No holiday gathering in Scandinavian or Scandinavian-American households would be complete without a selection of at least seven elegant seasonal cookies, tarts, and small cakes. Here are seven traditional favorites to serve at your next gathering. Most of them can be prepared and frozen ahead of time, making it easy to offer a rich variety both in your home or for gifting to your favorite people.
Danish Pepper Nuts, a holiday favorite dating back to medieval times, are quick and easy to prepare. They're lovely when gifted in a homemade woven heart basket - and sure to bring a spirit of cheer and of Danish "hygge," or coziness, to the people you care about.
Goro were traditionally the "rich man's" cookies in Norway - prepared from expensive ingredients like butter and cream and baked on specially smithed irons that became family heirlooms. They have a texture that's a cross between a cookie, a cracker, and a waffle, lightly flavored with cardamom.
Although made of almost the same ingredients as Goro, Fattigman, or "Poor Man Cookies" are twisted into pretty knots, quickly fried, and sprinkled with vanilla sugar or confectioner's sugar. They're a favorite in Norway and Sweden, and easy to prepare either with a special fattigman cutter or with a pastry cutter.
Actually, every Swedish grandmother in America has a similar version of Grandmother's Jelly Cookies (in Swedish, "Mormor's Syltkakor"); they probably shared the recipe on the boat to Ellis Island. Filled with currant jam and dusted with pearl sugar, these cookies have been a favorite in our family for five generations.
Delicate Norwegian krumkake cookies are baked on a circular cookie iron, then rolled into cones or cigars. They're guaranteed to crumble when eaten, in a most delicious way! Enjoy them alone or serve them filled with whipped cream and fruit.
Serina Cookies are the ultimate Norwegian butter cookie, with a light texture that comes from using hartshorn (a.k.a. baker's ammonia or hornsalt) rather than American baking powder. Sprinkle them with pearl sugar and watch them disappear!
7. Sand Cakes
Called "Sandbakkelser" in Swedish and "Sandkakor" in Norwegian, sand cakes are formed in pretty fluted tins, quickly baked, and then served either inverted to highlight their beautiful shapes or else used as tart shells for both sweet and savory fillings. Try filling them with mincemeat or pumpkin butter for a bite-sized alternative to belly-jiggling helpings of holiday pie.