Heidesand (Traditional German Shortbread Cookie)

Heidesand is a traditional German shortbread cookie that is mainly consumed during the holiday season although I find it is an excellent tea cookie all year round. It is actually one of my absolute favorites! It gets its distinct taste from browned butter and has a very crumbly texture. The latter gave it its name as Heidesand translates into „heath sand“ referring to the sandy earth of the Lüneburg Heath landscape from around where it is believed to originate.

You can easily create variations of this delicious cookie, e.g. by adding lemon zest or ginger to the dough or adding a twig of rosemary to the butter while melting and letting it infuse, and they are all delicious. The recipe below is the basic recipe without any added flavors.



Ingredients (for approx. 35 cookies):

  • 125 grams of butter
  • 125 grams of finely granulated sugar
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of vanilla sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 175 grams of white all-purpose flour (type 405)
  • pinch of baking powder
  • couple of tablespoons of very finely granulated sugar (Feinster Zucker)


  1. Let the butter melt in a saucepan over medium heat. While the butter is not yet entirely liquid, make sure the content of the saucepan does not get too hot, i.e. the butter should not be bubbling.
  2. Once the butter is entirely melted, turn up the heat to high and while gently swinging the pot in circular moves, let the butter brown. Take off the heat immediately when browned, especially before black parts begin to form.
  3. Pour the liquid butter into a container and let solidify in the fridge.
  4. Once the butter has become solid again, take it out of the fridge and let it adopt room temperature during approx. 30 minutes.
  5. Put the soft butter into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very creamy. Then gradually add the sugar, the vanilla sugar, the salt and the milk.
  6. Mix the flour and the baking powder and pass through a fine mesh, then add to the butter and sugar mix in 2 to 3 additions. At the beginning, continue mixing with the electric mixer, then transfer the content onto a baking mat and knead in the last third of the flour. Continue kneading until the dough is just smooth. Then divide into to approximately equal parts and roll both parts into an approx. 2 to 3 cm diameter roll each, and then roll these in (very) finely granulated sugar so the outsides are covered completely in sugar.
  7. Wrap the rolls in plastic and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  8. At the end of the resting time, pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (fan oven). Take one roll out of the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and cut into approx. ½ cm thick slices. Then take the second roll out of the fridge and cut into slices in the same manner.
  9. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the slices on the tray. Bake in the oven for approx. 20 minutes.
  10. Once cooled off completely, fill the cookies into an air-tight container. They keep very well for approx. 3 to 4 weeks.


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