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Hungarian Butter Cookies

A most exquisite cookie that's delicately flavored with only a handful of basics is what this heirloom recipe is all about.  My friend Darlene shared it with me awhile back and said it had been handed down to her by her grandmother, Tereza Hadnagy, who was born and raised in Hungary.  Mrs. Hadnagy, Darlene tells me, used to make batch after batch of these buttery cookies for her family around the holidays or whenever the little ones would request them.  It was through her that my friend learned how to cook & bake from a very early age.  Darlene is now "the baker" of the family and many is the time that she shares with me a peek at what she's cooking or baking. 

Hungarian Butter Cookies

As so often happens when someone is kind enough to share a family recipe with me, I safely store & catalog whatever notes happen to come with the instructions, with the promise of getting to the treat in the near future.  I'm so glad I finally got around to this particular recipe, because it is indeed one for the books and it is one that we should all attempt to make now that the holidays are upon us.  The proportion of butter to flour to sugar makes the cookies simply irresistible and perfectly suitable for any special occasion. 

If you're a beginner baker, you're going to enjoy how forgiving the dough is when making the cookies.  The experienced baker is going to love how easily the recipe comes together and how beautifully the dough rolls out (it is a dream dough to work with!).  You'll be pleased at the sweet aroma wafting through your kitchen as the buttery cookies bake and what's more, every single one of these beautiful morsels will be perfectly shaped when they come out of the oven. 

Hungarian Butter Cookies are now yours!

 The prettiest of cookies sit on an antique cut glass cake stand.

Butter Cookie Ingredients
  • 1 lb or 4 sticks {453 gm} unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup {200 gm} granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon {2.5 ml} pure almond extract or vanilla extract
  • 4 cups {500 gm} all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon {2.5 ml} fine sea salt
  • zest of 2 lemons (optional)
  • sanding sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Yield: approximately 4 dozen 3" cookies
Equipment: 4 baking sheets lined with parchment or silpats.

Note: if you want to make these into Lemon Shortbread Cookies, add the lemon zest as stated and add 1-1/2 teaspoons pure lemon extract to the dough.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute so that it is malleable.  Scrape down the bowl & paddle.

On medium speed, gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is creamy & light, about 3 minutes.  Stop & scrape down the bowl and paddle at least once (make sure you reach all the way to the bottom of the bowl!).  Add the egg on medium speed & beat until it is fully incorporated, then add the almond extract or vanilla extract.

Sift the flour and salt into a medium-sized bowl.  Slowly add the dry ingredients on low speed and mix until a dough is formed.  There should be no specks of flour left.

This is what the finished dough should look like.  Give it a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no bits of butter or flour on the bottom.

Divide the dough in half & shape into round disks; wrap them well in plastic wrap.  The dough must now chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.  If you wish, the dough can be frozen for up to one month, provided it is stored into a suitable zip-top freezer bag (thaw it overnight in the refrigerator).

Note: here is a complete how to roll out cookie dough lesson.
Thirty minutes before baking center the oven racks.
Preheat the oven to 350° F (176°C)

Remove one disk from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes.  This makes rolling the dough a lot easier.  Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and cover it with the same plastic wrap you used to chill it.  I much prefer to roll out cookie doughs this way because I don't have to flour my rolling pin or the top of the cookie dough as I do so.  Roll out the dough with even pressure using a good rolling pin to 1/8" in thickness (I'm using a large professional ball bearing rolling pin).  After a few rolls, move the dough at least a quarter turn, making sure the entire time that the dough isn't sticking to the bottom.  Have a long metal spatula at the ready in case the dough does stick (you can slide it underneath to release the dough).

Note: when rolling out doughs with plastic wrap, you'll notice that at some point the dough will begin to curl up at the edges.  This means it's time to release the plastic wrap and reposition it so that it rolls out smoothly.  You may need to do this once or twice as you work.
Have your cookie cutter(s) ready and a small bowl or plate filled with flour.  Dip the cutter in flour, shaking off the excess, and begin cutting the dough.  I always dip my cutter in flour in between each cut so that I'm assured of the cookie dough releasing from the cutter.  Begin cutting from the outside and work your way toward the middle in order to maximize the dough.  Cut the shapes as closely as possible to minimize waste.
Do you see how wonderfully textured this dough is?  It's smooth, buttery and very delicious.  After cutting the shapes place them on baking sheets lined with parchment or silpats, giving them about 2" of space between each cookie; 12 cookies will be able to fit per sheet.  Chill them for 15 to 30 minutes before placing them in the oven.

Gather whatever scraps you have left, form them into a disk & wrap to chill for about 10-15 minutes.  Reroll the dough once more and cut out more shapes.
Mrs. Hadnagy usually decorated the cookies with a sprinkling of sugar before baking them.  This is completely optional of course, but for this batch I thought a sprinkling of sanding sugars in autumnal colors would be appropriate.  Sprinkle them right before placing them in the preheated oven.

Bake for approximately 14-16 minutes.

The cookies should just begin to take on a little color around the edges.  You don't want them to brown excessively.  Let them sit on the baking sheets for about 2 minutes after taking them out of the oven so that they firm up.

Place them on racks to cook completely.  The cookies will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container, but I stongly advise that you share them with your loved ones.

Set out a cookie buffet with these treats atop your best cake stands for guests to enjoy.

 These are such beautiful cookies!

For those of you who enjoy working with royal icing, these cookies make the perfect canvas on which to decorate.  Every baker out there should try this recipe at least once or twice if they want a departure from the standard sugar cookie dough they've been making year after year.  Once you've made a batch of these cookies and the last of the baking sheets have come out of the oven, you're going to want to bookmark the recipe, because I have a feeling you'll be returning to it time & time again.  They're that good!  You don't have to wait for a holiday to make these butter cookies since they're appropriate all year long.  Make them for a birthday party, anniversary or for a special wedding in the near future and watch every guest devour them with gusto.  I want to personally thank my friend Darlene for sharing the recipe with me, because it is indeed one that I'm going to cherish for years to come.  Cheers!


  1. Those look great! I'm going to try them this Christmas!

  2. You should try them this Christmas! I think you're going to like working with the dough.


  3. Beautiful cookies! And even better that they come with such a lovely story about such a loving baker (now that baker is you for passing the recipe along!)

    I will be giving them a try this holiday season...

    Thank you (again) so much, David!

  4. Janet, I think you MUST make these for the holidays, especially since you're such a marvel at making cookies. Don't blame me if you happen to get addicted to them, though. Just make sure to make a lot!




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