Cookies for holiday gifting
A selection of traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies that don’t require special equipment or ingredients
Christy Olsen Field
Taste of Norway Editor
When I was the editor of The Norwegian American Weekly, I loved finding recipes for the syv slags, the tradition of seven types of cookies served at Christmastime. This wasn’t always easy though, because most of them required special equipment or ingredients that had to be special ordered.
But what if you want to make Norwegian cookies for the holidays, and you don’t have a krumkake iron yet? Or kransekake ring forms? Fattigmann cutter? Or hartshorn leavening?
Don’t lose heart, because I’ve put together a few traditional Norwegian cookie recipes that are easy to make, don’t require any special equipment or mail-order ingredients, and are perfect for gifting.
If you need special tools, I can connect you to a local or online Scandinavian retailer. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serinakaker (Norwegian Butter Cookies)
Serinakaker is a traditional Norwegian cookie recipe, and it’s been around since the late 1800s. This is what I would call “a quiet cookie.” It’s buttery and subtle in its flavor, and none too sweet. When I was testing this recipe, I thought that perhaps it wasn’t exciting enough to include. But within 24 hours of baking, my taste testers eagerly gobbled them up.
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp table salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 egg white, beaten
Chopped almonds to garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, and extracts until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the egg, and mix until smooth. Add in the flour and mix on a low speed until incorporated into a smooth dough.
Roll the dough into a long sausage shape, and cut into 28 pieces (or so). Roll into balls, flatten gently with your thumb or a fork, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg white, and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool completely and store in airtight container.
Kransekakestenger (Wreath Cake Bars)
Kransekake, the legendary wreath cake of Norway and Denmark, is worthy of a true celebration. This show-stopping cake is made of stacked concentric rings with a characteristic almond-flavored chew. But it can also be a real labor of love to make. So here is a lovely alternative: Kransekakestenger, or wreath cake bars, where the same dough is rolled and cut into bars. After cooling, you can drizzle with melted chocolate, or dip the ends into melted chocolate, or serve plain. And with its simple ingredient list, kransekakestenger are naturally gluten-free and dairy-free. Yes!
Many recipes I read called for grinding your own almond meal. I like to buy mine from Costco, or you can find Bob’s Red Mill at the grocery store. It can be stored in the freezer.
1 pound almond flour (also goes by almond meal)
1 pound powdered sugar
2-3 egg whites
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
In a large-capacity food processor or stand mixer, combine almond flour and powdered sugar until combined. Add in 2 egg whites, and process until it starts coming together as a smooth dough. Add in another egg white if the dough seems too dry (mine needed the third egg white). If you want a more pronounced almond flavor, add 1 tsp almond extract. If the dough seems too wet, add more powdered sugar. Dump mixture into a bowl or counter, and knead together until it comes into a smooth dough. Pat into a loaf shape, and wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the loaf into four pieces, and roll out a thin log shape to the thickness of your thumb. Cut into 4-inch lengths, and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Will keep for a few weeks in a cookie tin and can also be frozen!
Pepperkaker (Gingerbread Thins)
These thin, spiced gingerbread cookies are a classic for a reason. In my research, I found so many different recipes that it was hard to find a starting point. I chose this recipe because it’s egg-free. One of my kids has an egg allergy, so I like to find recipes that don’t need an egg substitute. (It also means that it’s safe for a cookie dough taste test, if you’re into that!)
Norwegian pepperkaker recipes call for lys sirup, which is a light sugar syrup made from sugar beets. Lyle’s Golden Syrup is a good substitute, which can be found at well-stocked grocery stores. For this recipe, however, I use molasses, because it is readily available in U.S. grocery stores, and adds a complementary depth of flavor to the spice profile. Feel free to adapt the spices to your preference—I like freshly ground cardamom in mine.
Please note: The dough needs to be thoroughly chilled before baking, so make the dough a day before you want to bake!
Adapted from www.gingerwithspice.com
1 cup unsalted butter (two sticks),
at room temperature
1⁄3 cup molasses, “light flavor”
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
½ tsp cardamom, freshly ground
¼ tsp pepper, freshly ground
1 pinch ground clove
3 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
In a small saucepan, melt the butter, molasses, and heavy cream over low heat, and stir to thoroughly combine. In a large bowl (or stand mixer bowl), measure out the powdered sugar. Pour the butter-molasses mixture over the powdered sugar, and stir to combine. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the baking soda and spices until thoroughly combined. Mix in the flour (I used the paddle attachment on my mixer). The dough will be very pliable and loose, but not too sticky. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Take half of the dough, and roll between two pieces of parchment paper to ¼-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut out the designs you desire. Bake for 10 minutes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, or until golden brown. Cool on pan for 5 minutes, and move to a wire rack to cool completely. You can decorate them or leave them plain, as I did. They will store for weeks in a cookie tin.
What are your favorite Norwegian cookies to serve at the holidays? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me at email@example.com.
See also, “The Great Norwegian Christmas Cookie Extravaganza,” The Norwegian American, Dec. 11, 2020.