cookie cutters, ribbons, and the cutest ever little plates shaped like gift tags – all the holiday stuff is just so much fun! It seemed perfect to show off my basler brunsli that I am so proud of.  Despite all the prop shopping, I really tried to make the photo not too complicated – after all, the cookies still needed to be the hero of the shot (and why I chose a fairly shallow depth of field). Post processing wasn’t much – added some clarity and constrast, that’s about it – my goal was to set the mood with the light, not the after effects.

EXIF: 105mm ISO200 f/4 SS1/5 – yes it’s a very slow shutter speed – it was dark and gray and rainy – but that is what the tripod is for, no? 😉

In short, I just had fun with this shoot – lots of cheerful, Christmasy fun, and I hope it shows. Want to participate? You have til Dec. 20th, go check out the info on Culinographie! (and yes, google translate works very well if you cannot read le français)

Want to see the rest of the awesome gluten free cookies the rally made?? Check out the links below! (links will go live as people put up their posts)

Amanda | Gluten Free Maui | Simple Shortbread
Amie Valpone | The Healthy Apple | Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke | B & the boy! | Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k] | Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free | Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa | zest bakery | Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caroline | The G-Spot | Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies
Claire | Gluten Freedom | Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure | Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen | kumquat | Classic Sugar Cookies
Irvin | Eat the Love | Apple Brown Butter Bay Leaf Spice Cookies
Jean | Gluten Free Doctor Recipes | Reindeer Cookies
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine | Basler Brunsli
Jonathan | The Canary Files | Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
Karen | Cooking Gluten Free! | Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen | Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran | frannycakes | Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan | Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Meredith | Gluten Free Betty | Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Morri | Meals With Morri| Stevia Sweetened & Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Preserves
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem| Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel | The Crispy Cook | Melomakarona
Silvana Nardone | Silvana’s Kitchen | Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
Shauna | Gluten Free Girl | Gluten Free Soft Molasses Cookies
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | Cinnamon Lemon Cookies
Tara | A Baking Life | Walnut Shortbread