Kakemenn – Norwegian christmas cookies

Kakemenn is always a favourite among the kids. It’s sweet, very mild in taste and, like the pepperkaker, they are shaped in various recognisable figures. They are very easy to make and the ingredients are items you most likely already have in your cupboards. Kakemenn is to me important come christmas, and I never go a year without making them.

Kakemenner

The recipe is very straightforward and easy. Just mix all ingredients together (but do feel free to reduce the recipe – we used about half this year):

1 kg of white wheat flour
0,5 kg of sugar
4 teaspoons of horn salt (“Horn salt (also hartshorn) is used in traditional Norwegian baked goods as a leavening agent. Modern horn salt is ammonium bicarbonate.In the USA it can be purchased at the pharmacy” says this site)
85 grams of butter
4 dl of milk

Kakemenn'As with the pepperkake-dough, the kakemenn-dough must also be cold before it’s easy to work with. The dough doesn’t need to be as thin as the pepperkake dough, I would set the thickness of it to double that of the pepperkaker, see this post. The kakemenn are baked at 200 degrees until they get a wee bit of a tan. They should still be white-ish, so about the colour of a Scandinavian in April would do.

Never stand too close to the oven when opening the oven-door, and never get the horn salt too close to your nose. You have been warned! (sneezing and swearing could occur!)

Pepperkaker – Norwegian gingerbread

I bake pepperkaker every year. It’s the Norwegian version of gingerbread and how different it is to it’s cousins around the world I have no idea. It’s an activity everyone should go through before christmas, every year and children young an old seem to enjoy it (children do at least for a short while). Here’s the recipe that will leave you with pepperkaker well into the new year:

Delightful chatter pepperkaker1

150 grams of butter
5 dl sugar

Dice the butter and leave it on the counter until it’s tempered and soft. Whisk it with the sugar until it’s white and fluffy. Then add the remaining ingredients:

2 dl of syrup
2 dl of water
1 T ground cinnamon
1 T ground ginger
1 T ground cloves
1 T baking powder
1,5 litres (850g) of wheat flour

Place it somewhere cold, preferably for a day or two, but a minimum of an hour. This is to improve the dough before working with it, and for the tastes to set properly.

This is my mom’s recipe and it has been used for ages! I think it’s huge, and found out just how huge it is the first christmas I lived away from home. Not having much experience with baking I asked my mom how big the recipe was, she claimed it was just the right size. And indeed it was! if you’re a family of 15!! I was making cookies into the wee hours of the night and filled up so many tins it was not even funny! This year I made about a third of it, which was just about perfect for our family. Recipe then looks like this:

Reduced recipe:

50 grams of butter
1,7 dl of sugar
0,7 dl of syrup0,7 dl of water
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1 t ground cloves
1 t baking soda
5 dl (just about a pint) of flourDelightful chatter pepperkaker

We filled about four trays of cookies. Son was done after one and a half and we were left with a decent amount to make on our own.

The cookies should be very thin, but not quite see-through. A few millimetres is perfect. Bake for 5-7 minutes at 200 degrees (celcius) and make sure to eat a few while they’re still warm and soft.

Enjoy the delicious ‘pepperkaker’ and the christmassy smell that fills the house.

Lussecats

Thursday was the 12th day of December and following was the night before the 13th day. Logically, yes, indeed, but I only say this because these days are of severe importance to us. You can read more about our traditions here, but another important tradition are the lussecats. Lussecats (lussekatter) are bright yellow baked sweet rolls of fascinating shapes that we only bake once a year.

Delightful Chatter lussekatter

I can not go a year without, and even last year, when I returned home from hospital with a brand new baby this exact date, I still had to bake. This year it was done in a hurry before picking up our Son from kindergarten and heading out on more adventures, but the ‘cats’ were still good and added to this wonderfully important day in December.

Join in on the fun, I’ll allow you to try them out even though it’s a bit late, but next year it’s the night before the 13th day of December (which means sometimes during the 12th or 13th)

Delightful chatter lussekatter Recipe is as follows:

  • 2,5 dl of milk (about a cup)
  • 25 grams of fresh yeast
  • 75 grams of butter
  • 0,5 grams of saffron or 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of cardamom
  • 1 egg
  • about 6 dl of flour (about 2 cups)

Using saffron: Melt the butter and add the milk. Heat the milk a tad bit to have the colour set properly, but then have a cup of tea while you wait for the mix to cool down. When the mix is cold-ish you add the fresh yeast. If the milk is still warm you’ll kill the poor yeast – and the yeast has done nothing to deserve that! Drink tea, don’t kill!

Using turmeric: Melt the butter and add the milk, mix the two together and take off the heat. Make sure the mix is more cold than lukewarm. Add the turmeric to the dry ingredients.

Delightful Chatter lussekatter2To continue: Add the fresh yeast to the milk. Then add the sugar (this will spike the yeast) and the rest of the ingredients. Knead for as long as you can bother (or have your Kenwood do it for a few minutes). Leave to rise – when it has doubled in size knead it and create lussecats. Here are some of the shapes. Leave them to rise while the oven heats up to about 210 degress (celcius), then paint with a mixed egg (or only egg whites) and decorate with raisins.

Delightful Chatter lussekatter1
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and delicious. Serve with a glass of milk and eat while clad in white and with candles burning in the background.

New traditions – Saint Lucia

Yesterday was the 12th day of Desember. The night before the 13th day of december, which is the day of Saint Lucia. We celebrate it with a mix of traditions and the day is one of my absolute favourite days of December.

