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Get in the Nordic holiday spirit with Norwegian Kringla Cookies

In today's "Home with the Lost Italian," Sarah Nasello shares a recipe for a special holiday treat that came from a client's grandmother.

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Kringla cookies are a popular Norwegian specialty enjoyed throughout the holiday season. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I have a wonderful client who frequently orders Norwegian specialties for her parents from SarahBakes, my cottage bakery business . Earlier this year, she shared her grandmother’s recipe for Norwegian Kringla Cookies with me, and I knew that this would be the newest addition to my Nordic holiday repertoire.

Last week, I set out to test the recipe for Grandma Toots’ Kringla Cookies. I could tell that she must have been an experienced kringla maker because, like many beloved generational recipes, her instructions were sparsely worded and lacking technical detail.

“Mix ingredients and add flour to make a dough. Roll out into skinny rolls and then twist to pretzel shape and bake. 350 degrees.”

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With their pillowy soft crumb and lightly sweet flavor, kringla cookies are almost a cross between a cookie and a cake. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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Seems simple enough, until you get started. For instance, there was no mention of how much flour to use, or how long to bake the cookies and what they should look and feel like when they were ready. Nor was there any advice on how long those skinny rolls should be before twisting them into pretzels, or how many cookies would be produced. Better still, I had never tried kringla cookies before, so I was truly flying blind in this mission.

Instead of panicking, I decided to embrace this challenge and give the recipe my best shot. I bake nearly every single day and so I could only hope that the experience and knowledge I have acquired over the years would be enough to carry me to a successful result.

Prior to examining Grandma Toots’ recipe, I had spent some time familiarizing myself with kringla cookies by reviewing various recipes online. One difference I noticed immediately is that Grandma Toots’ recipe does not call for any butter or eggs, as most cookie recipes do, including many kringla recipes. I contacted my client to confirm that this was correct, and, to my surprise, it was.

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Kringla cookies can be served plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The recipe calls for 1 pint of sour cream, a cup of sugar, and a teaspoon each of baking soda, salt and vanilla extract. These are mixed together until fully combined, and then the flour is added until a dough forms.

Because of the high liquid content from the sour cream, the dough is very wet and sticky, making it somewhat tricky to know how much flour to add to form the dough. I tested the recipe four times, using anywhere between 3 to 4 cups of flour, and found the best result somewhere right around 3 1/2 cups, give or take a tablespoon.

For the first batch, I formed the pretzels immediately after making the dough. I questioned Grandma Toots’ direction to roll into skinny rolls, because this was nearly impossible for me to do with such a wet dough, so I rolled the dough out to about a half-inch thickness, adding quite a bit of flour to each cookie.

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The pretzel cookies should be spaced at least 2 inches apart as they will puff up and expand during the baking process. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

What I didn’t know is that kringla cookies puff up considerably as they bake, and these cookies, while still tasty, were garishly large. Kringla cookies are lightly sweet, pillowy soft and tender, almost a cross between a cake and a cookie, and something told me they would be better enjoyed on a smaller scale. When Grandma Toots says skinny, she means skinny.

For the following batches, I refrigerated the dough for at least two hours before rolling it out and shaping it into pretzels, which made the process much easier and required almost no additional flour to be added.

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Kringla dough is divided into pieces and rolled into skinny strips no wider than a pencil, and then shaped into pretzels. Refrigerating the soft dough makes it easier to roll out. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

In the end, I was happy with my results and delighted by the learning process. And my husband, Tony, is happy to have a large supply of Grandma Toots’ Kringla Cookies on hand to enjoy with his morning coffee this holiday season.

If you have a favorite kringla recipe, or any advice to share, I would love to hear from you. Happy holiday baking!

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Norwegian Kringla Cookies

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Makes: About 3 dozen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients:

1 pint sour cream

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 to 3 ½ cups flour (add more by the tablespoon is needed)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add sour cream, sugar, baking soda, salt and vanilla. Use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or a hand-held mixer, to beat on medium speed until combined.

Add the flour, starting with 3 cups, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until the dough starts to pull away from the edge of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add the remaining ¼ cups of flour, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add more flour as needed, by the tablespoon, until the dough pulls away from the bowl.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or even up to 3 days.

When ready to shape, remove dough from the refrigerator and cut off pieces approximately 1 ounce in weight (when formed into a ball, this should be just smaller than a golf ball).

Lightly dust your fingertips with flour, then use them to roll each piece into strips about 1/8 to ¼-inch thick, no thicker than the width of a pencil. Start from the center and lightly work your fingertips out toward the ends of each strip until about 12 inches long. Shape into a pretzel and place on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake in the center of the oven until the cookies are puffy, and the tops are just firm to the touch, about 8 to 10 minutes depending on your oven. They should be quite pale and just starting to show a hint of color. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve plain or dusted with powdered sugar, or decorate with vanilla glaze and toasted almond slices.

To store: Store in an airtight container for several days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

— Adapted from Grandma Toots’ recipe.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

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