I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again.
I love Christmas.
As a child, my parents worked really hard to make Christmas special. They spent a lot of time planning and saving to make sure that Christmas would be just-so for my sister and I. I seriously believed in Santa until I was 12, in 6th grade.
To this day, Christmas holds a very special place for me. I still feel the magic at this time of year. It comes from the cold air and the warm lights from candles, the fireplace or lights on the tree. I love how everything just sparkles and glows this time of year. I have so many special memories from Christmas time- I’ve never been cynical or jaded about how the holiday spirit has been ruined by commercialization and all that crap. I think it is what you make of it.
Besides decorating the Christmas tree, one of my favorite things was baking cookies with my mom. I’m sure somehow my love for cooking can be found to have its origins somewhere in those days- standing next to mom, helping her crack eggs into a bowl, watching her mix up the ingredients, getting to lick the spoon. We didn’t have that many cookie cutters, but I distinctly remember a reindeer, a bell and a christmas tree. My mom would let us cut the cookies and my sister and I would sprinkle them with colored sugars and other little decorations. Those were the best sugar cookies ever. Not too sweet and perfectly crisp- they were sublime with a glass of milk. If I recall correctly, Santa seemed to like them, too.
This year I wont be going home to bake cookies with my mom, drink eggnog with dad or watch Will Ferrell’s “Elf” with my sister. We’ve spent the last two Christmases in the US and we had a lengthy vacation there this summer. It’s only fair we have a Norwegian Christmas. I understand this, but it doesn’t keep me from being a little blue about it. This is my first ever Christmas away from home.
I’ve decided, though, to use this experience as an opportunity for my husband and I to create our own traditions together. Maybe once I master some of these new cookies, one day I’ll have a kid of my own standing next to me, cracking eggs into the bowl, watching me mix the ingredients and licking the spoon.
I’ve mentioned Norwegian Christmas cookies briefly once before. There is a tradition here of baking the “7 sorts” of cookies- but nobody can say exactly what those 7 sorts are. It seems to vary greatly depending on region, family tradition, and personal taste. I mentioned that Yngve and I decided on “our” 7 sorts, selected mostly out of both our personal preferences. I’ll be sharing each of those recipes with you as I bake them in the next weeks leading up to Christmas. I’ll also share some American recipes with everyone, so there should be quite a mix!
I decided to begin with Krumkake in my baking extravaganza for no reason other than I already had all the ingredients on hand to make them. For most of the Norwegian recipes (with the exception of Goro, which I’ll be making next) I’ll be using “Stor Kokebok” (Big cookbook) by Henriette Schønberg Erken, 19th edition, 1949. (they added color photos…oooOOOOoooo) The first edition of this book was published in 1914, and I understand it was an immensely popular cookbook. This particular copy belonged to Yngves farmor (paternal grandmother) and is full of her own little notes and recipes scrawled on the back of old store receipts. I adore it.
This book has no less than five recipes for Krumkaker. (“Krum” in Norwegian means curled, or rolled, so krumkaker translates to mean “curled cakes” or “rolled cakes”- you’ll see why in a moment) I went with recipe number three- it was the most basic of them all, and it was flavored with cardamom, a spice used quite often in Scandinavian baking.
I’m a cardamom convert. Its aroma is all at once spicy, but sort of sweet. It lends itself to baking so well, I don’t know why it isn’t as traditional in baked goods as cinnamon. Try a little in your pancake or waffle batter. It gives it a deliciously warm, exotic flavor and fills the room with a heavenly scent.
Anyway, back to krumkaker! Here is the recipe straight from the book. I’ve done my best to convert ingredients to standard US measurements, and I’ll translate the text. If you are interested in baking these you will need some special tools you’ll see more of below.
Here’s the recipe, translated:
- 3 eggs
- 125 g. sugar (1/2 cup plus 2 tbs)
- 100 g. butter (about 1/2 cup- its just barely less than 1/2 cup, but I don’t think it really matters)
- 120 g. flour (1 cup)
- 1/2 dcl cold water (1/4 cup)
- 1/2 tsp cardamom (I actually used a full teaspoon because I really love the flavor)
Beat the egg and sugar a half a hour (we have electric mixers now, so it isn’t necessary to go that long. I beat mine until the eggs went a paler yellow and had thickened) mix with the ground cardamom, the melted, cooled butter (I melted the butter, then set it aside while I beat the eggs and sugar. It doesn’t need to cool completely of course, you just don’t want it boiling when you add it to the mix) water and the sifted flour. Cook as thin as possible in a krumkake iron, curl over a stick or a cookie curler.
Simple. Basically, you’re just making really thin waffles. Sort of.
If you’re going to make these outside of Scandinavia, you’re going to need to find a krumkake iron. In the US, you can purchase them from Nordic Ware. I got one of those as a wedding gift this summer, but was unable to bring it back with me, so its waiting forlornly in my storage unit for me to come and use it. Instead, Yngves dad gave me this old vintage electric krumkake iron that was his moms- but they had taken it to the hytta (sort of like a winter cabin) and never used it there so it got passed to me.
The inside of the iron has a beautiful little scrolled pattern on it which will be impressed upon the cookie when its been baked.
Now isn’t that just pretty?
In addition, you’ll need a “kakekrummer” or a “cookie curler”- that looks like this:
You actually don’t specifically have to have one of these- Yngves mom just uses the handle of a wooden spoon. I just think they make it a little less likely you have to handle them much with your fingers- even with my asbestos fingers, these things were pretty hot.
This was the first time I ever made these- I had to idea what I was doing or what to expect. Initially I just put some of the batter in the iron and shut the lid.
I soon discovered that made them too thick and the batter didn’t spread out very evenly. I ended up doing almost an entire batch that way- none of them were really very pretty, and I only had 18 cookies. Nowhere near enough for Yngve and I, his parents and brother and any other friends I might want to give the gift of delicious cookies to this year.
Soooooooo in a moment of insanity, I mixed up a TRIPLE batch of batter and set to work.
I ended up spooning a little batter onto the iron, then using the back of my spoon, I quickly, but gently, spread it out over the whole thing then shut the lid. That got me consistently near-perfect krumkaker.
So about that triple batch I thought was a good idea to make up… since I was using way less batter per cookie when I spooned it on and spread it out… that meant more cookies per batch and more time per batch…
like 3.5 hours later…
I had LOTS of krumkaker!
So needless to say, I don’t think I need to worry so much about not having enough of these to go ’round. Yngve and I will keep the “ugly” ones from the first batch, and I’ll be giving the prettier ones to friends and family.
I really enjoyed making these, they tasted AWESOME.
Next I’ll be making Goro, another pressed cookie that requires a special iron.
Looking forward to sharing those too, and I hope you enjoyed the first Christmas cookie installment!