Finding True North
Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen makes New Nordic cuisine more accessible to home cooks
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
Kristi Bissell is a food blogger and recipe developer in Omaha, Neb. She is the founder of True North Kitchen, a food blog that explores new Nordic cuisine with carefully researched recipes and light-filled photography.
Bissell is a well-rounded Scandinavian: Her mom’s family is half Norwegian and half Danish, and her father’s family is Swedish. She grew up in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Before becoming a recipe developer and blogger, Bissell worked as a lawyer, but eventually left her practice to stay at home with her kids. She was always interested in food, so she attended culinary school at the local community college. She knew right away that she didn’t want to work in the restaurant industry with the punishing long hours, so she combined her interest in writing and home cooking to become a recipe developer and blogger.
I was delighted to talk with Kristi Bissell to learn more about her work.
Christy Olsen Field: How did you get interested in Scandinavian food?
Kristi Bissell: I grew up with Scandinavian food, but it was mostly at the holidays: Cookies, lefse, and so on. As I got older and went to cooking school, I started thinking about what Scandinavians ate for the other 11 months out of the year. The New Nordic cuisine is really popular right now, and I wanted to make it more accessible to home cooks.
COF: What inspired you to start a blog?
KB: Writing has been an interest of mine for a long time, and a blog seemed like a great way to for me to create my own body of work of recipes. I actually tried to get it going a few times over the past several years, but the technical side was such a challenge for me. I did a course through Food Blogger Pro, and that is what propelled me forward to actually do it.
COF: What inspired the name of True North Kitchen?
KB: I’ve always been drawn to the idea of true north, and I used the phrase “Live simply true north” in my work as a yoga instructor. So the name was a nod to my own interests, and it fit well with my food blog concept.
COF: What’s your favorite recipe on your site so far?
KB: I would have to say it’s my gingersnap recipe. It’s a family recipe that my great-grandmother brought over from Sweden. The cookies are really thin, with the perfect amount of crisp on the outside and chew in the middle. They are really special!
COF: What kind of work do you do in Scandinavian cooking beyond the blog?
KB: I have done some catering work, but I really love to teach. I do workshops and classes at the Museum of Danish America in Elkhorn, Iowa, which is about an hour from where I live. I’ve got some classes lined up at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. I love to teach people about the Nordic open sandwich, smørbrød. It’s such an accessible vehicle for bringing Nordic flavors to your kitchen. My other specialty is sourdough baking. Sourdough can be intimidating to people (it was for me before I took a class), and I have found that it’s much easier to learn in person. I have a really good sourdough rugbrød recipe!
COF: What are some of your favorite Nordic cookbooks and blogs?
KB: That’s a good question! I love Beatrice Ojakangas, who wrote The Great Scandinavian Baking Book (1999), among many others. I love Danish writer Trine Hahnemann, and Brontë Aurell of Scandikitchen in London. I love Daytona Strong’s blog Outside Oslo, and Nevada Berg’s North Wild Kitchen.
Pepparkakor (Swedish Gingersnaps)
By Kristi Bissell
For the dough:
2 cups pastry flour
(recommended) OR 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour ¼ cup cornstarch
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine sea salt
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
¾ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
To roll out the cookies:
½ cup granulated sugar (more if needed)
Whisk pastry flour (or all-purpose flour and cornstarch), baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Combine butter, sugar, and molasses in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. This will take longer if you are mixing by hand. Reduce speed to low and add the egg. Mix until fully combined.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Using a spatula, transfer dough to a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to one day or, alternatively, place dough in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. The dough will be easier to work with if it is well-chilled.
Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place ½ cup of sugar in a small bowl and find a drinking glass with a flat bottom.
Remove a portion of the dough from the refrigerator. Tearing off one small piece at a time, roll dough between your palms into a small ball about ½-¾ inch in diameter. Dough will be sticky. Place dough ball in the bowl of sugar and roll it around until it is completely coated. Place ball on prepared baking sheet.
Continue with remaining dough until baking sheet is filled, leaving at least 1 inch of space between each dough ball on the baking sheet. Dip the bottom of the drinking glass into the bowl of sugar and press down on each ball flattening it into a disc approximately ¼ inch thick. Be sure to dip the glass in the sugar before flattening each cookie.
Place baking sheet in the oven and bake cookies for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are just set. Do not overbake if you want the center of the cookie to remain slightly chewy. Let cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough, re-chilling the dough as necessary if it becomes difficult to work with.
To learn more about Kristi Bissell and access her recipes, you can find her here:
On the web: true-north-kitchen.com
This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.