Are you as shocked by the name of this cookie as I was? Ammonia Cookies or ciasteczka amoniaczki in Polish made me do a double-take. It also made me do some research.
I knew I would have to make Ammonia Cookies. I was just too curious. It’s the culinary explorer in me!
Everything you wanted to know about ammonia cookies
I want to be very clear that we’re talking about baking ammonia, not the bottle of ammonia that you might have as a cleaning product. I had never heard of baking ammonia, also known as ammonium bicarbonate, but I have learned interesting things about it.
- In the early 1800s, it was the primary leavening agent before the invention of baking powder and baking soda. So if your family has a recipe that calls for baking ammonia, it’s an old one!
- Baking ammonia also has been used as smelling salts reviving many a fainting Victorian lady.
- It’s used in crisp cookies and crackers. The end product needs to be something that is essentially dry when baked. Otherwise, the unpleasant odor lingers.
- It’s still used today in some Scandanavian, Northern European, and Middle Eastern traditional recipes, such as these ammonia cookies.
- The tiny crystals degrade and turn into gases in the heat of the oven. As the gases escape, they leave behind tiny air pockets that provide for light, crisp baked goods.
- It was originally made from ground deer horn. I cannot imagine how or why. Who was the brave soul to be the first to try that?
- Ammonium bicarbonate is also used as an ingredient in a Canadian brand of cough syrup, smokeless tobacco, and camera lens cleaner.
Most bakers find that baking ammonia gives them a lighter and crunchier baked good than baking powder. I’d read a lot about the fumes released while baking. So I took a lot of precautions.
I opened the door and the window in my kitchen while the cookies were baking. I also set up a small fan to blow exhaust from the oven out the window. That might have been overkill.
I did not hover over the oven while the cookies were baking, but the strongest smell I encountered was the whiff I got as I spooned the powder into the sour cream. As noxious fumes go, I’ve done much worse when blackening food in cajun recipes. I was slightly aware of fumes, but I wonder how much of that was the power of suggestion.
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The texture of ammonia cookies
The texture is amazing! The cookies puffed up to more than double their height as they baked. They are crisp but in the lightest possible way. So often in my mind, I think of a crisp cookie as something hard. That’s not the case here at all. I would describe the crispness as something delicate.
I’m a fan. What began as a curiosity has become enthusiasm. I have a 2.7-ounce jar of baking ammonia minus 1/2 teaspoon. I know I’ll be using it again. I have a recipe for cheese crackers that I’d like to try this with.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this most unusual but delicious recipe.
This recipe is adapted from one on the Polish food blog KwestiaSmaku.pl.
A delicious, light, crisp cookie
- 1/4 cup sour cream (60g)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking ammonia
- 1 3/4 cups flour (250g)
- 5 tablespoons sugar (65g)
- pinch of salt
- 9 tablespoons cold butter, (125g)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup sugar (100g), for rolling the cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C)
- Stir together the sour cream and baking ammonia, set aside.
- Add the flour, 5 tablespoons sugar, and a pinch of salt to a mixing bowl and cut in the cold butter using two knives, a pastry blender, or working it in with your hands until you have a fine crumb texture.
- Stir in the vanilla, egg, and sour cream with baking ammonia. Combine until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into one mass.
- Generously sprinkle sugar on a clean surface (you’ll roll out the dough multiple times, so don’t use the entire 1/2 cup of sugar on the first batch). Place the dough on top of the sugar and roll to a thickness of just less than 1/4 inch (1/2 cm). Sprinkle a pinch of flour over the dough if needed to make it easier to roll, but use as little as possible.
- Cut out cookies using small cookie cutters or a small glass. Make your cutouts as close as possible to each other to minimize the number of times the scraps are rolled out. This is good advice for any rolled cookie. Overworking the dough by working the scraps back together and rolling again can make for a tougher cookie. That being said, do continue to re-roll the dough 2 or 3 times.
- As you place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet pan, turn them over so the sugared bottoms are now the tops. If your cookie didn’t get much sugar in the rolling process, you can sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top now. Space the cookies 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) apart. They don’t spread much. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the edges are lightly brown.
Keywords: Polish ammonia cookies, CIASTECZKA AMONIACZKI