The days between christmas eve, our yule eve, and new year’s night, are called romjul. Among merry companions often translated to room wheel, but it has nothing to do with either rooms or wheels. It derives from the Norse word rómheilagr which translates to ‘what (or when) is not holy by law’ romjul then means the days that are not yule by law. We still celebrate yule with family and friends, but not many of the days are considered holy by law. During this period we ‘go julebukk’ (a bukk is the male sheep, goat, deer or similar animal) which means you dress up to the point where you’re unrecognisable, and visit your neighbours and help them finish off the sweets they’ve made for yule.

My little Son in Mommy's old shoes

My little Son in Mommy’s old shoes

The 13th day of December is the day of Saint Lucia. We normally don’t celebrate saints in Norway (being a predominantly protestant nation) but this day is marked both in kindergartens and schools. Children dress in white, bear lights and parade through schools, kindergartens and often homes for the elders, singing christmas carols and the ‘lucia song’.

In the small town where I’m from people mixed all of this up around the same time as many Swedes migrated to the small town to work. This has resulted in the lovely tradition of children dressing up and walking from door to door singing christmas carols. In return they are given some sweets, a smile and praise for their singing. Growing up this was one of the most important days of the year.

Yesterday I took my son to visit my parents and I took him to ‘go julebukk’. It was raining, it was cold and it was dark. In the car my son swore he would not leave his grandparents’ house. He can be rather shy and when he heard he had to visit the houses of strangers he swore he would not open his moth, let alone sing! He still dressed up. He sang on the stairs of my parents’ house. He hesitantly walked over to the neighbours. He sang as they opened the door. They smiled, praised him and gave him a handful of sweets. His face lit up like only a child’s face can. I had to stop him after six houses. A small four-year-old singing alone outside strangers’ houses generated much more candy than what’s good for him.

We’ll return next year.

Yuletide by the fireside

Delightful Chatter yuletideChristmas, or yule, is on the doorsteps. Or to be honest, yule has entered the house and now sit comfortably snuggled up in the most comfortable corner in our living room and has no intention of leaving anytime soon. It is a cosy and comfortable time. The afternoons are dark and we often turn to candles to brighten the evening. We try to spend time together as a family, enjoy each other’s company and relax together. With the short days it seems our energy levels are lower than normal. We’re tired long before night time arrives and seek our beds much earlier than in the bright summer evenings. The shortest day of the year is only a week away and then the days will become longer again, and brighter. But now I’ll snuggle up to christmas in the warmest, cosiest corner of our house. I’ll try to forget everything I have to do and do what I want to do: enjoy a good cup of warm tea, draw the blanket around me and relax.

I hope you too find time to relax now during the cosiest month of the year.

Make the yuletide gay

The feast continues

After a proper materialistic feast yesterday, we continue with a culinary feast today! Son  had the time of his life yesterday receiving more gifts than any two-year-old should have. I see a future of consumerism! European economy failing and falling? Apparently not in this house. I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m embarrassed, but still I’ve played a big a part as everyone else. The evening was a great success though, it seems everyone had a good time. The two-year-old smiled as much as the 82-year-old.

Today is the first day of christmas. We start with a humongous brunch which has been the same for as long as I can remember. My mother is a wizard in the kitchen and refuses to accept any helping hands while cleaning up after christmas eve dinner and making ready for the first day of christmas brunch. I’ll have a few recipes for you at a later stage.

Usually the brunch is the only big meal on the first day of christmas, but in order to gather all us kids (my three brothers and me) my parents have invited all of us, with our families, for a big turkey dinner this evening.

The day will be spent with the family. Husband and Son are sitting on the floor, busy putting together a large pirate-ship, while I’m enjoying the calm before the storm. Enjoy the holidays and have a great time! We sure do!

God Jul!

Today is the day we celebrate Christmas in Norway. The sun ‘turned’ a few days ago so we’re a little late in celebrating the coming of longer days and more sunshine, but today we celebrate family, joy, and enjoy the time we spend with out loved ones. There’s also a touch (!) of materialism included in the celebration of Yule and some of us also attend church to get a drop of religion added into the mix.

One of the trees standing near the wee lake in the city centre is decorated with heart-shaped lights every year. This year snow covered the ground and made the place looking even more magical.

Yule eve (juleaften=yule evening) doesn’t really get serious until late in the afternoon. How you spend the day depends on the amount of responsibility you’ve been given or have taken on. For those of us not cooking, cleaning and running errands, that means sitting in front of the tv for hours watching the same shows that are sent every year at this time. I try my best to help out but find myself being ushered away only to end up doing nothing.

The evening starts with a massive dinner of ‘Pinnekjøtt’ (=stick meat. ‘pinne’ is basically a wooden stick). I’ll get back to the etymology of the word in a later post (posting about pinnekjøtt before yule is to me a no no as I only eat it once a year). The family is gathered, we’ll be 12 around the table this year: kid, spouse, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. After dinner we have ‘riskrem’ for dessert, which is similar to appelsinris. In the big bowl of ‘riskrem’ there is an almond. The finder of the almond gets a prize (usually a pig-shaped, chocolate-covered marzipan – no logic there).

Some decorate the tree with Norwegian flag - a tradition that started after world war II.

After uncles have spent hours devouring food (an uncle is always blamed for the duration of the meal) we move to the living-room, the tree, and the presents beneath it. When we were younger we used to dance around the tree, but when most kids became teenagers the reluctancy grew, and the dancing became a thing of the past. Son will be the only person under 20 this year, which means there are many adults who’ll do their best to please him, so spontaneous dancing might occur. After all the presents have been unwrapped we eat a bit more. And the hours pass as we talk and laugh, eat and drink.

I hope all of you have a wonderful day and evening, no matter how you spend it. But no matter what your religion or ethical outlook on life – take care of those around you and appreciate their presence. God jul!