A sweet way to get together | December 7, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- December 7, 2012

A sweet way to get together

Baking Norwegian Christmas cookies continues a family tradition

by Carol Blitzer

Growing up in Berkeley, Karin Thorne always looked forward to the days leading up to Christmas when the family gathered to honor their Norwegian roots — and make cookies. Lots of cookies.

"I remember coming home from school to a house that smelled like every kid's dream of Christmas. My mother's kitchen was Santa's workshop. We sampled every batch, and frequently," she wrote in an email to the Weekly.

She recalls her mother and grandmother starting early in December, filling every kitchen container, from lobster pots to canning kettles or soup terrines, to make vast quantities of traditional Norwegian treats. Her grandfather came from Norway in the 1890s, and graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota in 1906, she said.

As kids, Thorne and her sister and brother would decorate shoe boxes with Christmas wrapping paper, which their mother would fill with cookies to be given to their father's work colleagues, teachers and neighbors. Each of the 30 boxes would have a holiday note affixed.

Thorne, who teaches seventh-grade social studies at Jordan Middle School, has continued the tradition at her Palo Alto home. Her 19-year-old son has participated each year in the family-and-friends gathering that starts with Thorne and her two siblings, who live in the Bay Area, agreeing on a baking day.

"Skipping a year is out of the question. It just wouldn't be the holidays without this ritual," according to Thorne.

This year they're gathering on Dec. 16, making all the same recipes, but "not in the same quantities." Friends and family get together to share the baking, then get to share the bounty at the end of the day.

And the recipes have evolved over time, with less butter and sugar.

"We talk about how we did it last time," Thorne said, adding that it's not formal. "If someone doesn't come on time, that's fine.

"It's the kind of thing that keeps families together, talking to each other," she said.

"Every year we look forward to doing it all over again.!!"

Following are the Haugen family's traditional Norwegian Christmas cookie recipes.

Berliner Kranser

1 C. sugar

4 cubes butter (1 lb. total)

7 egg yolks (whites not used)

5 C. flour (unbleached)

Cream together butter, margarine and sugar. Add egg yolks. Gradually add flour. Stir for a while then use hands to blend well; add additional flour until correct texture is obtained (dough should be waxy). Pat into a ball. Place ball of dough into a ziplock bag. Chill dough. Roll a small piece of dough to form a 4-inch-long pencil shape. Then overlap the ends of the pencil to form a wreath shape and dip one side in granulated sugar.

Place on cookie sheet with the sugar side up. Bake at 375°F for 15-17 minutes.

Fattigmands Bakkelse

Beat together:

15 egg yolks

1/2 C. sugar

Beat together:

1 C. whipping cream

1/2 C. sugar

7 T. cognac

Whip 2 egg whites until dry and fold into the yolks and whipping cream mixture.

Gradually add 4 3/4 C. flour and chill several hours.

Roll out and cut. Fry in lard at 370°F for about 3 minutes.

Place on paper towels to soak excess lard. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still hot.

Mrs. Oldrup's Sandbakkles

1 C. sugar

1 C. (2 cubes) margarine or butter

1 whole egg

2 C. flour (unbleached)

1/4 t. salt

4 grated almonds (I blanch almonds, then grind in a food processor)

1/2 t. almond extract

3 T. Whipping cream

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, almond extract, whipping cream and grated almonds. Add flour, stir until well blended. The mixture will be sticky.

Leave the dough in the bowl, place a piece of plastic over the top. Chill dough until firm. Prepare the cookie tins with PAM or other non-stick spray. Press dough thinly into cookie tins. Press a small piece of dough into cookie tin. Place the cookie tins on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F. Throw the cookie tins upside down on a surface to release the cookies from the tins.


2 C. sugar

2 C. (4 cubes) margarine (or butter)

4 egg yolks (whites not used)

5 C. flour (unbleached)

2 t. vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour a little at a time. Stir as long as you can, then use hands to blend well. Add as much additional flour needed to obtain correct texture. The dough should be firm. Pat the dough into a ball. Place the ball of dough into a ziplock bag. Chill the dough.

Place a portion of the dough into a cookie press. Press out star shapes on a cookie sheet. Cut maraschino cherries into small pieces and place in the center of each star shape.

Bake at 375°F 7-10 minutes.

Mandel Kager

Mix together:

1 C. soft shortening

1/2 C. sugar

1 egg

Sift together and stir in:

1 2/3 C. sifted flour

1/2 t. baking powder

1 T. cinnamon

1 t. ground cardamom

Mix in:

1/2 C. chopped toasted almonds

Chill dough. Roll into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Brush tops with egg glaze (1 slightly beaten egg yolk mixed with 1 T. water). Top each cookie with a blanched almond half. Bake until golden brown at 375°F for 10-12 minutes.

HussarenKnopfen (Soldier's Buttons)

1 C. butter

1/4 C. brown sugar

1/4 C. white sugar

2 egg yolks

2 C. white flour

1 t. almond extract

1 pint container of red candied cherries

Mix well. Roll into small balls, and dip in slightly beaten egg white, then ground nuts (almonds or walnuts). Press the center with a thimble and place a candied cherry in the hole.

Bake at 350°F approximately 18 minutes.

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at cblitzer@paweekly.com.


Like this comment
Posted by annette nicholls
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2012 at 2:46 am

It is JUST like it was when I grew up in Copenhagen. The smells of Christmas never leave one. The getting together as a family (and friends) is SO much part of Christmas.I had to smile over the Fattigmads bakkelse. Could not have been too bad being poor in those days. The ingredients are amazing!!!
Tradition is wonderful, keep it up!!!
Annette Nicholls (Australia)

Like this comment
Posted by Brit
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 8, 2012 at 8:18 am

It is mince pies for me. Bite sized pastries with deliciousness filling the insides. Warm with a glass of port left for Father Christmas is the tradition, but in every get together throughout the month of December they would appear. I do make my own and I can't make enough to satisfy my family's cravings, I give them as gifts and take them to events. But I miss being offered them everywhere I go. Sighhhhhhhhhh. Getting the mincemeat is part of the problem, the black Crosse & Blackwell mainly apple and raisin with too much cinnamon and not enough other spices is just not the same.

Like this comment
Posted by Lachie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

We spent one Christmas in Scotland eight years ago, and since then, it is mince pies and mince tarts for us, too. Nothing like a mince tarte while sitting 'round the .

My husband, though, is half Swiss, so for him it is Linzer Torte, that thin raspberry pie with the shortbread crust. Wonderful with some hot mulled wine.

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