I’ve probably mentioned that I’m Scandinavian. I’m not a full-blooded Swede or Norwegian like most of my grandparents, but I’m two-thirds Norwegian alone, with a dash of Swedish blood thrown in there for good measure. I’m the stereotypical Minnesotan girl of a century ago, only in the year 2016 and with treasured modern conveniences like heated seats and convection ovens.
I like to think I could’ve made a good pioneer woman much like Kirsten Larson, the favorite American Girl of my childhood, but thankfully for us all, I don’t have to bake my Christmas cookies over a flame. I’d probably burn them…although I can make a mean Swedish pancake straight from the official American Girl cookbook.
At least I could when I was eight. And now that I think of it, that recipe totally utilized an oven.
When I was little, my grandmas would both make many traditional Scandinavian cookies and baked goods at Christmastime. I remember seeing trays and trays of treats, all of the same beige hue.
As the years went by, the trays became fewer in number. New recipes and flavorings and conveniences unseated the old ones, and there are many cookies I haven’t tasted since I was a toddler.
Until this year!
My mom, inspired by a new friend of hers who came to America straight from Norway as a young woman, planned a special Norwegian Christmas tea and set out to recreate all the classic Scandinavian treats that her mom and grandmas used to make. It was fun to dig out all of my grandma’s old recipes and kitchen tools, and it was especially fun to surprise my grandma with the traditional Christmas cookies she used to make for us each year.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my peanut blossoms and Oreo truffles, but there’s something really special about baking those old family recipes. They’ve been passed down for generations – my mom learned how to make them from her mom, and this year I got to learn how to make a few of them from her.
One of the things I tried for the first time this year was kringla. Both the Swedish and Norwegian claim them, which is convenient since I come from both those clans, and these puffy bread-like treats come in a few different forms. My mom learned to form them into small pretzel shapes when she was a girl, but you can also shape them into figure-eights.
Both turn out pretty. Like so:
Or like so:
Kringla, like a lot of Scandinavian dishes, aren’t full of flavor. They’re made with flour, buttermilk, and just a little sugar – so we shook some extra on top for added sweetness. Some people smear them with melted butter, too. And I’m fairly confident that Nutella would work here, as well. Please report back if any of you can confirm this. :)
According to my mom, this recipe is considered to be the Norwegian variation of kringla. The Swedes make theirs flatter and the shape is different.
So far this year, my mom and I have also baked spritz (this one is an annual for us) and sandbakkels, but I have a feeling we might add a few other Scandinavian classics to our Christmas baking list…either before the year’s end or just in time for next Christmas. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make lefse and I’ve been putting it off for a long time, but that one’s on my bucket list for sure!
My dad’s mom usually makes krumkake and hardtack, too, and we always have my all-time favorite Scandinavian dish, ostkaka! I mastered ostkaka a few years ago and it’s supposed to be one of the more difficult recipes to get down, so I’m hoping that lefse will be a piece of cake…right? Well, not literally, but you get the point. :)
Do any of you bake any Scandinavian treats for Christmas? Or other goodies from your own heritage? I love trying traditional dishes from every corner of the world, and I’d love to hear your suggestions and favorites!
Merry Christmas, my friends! May your bellies be filled with cookies, your homes be filled with family, and your hearts be filled with love.
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until combined (or, alternatively, place in a mixing bowl and cream the ingredients by hand). Add egg and vanilla; beat on low speed until combined.
- In a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture; beat on low speed until just combined. Add a third of the buttermilk and continue beating on low speed until combined. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk.
- Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
- When dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 8-inch long pencil-shaped pieces. Shape into pretzels or figure-eight shapes on a cookie sheet.
- Bake kringla for 7-10 minutes or until edges become light brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”