Recipes: One dough, seven cookies for Christmas

Syv slag made easy

Photo: MatPrat
In Scandinavia, it is tradition to serve your guest seven different types of cookies, especially at Christmastime in Norway. Fortunately, the seven delicious varieties can easily be made from one base dough.

Lori Ann Reinhall
Editor-in-chief
The Norwegian American

The tradition of serving seven types of cookies —syv sorter kaker—is well-known to most Norwegian Americans, and there is no other time of year when it is more important than during the holiday season.

In former times, Christmas baking started early and was often a family activity. It still is in many families today, but, alas, in these hectic times, there may not be time to bake the obligatory variety of seven.

Fortunately, for our readers, we have a wonderful solution for those who are short on time but still want to follow tradition: a recipe for a base dough that can easily be modified to create seven varieties of scrumptious Christmas cookies.

This recipe, which is based on a Norwegian recipe featured by our partners at MatPrat.com is very easy to make but yields the delicious results you are looking for to offer your friends and family a holiday cookie feast.

Why seven types?

It was my Swedish grandmother who ingrained in me that it would be most improper to offer up less that seven types of cookies to your guests. She was a professional cook and baker, and together with her next-door-neighbor, a lovely Norwegian immigrant woman, she taught me many of the secrets of good Scandinavian cookie-making.

But why seven types? It was always explained to me that plenitude was a sign of good hospitality. But since then, I have learned that the tradition may have deeper roots.

In Scandinavian folk belief, seven is a magical number that can bring us good luck. There is also the Biblical connotation that seven represents completeness. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and a week consists of seven days. Therefore, seven is the perfect number of cookies for the perfect host to serve. One cookie too few would be insufficient, and any more varieties would seem pretentious.

bake

Photo: Colourbox
Nothing spreads love better in your family than freshly baked homemade cookies at Christmastime.

Coffee parties became popular in Scandinavia in the 19th century, as coffee became more readily available. But it was after World War II that the tradition really took off with a flurry. In 1945, the wartime rationing of coffee was lifted, and the ingredients needed to make cookies became both cheaper and easier to come by again.

Then the cookbook Sju sorters kakor (translated as Swedish Cakes and Cookies) by Märta Holmgren was published. Over 3.8 million copies have been sold, making it Sweden’s bestselling cookbook to date. The book is still available from major booksellers, in both the Swedish and English versions, to this day. (You will find one on my bookshelf.)

Over time, the custom of seven types of cookies spread to Norway, where the tradition of seven varieties of cookies is most closely associated with Christmas.

The connection to Christmas is an interesting one. Some scholars have also associated the Scandinavia Christmas cookie tradition with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which finds its origins in southern Italy and then gained popularity in Italian-American communities throughout North America.

According to Roman Catholic beliefs, the Feast of the Seven Fishes commemorates the wait for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus, the Vigilia di Natale. The tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve stems from the Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat on the eve of a feast day. This tradition was extended to an entire week before Christmas Eve.

Simply delicious and good fun

But whatever the history of seven types of cookies at Christmas may be, you can be sure of one thing: Scandinavian Christmas cookies are simply delicious to eat and simply good fun to make. You will enjoy celebrating this tradition with your family and friends.

You may want to have your own holiday coffee party and display your seven varieties of cookies on a pretty Christmas plate or tray, or you may want to box some cookies up or put them in holiday tins to gift to your loved ones. You simply cannot go wrong with a gift of homemade cookies for the holidays—enjoy!

cookies

Photo: Brød & Korn
A box of homemade cookies makes the perfect holiday gift for your family and friends.

Syv Slag BASE DOUGH

INGREDIENTS – BASE DOUGH

  • 3 cups (6 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups flour
  • 1⅔ cups powdered sugar

INGREDIENTS – BASE DOUGH, EGG ADDED

  • half of the base dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla sugar (may be substituted with 1 tsp. vanilla extract)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put butter in a large bowl. Sift flour and powdered sugar over the butter. Mix using the medium setting on your mixer. Knead the mixture well. (Please note that this step is essential to achieve the desired consistency. It will be necessary to knead the dough by hand if you mixer does not have a setting for kneading.)
  2. Cover dough with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for about one hour.
  3. Divide base dough into two parts.
  4. In one half, beat in eggs and vanilla sugar. The basic dough with eggs is used for Butter Wreaths, Filled Spritz Cookies, Heart Jam Cookies, and Moon Cookies.
  5. The other half, without eggs, is used for Checkerboard Squares, Star Cookies, and German Slices.
  6. Divide the dough among the seven Christmas cookie batches and add ingredients as described in the cookie recipes that follow.
  7. Bake cookies on a baking tray lined with parchment paper in the middle of the oven at 350° for 10–12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on a rack.

