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Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Star Cookies)

 Soft and flaky pasty surrounds a flavorful jam in Joulutorttu, festive Finnish Christmas Star Cookies. 

Soft and flaky pasty surrounds a flavorful jam in Joulutorttu, festive Finnish Christmas Star Cookies. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com Christmas Traditions In Finland

If you’re living in Finland, you’re pretty lucky come Christmas-time.

Finnish people say that Santa Claus (Joulupukki) actually lives in the northern part of Finland in an area called Lapland.

Christmas Eve is the highlight of Christmas celebrations in Finland, and it is a busy day!

Families bring home their Christmas tree and decorate it. They often to to a Christmas sauna to relax before all the festivities with family and friends start that evening. Snowy cemeteries sparkle with lights on Christmas Eve as everyone remembers their loved ones by leaving lit candles or lanterns near the graves.

Christmas dinner often involves root vegetables, smoked salmon and herring dishes. After dinner, there is often a visit from Joulupukki, bringing presents for the children.

With all the festivities on Christmas Eve, Christmas day is typically a low-key day of relaxing with family and eating leftovers from the Christmas Eve dinner and desserts, like these traditional Finnish cookies.

Joulutorttu: Flaky Pastry Meets Robust Jam

Joulutorttu (pronounced jo-lu-tort-tu), are star or windmill-shaped cookies that boast the crisp crunch of a flaky pastry and the smooth sweetness of a dollop of jam.

Traditionally these Christmas tarts are made with a ricotta pastry and filled with a prune jam.

The ricotta in the pastry gives them a nice lightness, without being too rich or heavy. And, while prune jam might not sound all that appetizing, it actually adds a deep sweetness to the cookie that is the perfect contrast to the flaky pastry.

Soft and flaky pasty surrounds a flavorful jam in Joulutorttu, festive Finnish Christmas Star Cookies. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Making Finnish Christmas Star Cookies

Each of these Joulutorttu cookies gets a lot of special love an attention.

To shape the pinwheels, the dough is first rolled thin and cut into squares.

You can cut your squares any size you would like, but, we found that 2 inch squares (while they made super cute, little cookies) were a bit of a pain to shape into pinwheels. That’s why we recommend cutting the cookies into 3 inch squares in our recipe.

As for how to shape the cookies, I think a picture can say more than words here. As you can see below, each square has four cuts made in it, each going 1/2-2/3 of the way to the center of the square. The jam goes in the center, and then the sides are folded in.

To fold the sides, take every other cut corner and fold it in to the center, over the jam. We used a little brushing of egg wash to moisten the dough so that it stuck firmly to itself at the center.

The pastry will puff in the oven, so you want those edges secure over the jam!

Soft and flaky pasty surrounds a flavorful jam in Joulutorttu, festive Finnish Christmas Star Cookies. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Prune Jam and Our Joulutorttu Recipe

When we first heard that prune jam was the traditional filling for joulutorttu, we were both skeptical. I’ll admit, I thought, “We have some really tasty blueberry jam in the fridge… I bet that would be better.”

I mean, we do like prunes. But in a cookie? It just sounded… odd.

However, for tradition’s sake, we got some prunes and gave the prune jam a try.

And, guess what? It’s not awful.

Actually, it’s pretty good.

When you add a little sugar and cook the prunes down to a nice jammy consistency, you’re left with a deeply sweet jam, that really doesn’t even taste much like prunes at all.

And, it’s the perfect complement to the light and flaky pastry.

If you really can’t bear the thought of prune jam, raspberry or blueberry would be a super tasty option as well. 

Soft and flaky pasty surrounds a flavorful jam in Joulutorttu, festive Finnish Christmas Star Cookies. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Easy Joulutorttu

This recipe does come together pretty quickly, with just one short resting period.

But, if you want to make things even easier, you could just use frozen puff pastry instead of making your own dough.

The cookies will be flakier and a bit richer with the puff pastry.

But, who ever said that was a bad thing?

 

 

Yield: 2 dozen (3 inch) star cookies

Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Star Cookies)

Soft and flaky pasty surrounds a flavorful jam in Joulutorttu, festive Finnish Christmas Star Cookies. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Soft and flaky pasty surrounds a flavorful jam in Joulutorttu, festive Finnish Christmas Star Cookies. 

