Passed down over five generations, Belgian lukken is a holiday tradition in our family. When my great-grandmother emigrated from Belgium, she brought the recipe with her and it’s changed little over the years. Once made on an ijzer (iron) placed over the fire, we now cook them on pizzelle makers or a modern lukken iron. The recipe we currently use was clipped from a US-based, Belgian newspaper in the 1950s and has been adapted for that new-fangled electric pizzelle “iron.”
Growing up, there was always lukken at Grandma’s and Great-Grandma’s during the holidays, but it wasn’t until after they were both gone that I got in on the making of it. For years now the tradition is the day after Thanksgiving, we gather at my brother’s big house for what I call the lukken-making EXTRAVAGANZA!
My mom shortens the process for us greatly by making three batches of the lukken dough ahead of time and freezes it until the big day. Then three generations, ranging in age from 8 to 80, come together to transform the dough into hundreds of perfectly formed balls.
The balls are then placed on the pizzelle maker, close it up, say one Hail Mary, open it up and you have perfectly golden lukken (okay, maybe just a little longer, but that’s how my mom and aunts remember it from their childhood).
They are then transferred by spatula to the cooling area for stacking and wrapping into packages of one dozen to enjoy ourselves or give as gifts. Even with some of the lukken sneakily snarfed up during the extravaganza, we usually end up with about 40 dozen cookies.
Most years I still have at least of couple packages of lukken left after Christmas and a couple years ago, I started a new January and February tradition, making lukken ice-cream sandwiches! Spread one lukken with caramel sauce (I use Trader Joe’s fleur de sel) and softened vanilla ice-cream (Alden’s organic vanilla bean is delicious) and top with another lukken. I usually make these up ahead of time, wrap them in saran, and freeze until the craving strikes. Best ice-cream sandwiches EV-ER!
From time to time I’ve come across cookies that look similar, although with different names, some even Belgian, but nothing has ever matched the buttery, whiskey-mellowed sweet treat that is lukken!
1 pound unsalted butter
3 oz. whiskey (yee haw!)
1 pound brown sugar
1 pound white sugar
2 pounds flour
Dash of salt
Melt butter and cool. Add slightly beaten eggs and beat lightly. Add sugars—first the brown and beat lightly, then add white sugar, whiskey, and salt. Sift flour, add, and blend well. Store batter in the refrigerator overnight. Shape into small balls and place, two at a time, on pre-heated lukken ijzer or pizzelle maker. Close and wait approximately 30 seconds. Open, and if cookies are golden, remove to cooling rack. Repeat until all balls have been cooked.
No need to freeze these cookies; just store in a cool, dry place. We make them right after Thanksgiving and the whiskey helps the flavors to develop more over the next few weeks, when they’ll be at their peak! Makes 12-14 dozen.