The 17th of May is Syttende Mai or Norwegian National Day (/Constitution Day). My family is part Norwegian (my dad’s dad was Norwegian) and one of the ways we celebrate this is by celebrating syttende mai with family dinner at my parents’ place. I thought I’d bake something Norwegian for dessert in celebration. It is often typical to bake a kvæfjordkake (humbly known as ‘the best cake in the world’) or a suksesskake, or a bløtkake (very similar to a Victorian sponge). But I decided that ‘just’ a cake wasn’t enough (although I’m going to make a kvæfjordkake sometime soon because it looks delicious! and I’ve not made one before). So I instead decide to appropriate a Christmas tradition of making a variety (traditionally 7 types) of biscuits that are traditionally made to have out when visitors drop by around Christmas time. So over the course of a weekend–and it literally took me the weekend–I baked 5 types of Norwegian biscuits, plus plain (but ah-mazing) sugar cookies that Mum can eat, and as I’d run out of time to make the 7th type of cookie it was lucky that wonderful friend Bec had been invited to dinner and brought a little bit of her English heritage in the shape of Elizabeth Shaw mint chocolates that we made the ‘7th’ item on our plates. There are a wide variety of cookies that can be baked for the 7 Christmas Cookies. My Little Norway has 10 to chose from, but in researching I found a wide variety of them–I couldn’t find any Norwegian cookies that were ‘no go’ for inclusion. I really wanted to make krumkaker but you need a special like waffle iron with a pretty pattern and a cone shaper! So that was out. But now I really want a krumkaker iron! I made: pepperkakker (gingerbread), fattigmann (‘poor man’ biscuits), kokosmakroner (coconut macaroons), sandkake (‘sand cakes’), and kransekaker fingers, as well as sugar cookies. I’m going to go write up each recipe, but before I do I thought it would be easiest to explain the timing/process. On the Saturday, before friends arrived for a crafternoon, I made the pepperkakker, fatigmann, and kokosmakroner. On the Sunday with Bec’s help we made the sandkake, kransekaker fingers, and sugar cookies. Once I got over the exhaustion from trying to do this, my favourite thing about doing all these recipes was their variety. Some required heaps of spices and freezing, some required making meringue, some even required frying! A far cry from my usual chocolate chip cookies-mix it all up and bake them-baking. Many of the recipes require the dough to be made and left in the fridge/freezer for several hours/overnight. Unsurprisingly I lost track of the order I’d originally planned to make that work–I seem to have reversed the two days making the ones that needed to sit in the fridge on the second day when they had to be made by that evening and making the ones that didn’t really need resting on the Saturday! Whoops!), and so some doughs probably should have been left longer. But on the whole things went ok; although I’m planning to remake several of them at some point when I’m not trying to make 6 cookies simultaneously! Day One Pepperkakker I used a slightly modified Donna Hay recipe for the gingerbread. Didn’t have golden syrup so just used honey so it wasn’t quite so dark, and I added a tiny pinch of nutmeg as well as the usual ginger. I also made a full batch of both these and the kokosmakroner because I hadn’t yet caught on to the fact that if you’re making seven types of cookies you don’t need 20 of each. I’m providing ‘full’ recipes for all these cookies… you should divide them if you want to just make enough for a selection plate: alternatively most you can put left over dough in an air-tight bag, label and freeze to make another batch later! You will need:
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2 1/2 cups plain flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (not pictured, I went crazy and added it later)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
1. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for at least 5 minutes or until its delicious and all creamy and lovely 2. Add everything else (honey, flour, spices, baking powder). Beat until its a smooth dough. 3. Roll out the dough between to layers of baking paper until its about 1/2 a cm thick and put in the fridge for about 30 mins (at least) to firm up. 4. Once its firm, heat the oven to 160C, take it out of the fridge and cut with cookie cutters into your desired shape. I made hearts. 5. They bake quickly. About 6-8 minutes. Watch them, you want them to be golden but not catching on the edges. I prefer slightly chewy gingerbread anyways so tend to err on the side of caution. Take out and leave to cool. Kokosmakroner These fellows don’t need any fridge time. They are chewy delicious coconut meringue-y loveliness. You will need:
- 2 eggs
- 2dl sugar (a ‘dl’ is a decilitre…also known as a millilitre. In this case its “.85 of a cup”)
- 180g descicated coconut
- 50g (a heaped 1/3 cup) cornflour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
1. Separate the eggs into whites and yolks. Beat egg white with sugar to a stiff meringue using an electric mixer. The peaks should hold when the mixer is pulled out of them. 2. Stir in the egg yolks one at a time mixing well. Then mix in coconut, cornflour and baking powder. 3. Use a spoon to drop mixture on a baking sheet. 4. Bake at 180C for about 12mins. They should start going golden. You want to let them get a little golden to be sure the biscuit is cooked through. Fattigmann or “Poor Man” Cookies
These ridiculous biscuits are fried! The recipe is hundreds of years old and the story goes that the ingredients would leave the baker ‘in the poor house’ (an alternative story says they are cookies that poor men could make… just to keep the folklore interesting). I don’t often cook with cardamom. It has a really distinctive taste which people seem to either love or dislike. The cream and the alcohol smooth it out nicely in these cookies! These are definitely a bit more involved/ decadent than some of the others!
You will need:
(not pictured but also needed:)
- 1 tablespoon brandy (optional for flavour) (I used a dash of whisky (less than a tablespoon I reckon), I’m going to be honest, because we didn’t have brandy! Totally non-traditional, but oh well).
- icing sugar for dusting
- lard for frying (I just used oil because I hadn’t bought lard it seemed to go ok).
1. Beat egg and sugar with an electric beater until fluffy (I mean you can make all of these recipes by hand, and I imagine you’d have some great guns/ dead arms by the end of the weekend!). 2. In a separate bowl whip cream. Then add the cream to the egg and sugar and add the alcohol if you are doing that. 3. Sift 100g plain flour in to the mixture and carefully knead it (I started with a spoon and swapped to hands once the dough was ‘together’ enough) 4. Ok so making to make the actual biscuits you’ve got to do a bit of fiddly work. Roll the dough out to thinner than half a cm. 5. Then cut into small diamonds and make a slit in the middle. I made mine too long and cut the slit the wrong way (not horizontal… has to be lengthways). But they are ok. (If you’re super into making fattigmann you can buy a fattigmann cutter! [see left ->]) 6. Then take the top corner and thread it through the slit. Below are photos of both mine (I give myself a 5/10) and ‘proper’ ones made by “Thanks for the Food” blog. 7. Heat up lard/oil deep enough to cover the fattigman. Then fry them! They’ll take a moment or two and then they’ll suddenly be ready, so watch them! Put them on paper. 8. Let them cool and cover them with icing sugar (mine below don’t because I didn’t put it on until we served them the next night).
Day Two Sugar Cookies So these are not traditional Norwegian cookies, but they are deeelicious and mum can eat them so I wanted to include something for her! We got this recipe when I lived overseas as a kid and we were given recipes we could make for bake sale. They are super delicious you guys, and you can cut any shapes and chose whatever colour sugar you want! You will need:
- 250 g butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbs valilla
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 2 cups of flour
- some extra sugar and food dye
1. Whisk butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and salt with an electric beater until its fluffy. Beat in flour. 2. Then wrap dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour (this is one that benefits from several hours in the fridge). 3. While its in the fridge put some sugar in a tiny container and add food dye (this is to sprinkle on the cookies). Whatever colour/s you want! But you probably only need one or maybe two drops of dye. Promise. 4. Roll out the dough and cut with cookie cutters in whatever shape you desire (I did stars and hearts)! Put them on a tray with space between them. Then sprinkle them liberally with the sugar. 5. Bake them! 12-15 mins. Again, watch them because they’ll catch on the edges. Sandkake or ‘sand cakes’ These are super easy and despite their perhaps less than appealing name are crunchy and with jam are super.
- 100g grounded almonds
- 200g butter, you’ll have to soften it
- 250g flour
- 1 egg
- 100g sugar
1. Rub the butter and flour together with your fingers until its crumbly. 2. Add almonds, egg and sugar to the butter and flour mix. Then knead it together. 3. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour. 4. Get a ‘small tart tin’. I used my mini cup cake pan. You want to use enough of it to fill the space but not too thick–it should still be concave. 5. Bake at 180C for 12-15 mins or until golden. Remove from moulds and leave to cool. Then fill them with jam (I used my grannie’s strawberry jam and it was pretty great). Kransekaker fingers
Last one!! So a proper kransekake is a Norwegian celebration cake made of increasing small rings stacked together and decorated with flags and lollies. They are amazing and my fabulous aunt can make them and made us one for our wedding earlier this year! Mine turned out alright. Everyone said they were delicious but they looked a bit weird. I want to have another go at them. Apparently if you live in Norway you can buy the dough from the supermarket!! The internet reports that it is to do with how fine the almond meal is. But if you’re not fussed if they are a bit flat and weird looking then the recipe itself is pretty straightforward. Three ingredients! What can go wrong? You will need (and I quartered this recipe from the original here because its enormous (this one is the exception to the comment above)):
- 125g of almonds
- 125g of icing sugar
- 1 medium egg white
- 100g of dark chocolate
- whatever deliciousness you want to dip them in. I used lots of different kinds of sprinkles! But you can also use chopped nuts.
1. Mix the almonds, the icing sugar and the egg whites together until its a firm sticky dough. 2. Wrap it in cling film. Recipes from Norwegian blogs say cool it but not in the fridge because it will harden, but I did put it in briefly because it was warm and never going to firm up if I left it on the bench for an hour. 3. Take pieces of dough and roll into finger-width pieces that are about 6 cm long (I made them a little long here). Put on a baking paper lined tray and bake 180C oven for 10 min. They should be brown. 4. Melt chocolate–not too much, you don’t want to too runny. Put all the sprinkles etc on little plates. Once the fingers are cool dip them in the chocolate. It probably would help to have something to put them on when you’re done. Luckily Bec was there and we pulled the cling film box out and balanced them on it! FINISHED!!!!!! Two days worth of baking! And they looked lovely on pretty plates for dessert! Happy (now very belated) syttende mai! (for excellent Norwegian food blogs that were helpful with figuring out the best recipe for these try My Little Norway and Thanks for the Food: A Norwegian Food Blog)