A new tradition

Photo: Daytona Strong Sandbakkelse are the perfect Norwegian treat for the holiday season.

The Norwegian syv slags kaker custom brings back old memories and inspires new traditions.

By Daytona Strong

Outside Oslo

When it comes to the syv slags kaker, or seven types of cookies that are a must in a Norwegian home, I have to be honest and say that the tradition, at least by name, is new to me. Before you question my credibility, let me step back for a moment and set the stage.

Growing up, my holidays were spent visiting grandmothers who would proudly set out krumkake and sandbakkelse — along with a countless array of other types of cookies — and send us home with tins as well. They would store cookies in the deep freezer — if that’s not serious, I don’t know what is — and they wouldn’t sit down. Not until it was time to usher us to the holiday feast, at least. So if I didn’t know the tradition by name, then I certainly knew it by taste.

Today I seem to have blossomed into a proper Norwegian-American woman, with tins of cookies already staying cool in my basement and more batches to bake (I’ve committed to baking the syv slags this year). I have more cookies than I know what to do with, and have been concocting ideas for how I can share the Christmas cookie love with everyone I know. (If you live in Seattle and are lacking enough variety in yourhome, drop me a note! I’ll bring some by the Norwegian American Weekly’s office for you to pick up.)

Though I recently developed quite an affinity toward serinakaker and pepperkaker, the truth is that sandbakkelse are among the most special in my home. Each cookie shaped patiently by hand into little tins, these were an annual staple in my grandma Adeline’s house while I was growing up, and these days she is sharing her tricks and techniques with my mom and me. Though there a few recent years in which Grandma wasn’t able to make them due to circumstances, we’re back at it this year. Grandma has handed off her recipe and the mixing to me, but when it’s time to work the dough around the base and up the sides of the tin, her 93-year-old hands get to work. Watching the precision with which she works is astounding. It’s as if those hands — despite a three-year gap — have retained their muscle memory specifically for making sandbakkelse.

Adeline Halvarson’s Sandbakkels Sandkaker / Sandbakkelse

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and almond extracts and stir until combined. Add flour and salt and mix until incorporated and the dough comes together. Gather the dough together, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for 15 minutes.

Now comes the fun part: shaping the cookies.

To start, pinch off a little dough and roll into a ball about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Place into the center of the mold, using your thumbs to flatten the dough into the mold. Rotating the mold as you go, work the dough out from the center of the mold and up the sides. You’ll want the dough on the bottom to be as thin as it can be while still holding up when baked. As you work, take special care at the ridge where the bottom connects to the side. Dough tends to collect here, and it’s easy to let this part be too thick. Delicately continue to work the dough from this ring up the sides. Using your hand, scrape off the excess dough from the top of the mold, and set aside while you form the rest of the cookies.

When it’s time to bake, arrange the sandbakkels on a cookie sheet (if you’re using different shapes of tins, try to keep the like tins

together in a batch so they cook evenly) and place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees. Watch closely as the cookies bake, as they quickly go from done to overdone. When they’re just starting to take on a slightly golden hue, remove from the oven and take the molds off the cookie sheet to cool.

Allow the cookies to cool for a while, and then carefully remove from the tins. This is done by inverting the molds onto your work surface and giving a little tap. The cookies should pop right out.

Yield: About 5 dozen cookies, depending on size of tins.

Daytona Strong is the voice of Outside Oslo, a blog exploring her Norwegian heritage and love of great food. She is the newest contributor to the Norwegian American Weekly. Check out her blog at outsideoslo.wordpress.com

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