Nordic Christmas: Cookies

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This post is part of our series exploring Nordic Christmas traditions. To see the entire collection, visit the Nordic Christmas home page.

Oh Christmas baking, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

There are many ways to learn about a new culture, but my favourite is through food. By eating the foods of another culture, partaking in this more primal act, I feel more connected to a people. Bonus points if I cook the food or am near someone else cooking the food. I love to soak in the aromas during cooking, letting each note waft over me. Eating is a very sensual experience.

I really enjoyed the new recipes I found for our Julbord desserts. Not only did I enjoy the final results, but several steps along the way, as well as some ingredients, were out of the ordinary for me and that made it more fun.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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Technically a cake is not a cookie but we are going to open this discussion with Swedish Cardamom Cake. The cake is primarily flavoured with cardamom. I hadn’t used a lot of cardamom before, so this was a new experience to me, making a cake with it. The cake came out perfectly moist and very delicious. The spice is rich and strong and it warms you from the inside out. Definitely I think it’s a fun after dinner treat, or breakfast treat, or after school treat, but I think it probably has its origins with the Swedish fika tradition of coffee time. I’m not a coffee drinker but I bet this cake pairs really well.

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Next we move on to Peppernotter. This cookie surprised me immediately: no butter in the cookie! Also, I’ve never put black pepper in a cookie before, so that was a first. The cookies were too firm from baking at the time recommended in the recipe, nor did they flatten as pictured in the image. Perhaps I was supposed to flatten them first but the recipe did not say. The flavour was really good. Again, I found the spices to combine to warm me up from the inside.

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Finally we get to the cookies that everyone loved: Norwegian Butter Cookies. These beauties melt in your mouth and are going straight into the regular rotation. My family inhaled these and asked for more. I changed only two things in the recipe. Instead of powdered sugar after the cookies baked, I sprinkled some Swedish Pearl Sugar on the cookies before placing them in the oven. And while I did try to pipe the cookies to make them as beautiful as in the recipe, I was using a cheap pastry bag and it broke. But you know what? Rolled cookies taste just as good as piped cookies.

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A quick note about sugar. Both the butter cookies and the cardamom cake are topped with Swedish Pearl Sugar, a nearly impossible to procure item in my part of the world. What’s special about it is it’s resistance to melting in high heat, as well as it’s opacity which makes it resemble snow. Also, after searching high and low for it, when you finally find it you love it all the more. I had read on the internet that this sugar could be found in several different stores that seemed to no longer stock it. (Or, in the case of Sur La Table, had just run out, although come to think of it maybe it was the Belgian stuff but that’s the same thing, right? It’s not.)

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While I was searching all over the county (and beyond) for this item everyone seemed to have but no one had, I wondered whether it was even worth all the fuss. In the end I’ve concluded I’m glad I found it. It really is unlike any other sugars I have used. As an opaque sugar instead of a crystalline, it resembles snow dusting the top of the baked goods. It’s a little bit crunchy, but it yields to the bite instead of resisting. Hopefully this bag will last me a long time because I got the only one in the store!

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