Norwegian Berlinerkranser Cookies
Ah, Christmas Eve. It might just be the best day of the year. Somehow, it even beats out Christmas Day. In my family, it’s a day of peace. The presents are wrapped, the long trek from Boston to Pennsylvania is behind me, and happy anticipation is everywhere. And as dusk settles in, you can’t help but feel it. It tingles. Things shift. And it’s suddenly truly Christmas.
As a little girl, my Christmas Eves were spent at my grandparents’ home. They were amazing people. My bestefar (grandfather) was Estonian and my bestemor (grandmother) was Norwegian, and while their heritages made a unique blend of cultures, my bestemor’s Norwegian traditions reigned. They were absolutely everywhere, especially at Christmas. We’d eat goose, stuffed with sauerkraut and caraway seeds, served with plain boiled potatoes and lingonberries. It’s still my father’s favorite meal, and I’m certain we will eat it every Christmas until the end of time.
After the meal, we’d gather around the tree and my bestemor would set out a tiered tray of Norwegian cookies. I loved them. I’d always eat too many, and by far my favorite were the berlinerkranser. We’d gather in a circle, sing Norwegian songs, and dance. Of course, I didn’t understand the words, but I loved it: I followed along, twirled, and sang. By the end of the night, I knew Christmas had started.
This summer, I made my first trip to Norway, my bestemor’s homeland. It was staggering, and eye-opening, and wonderful. In a strange way, I felt closer to her – like I was able to see into a part of her life that had made her who she was. Norway is a stunning country steeped in culture. And especially this Christmas, I look back on those childhood Christmas Eves with a little more appreciation. I love that my family’s heritage is a part of me.
These cookies taste like those evenings way back when. I inherited a Norwegian cookbook my bestemor’s parents had given her not long after she married my bestefar- and this year, tucked inside, I found a well used copy of her recipe for berlinerkranser cookies. Just 4 of the best ingredients on earth – butter, eggs, flour, and sugar. They’re crumbly, rich, and perfect. Twisted into traditional wreaths and topped with a sprinkling of crunchy Swedish pearl sugar, they’re just right in their simplicity.
4 hard boiled egg yolks
4 raw egg yolks
1 cup of white sugar
1 pound of butter, softened
4-5 cups flour
Swedish pearl sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
After hard boiling eggs, remove yolks and crumble into mixing bowl. Add raw egg yolks (reserve whites for later) and sugar, and use paddle attachment to beat for several minutes until smooth, light, and creamy.
Cut butter into pieces. Beat in about 1/4 pound of butter. Once combined, add 1 cup of sugar. Continue adding butter and flour alternately until combined. (Note: This will become a very thick dough. It should combine into a tight ball. Makes you wonder how much muscle was needed to make cookies back in the day.)
Chill dough for at least an hour.
Roll dough into ropes about 3/8 inch thick and 4 or 5 inches long. Twist and cross into wreaths. Brush tops with egg whites and sprinkle with Swedish pearl sugar. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden.