The simple ingredients of tradition
Most Norwegian cookies use the same few staples, but the possibilities are endless
Cooking with Julie
When I look at Christmases past, one of my happiest memories is of eating the beautiful and delicious Norwegian cookies my grandmother made. Most of her cookies were made of just sweet butter, flour, eggs, and almonds. The variety of cookies she made from these ingredients is pure Norwegian magic. I was mesmerized while sitting at her kitchen table as she rolled, shaped, and baked hundreds of cookies.
She may have learned this recipe from her grandmother. There is no telling how far back this goes.
The recipe for bordstabler is unique; it is two cookies in one. The base is a rich tender butter cookie. Then there is the macaroon-like topping of lightly toasted almonds finely chopped and gently folded into a meringue. Since I never seemed to get the topping just right, I asked mom for advice. She is the keeper of all things Norwegian in our family. I knew I could count on her to help me perfect the topping so it was just like my grandmother made. It turned out that I wasn’t chopping the almonds finely enough.
Most bordstabler recipes call for shaping the cookies into rectangles, hence the name bordstabler (tables stacked). However, the tradition in my grandmother’s family was to cut them into a diamond shape. I think it’s the perfect shape; you can nibble on the browned edges until you get to the chewy macaroon middle.
My grandmother was an amazing baker. She would make hundreds of Norwegian cookies every year and store them in old metal tins decorated with Christmas themes, and when they ran out she used pretzel tins. The aroma when you opened the tin was pure Christmas. Some years she’d make so many they would last until Easter!
Christmas at our home isn’t complete without the Norwegian Christmas cookies from the recipes my grandmother brought with her from Norway. Now I hope you will create your own Christmas tradition.
1 cup sugar
2 sticks (4 ounces) unsalted butter
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 tsps. heavy cream
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 pound whole skin-on almonds, blanched*
2 egg whites
1 cup sugar
Heat the oven to 375°F with the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheet pans with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix until they are fully incorporated, then add the cream. With the mixer on low, add the flour 1/4 at a time, mixing until just incorporated. Shape into 4 equal sized balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, bake the almonds in the oven for 4-5 minutes or until lightly toasted. Chop the almonds in the food processor until finely chopped. Any large pieces that remain chop by hand. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat on medium high speed until they have soft peaks, then increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar; mix for another 30 seconds, then fold in the almonds.
Place an 18-inch piece of parchment paper on your counter. Working with 1 disk at a time, flatten into a disc on the parchment paper. Flour the top lightly and roll out dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Using a pastry cutter or knife, cut into diamond shapes: start by making parallel cuts in the dough about every 1 3/4-inches across using a ruler. Then make cuts on the diagonal every 1 3/4 inches. Remove the excess dough and any misshapen cookies and shape in a ball, cover and place the excess dough in the refrigerator to roll out and shape later. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Reroll and cut out the scraps.
Top each diamond with about 3/4 tsp. of the almond topping. The topping should be a bit craggy and fluffy. They should be more flat than domed. (The almond topping will nearly double when baked.) Bake at 375°F, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until light brown: about 6-9 minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then move to a cooling rack.
NB: If the diamond shape is too difficult, then cut them into 3/4-inch by 2-inch cookies. To make them fancier, you could use a fluted pastry cutter.
Makes 60 cookies.
*Blanching almonds: Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the whole skin-on almonds and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, drain away the water. When cool enough to handle, pinch each almond between your thumb and forefinger to pop the almond into your free hand. Place on a cotton towel to dry.
Julie is a farmers’ market groupie, seeker of local organic and sustainable foods, and Norwegian cookie addict. After many years living and working abroad, Julie opened her destination cooking school, Cooking with Julie, in Napa in 2005. In addition to teaching she’s testing recipes for her cookbook of Norwegian sweets traditional and contemporary. Julie is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the San Francisco Professional Food Society.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 16, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.