For best results, refrigerate this dough for 2-3 hours before shaping and baking the cookies.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 12 minutes

Ingredients

For the Pastry

To Make the Cookies

  • ½ c prune jam, (recipe below*) or other thick jam
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Powdered sugar, (for dusting the finished cookies)

Instructions

For the Dough

  1. In a large bowl beat together butter and ricotta cheese with an electric hand mixer. Add the flour, and mix until a soft dough comes together.
  2. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a ball and wrap each ball in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours (up to overnight), until firm.

To Shape And Bake

  1. Preheat your oven to 425F.
  2. Lightly flour your countertop and roll out one section of dough to a rectangle (roughly 12 x 9 inches) that is about an 1/8 inch thick.
  3. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares.
  4. In each square, make four cuts, one from each corner, each going 1/2 - 2/3 of the way to the center of the square.
  5. Spoon 1 teaspoon of jam in the center of each square.
  6. Fold every other corner of each square over the jam. Use the beaten egg wash to moisten the corners slightly and lightly press to seal the corners together over top of the jam.
  7. Transfer your pinwheel cookie to a parchment lined baking sheet, placing the cookies 1 inch apart.
  8. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
  9. Lightly brush the tops of the cookies with the beaten egg.
  10. Bake the cookies 10-12 minutes, until golden.
  11. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  12. Once the cookies are cool, dust them lightly with powdered sugar.
  13. Store the cookies in an air-tight container on the counter for 3-4 days.

Notes

*Prune Jam

Yield: 1 1/2 c of jam

1 c roughly chopped prunes
½ c sugar
Water, (to cover)

  • Place the prunes and sugar in a small saucepan. Add water to cover the prunes and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Simmer, uncovered, until the prunes are very soft and mixture is jammy, 20-30 min. (Add water as necessary during the simmering so the mixture doesn’t become too dry.)
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let the jam cool completely before using.
  • Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    12

    Serving Size:

    2 cookies

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 110

    Raija Garcia

    Tuesday 9th of November 2021

    Omg these are so delicious and they come out looking way harder to make than they are !! Show stopper! My Finnish mama made these at Christmas and she died last year . She would be proud !

    Sarah Ozimek

    Saturday 13th of November 2021

    So glad you enjoy them and they can bring back happy memories of your mama!

    Nancy Hatcher

    Monday 7th of December 2020

    I've been looking for Christmas foods and traditions from other countries around the world. I just found your website and can't wait to try these and check out your other holiday recipes. Thank you for having the options to try something new!

    Sarah Ozimek

    Tuesday 8th of December 2020

    Thank you Nancy! So glad you found us. Enjoy!

    Mika

    Thursday 26th of December 2019

    Hi its Mika, I have made these for the last 2 decades at least , I also add 1/2 of freshly squeezed lemon to the filling for a little extra zing. Also using pitted prunes is a little easier.

    Sarah Ozimek

    Thursday 26th of December 2019

    Lemon sounds like a lovely addition to the filling!

    Judi Brayman

    Friday 20th of December 2019

    Can't wait to try this recipe. They look so delicious. Being Finnish we enjoy these every Christmas. In the Finnish language every letter is pronounced even if there are 2 't's in a word each one is pronounced individually. Joulutorttu is pronounced 'JO LU TORT TU". The "U's are prounced like a 'U'. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    Sarah Ozimek

    Friday 20th of December 2019

    Thanks so much for the clarification on the Finnish language Judi. We hope you enjoy these cookies!

    Samantha

    Friday 29th of November 2019

    My mom is lactose intolerant and I can't find lactose free ricotta cheese anywhere. Is there a substitute I can use? Cottage cheese perhaps? Thanks for any advice

    Sarah Ozimek

    Saturday 30th of November 2019

    Hi Samantha. I would try cream cheese as my first substitution for the ricotta in this pastry dough. You might need a little extra flour (possibly up to 1/2 c) to get the dough to come together nicely though. If you give it a try, stop back by and let us know how it turns out for you!

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