GLAZE: Sift ¾ cup powdered sugar and add water, tablespoon by tablespoon, and whisk to desired thickness.

TIP:  We suggest a variety of seven cookies, but it is okay to choose fewer. Remember to adjust all ingredients in proportion to the change in the amount of dough.

 

SJAKKRUTER
Checkerboard Squares

INGREDIENTS

  • ⅓ base dough
  • ½ tsp. vanilla sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Use ⅓ of the base dough without egg and knead in vanilla sugar.
  2. Then divide the dough in half, and knead cocoa powder into one half.
  3. Then roll out two white and two brown finger-thick strips.
  4. Place a brown and a white strip next to each other and then a white strip over the brown and a brown over the white so that a checkerboard pattern is formed. Cut into thin slices. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly square—they’ll taste just as good!
  5. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake as described in the base dough instructions.

 

STJERNEKAKER
Star Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • ⅓ of base dough
  • glaze made with ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup red and green candy-coated chocolates (optional)

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Star cookie cutter

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Use ⅓ of the base dough without egg.
  2. Roll out the dough thinly, 1/16th inch. Make sure dough is chilled before you start rolling so that it is easy to work with. Cut out stars.
  3. Place cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake as described in the base dough instructions.
  4. When the cookies have cooled, decorate with sugar glaze and candy.

 

TYSKE SKIVER
German Slices

INGREDIENTS

  • ⅓ of base dough
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • ⅛ tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ cup finely chopped almonds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Use ⅓ of the base dough without egg. Add egg yolk, almond extract, and almonds. Knead the dough well.
  2. Roll out the dough into a thick strip, about 1.5 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and let it chill before cutting it into ⅛-inch thick slices. You may want to slice the pieces slightly thicker, roll them thinner, and use a small round cookie cutter to make the slices perfectly round.
  3. Place the cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake as described in the base dough instructions.

 

SMØRKRANSER
Butter Wreaths

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ base dough with egg
  • ½ egg, beaten, for brushing

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Cookie press

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Use ¼ of the base dough with egg.
  2. Using a cookie press, pipe the dough into small wreaths on a cold baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Brush the cookies with egg. Bake as described in the base dough instructions.

 

FYLTE RIFLEKJEKS
Filled Spritz Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ base dough with egg
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • 1 2-oz. package semisweet baker’s chocolate
  • 1 egg

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Cookie press

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Use ¼ of the base dough with egg.
  2. Using a cookie press, pipe dough into 2-inch long and ¾-inch thick sticks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake as described above.
  4. Melt coconut oil and chocolate in a bowl in a double boiler. Stir in eggs and powdered sugar. Let the chocolate filling cool while you bake the cookies. (Bake as described in the base dough instructions.)
  5. When the cookies have cooled, spread chocolate filling between two cookies.

 

SYLTETØYHJERTER
Jam Hearts

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ base dough with egg
  • 3 ½ oz. raspberry jam

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Heart-shaped cookie cutters, one large and one small

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Use ¼ of the base dough with egg.
  2. Roll out the dough thinly, about ⅛-inch. Dough
    should be chilled before you start rolling it out so that it is easy to work with.
  3. Cut out hearts with a cookie cutter and put half on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In the other half, cut out smaller hearts and put the “heart frame” on top of the other heart cookies.
  4. Pipe raspberry jam in the centers of the hearts. Bake as described in the base dough instructions. The jam will melt and flow outward inside the “heart frames.”

 

MÅNEKJEKS
Moon Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ base dough with egg
  • 1 tsp. anise extract
  • lemon zest from ½ lemon
  • glaze made with ¾ cup powdered sugar and water

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Round cookie cutter
  • Decorator’s pastry bag

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Use ¼ of the base dough with egg and knead in anise extract and lemon zest.
  2. Roll out a thin sheet, ⅛-inch thick. Dough should be chilled before you start rolling it out so that it is easy to work with.
  3. Cut out moons with a cookie cutter. (You can use a round cookie cutter to create the crescent shapes.)
  4. Put cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake as described in the base dough instructions.
  5. Decorate cooled cookies with a little glaze and lemon zest.

This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.