The search continues: Grandma D.’s lost cookie recipe

Thanks for all of your interest in helping me recreate an old cookie of Grandma D.’s. Last year I embarked on a search for a lost recipe: a traditional Norwegian cookie that my late grandmother used to make. She would bake these cookies–shaped into an untraditional parallelogram–each year before Christmas and we’d keep a tin of them wrapped tightly in the refrigerator. My mom asked Grandma for the recipe years ago, but for some reason we never got it. Not knowing the original name, I was stuck searching the entire wide world of Scandinavian butter-style cookies until a couple of you offered clues. Thanks to the tips Oda and Jo left in the comments of my initial post, I’m exploring one type of Norwegian cookie for now: sandnøtter.

Sandnøtter are made with potato flour, which gives the cookies a delicate, somewhat sandy crumb. It’s fitting, therefore, that their name translates to sand nuts. (The Italian torta sabbiosa–sandy cake–is also made with potato flour.)

Here’s a photo of my first batch of sandnøtter. As you can see, the base darkened much more rapidly than desired, perhaps due to the hot oven (410 degrees Fahrenheit) the recipe called for. The cookies also rose more than Grandma’s did, although my mom says Grandma made hers flatter than the original version called for, so we might still be on the right track.

Sandnøtter are often made with hjortetakksalt (ammonium bicarbonate, also known as hartshorn or hornsalt), but since I didn’t have any on hand I chose a recipe without it. Could that make a difference? Maybe. I’ll try to track some down.

The final essential part of my search is finding a recipe that replicates the flavor of Grandma’s cookies. These aren’t quite right, but I’ll give another sandnøtter recipe a try. I hope you’ll keep following along as I continue my search!

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“Ver sa god”: A guest post

Christmas is just days away; can you believe it? I’m amazed at how quickly this year has flown by. One of the highlights of the past few months has been learning to bake Scandinavian treats from my grandmother. Today’s guest post comes from Marie Morache, who shares her own experiences celebrating Christmas with her Norwegian American family. Thanks, Marie!

Growing up as a Norwegian Lutheran in Minnesota was not unusual. There were many of us! Our heritage seemed to shine through at Christmastime. A quintessential occurrence at any Norwegian American home is the days spent preparing foods that remind us that we came from Norway. Both sides of my family are Scandinavian. On my mother’s side my grandparents are 100% Norwegian, and are only three generations removed from Norway. On my father’s side, my grandfather was 100% Norwegian and my grandma is ¾ Norwegian and ¼ Swedish. It is safe to say I had many a Norwegian Christmases growing up! Yah, sure, ya betcha!

Lefse stored in a flour sack towel

Mid-December I would go over to my Grandma Opsal’s and we would make lefse together. My grandma would play the St. Olaf Choir (a local Norwegian Lutheran college) Christmas concert in the background. The day before, Grandma had riced the potatoes, then mixed them with the butter, sugar, and cream, and put them in the fridge to cool overnight. We spend an entire afternoon rolling, flipping, and storing the lefse (in a folded flour sack towel–a common sight in Midwest kitchens). In front of us is an enlarged photo of a Norwegian fjord. To the left is a Norwegian calendar my grandma gets every year; each month contains a different landscape of Norway–a visual reminder of our heritage. Of course, we test the lefse as we go, to be sure it is adequate to serve to our family.

On Christmas Eve a feast is served, but first, as the women finish preparing the meal, the family congregates in the living room to enjoy each other’s company and Norwegian hors d’oeuvres–crackers with gjetost cheese (a Norwegian cheese made from goat’s milk), pickled herring (a popular Nordic delicacy), Norwegian crisp bread (a flat, dry bread containing mostly rye), and lingonberry jam (a staple Norwegian jam). “Ver sa god,” my grandma Opsal would chime into the living room, which is Norwegian for “be so good,” an invitation to come and eat. We would all sit down to an abundant feast including the lefse prepared weeks before. In some Norwegian families lutefisk (a fish served in lye) is a part of the meal, but for our family not enough people enjoyed it. “We got a letter from Asbjorn,” my grandpa would inevitably say as we enjoyed our dinner. At Christmastime our family connected with our relatives who live in Norway–Asbjorn, Jorunn, Elisabeth, and their families. Their letter would be read aloud, leading to discussions about the visits my grandparents took to Norway throughout their life and my great-grandfather’s life as a hat maker in Lyngdal, Norway.

Rosettes, sandbakkels, and krumkake (displayed on the plate above the small blue plates)

After much food and conversation, dessert would be served–a plate of krumkake, sandbakkels, and rosettes (all Norwegian cookies) would be passed around, mixed in with other Christmas cookies. Rice pudding was also served. The fun of this dessert was the one almond hidden in it. Whoever found the almond in their dish would get a gift! We would retire to the living room again, where we would sing Christmas hymns and read the story of Jesus’ birth before opening presents and heading off to church–the Lutheran church, of course!

Photos courtesy of Marie Morache.

Going shopping on an empty stomach


I remember grocery shopping with my mom while growing up, armed with a delicious, dense, almond-filled pastry called fyrstekake from the bakery.

When I bought Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book this summer, the first recipe I decided to try was the Norwegian Prince’s Cake. A simple, easy cake with an almond filling, it sounded wonderful. Little did I realize at first that I was looking at a recipe for fyrstekake. (Never mind the fact that the Norwegian name was in parentheses directly under the English one.)

Scandinavians must be born with a taste for almond in their genes. Growing up, some of my favorite sweets involved almond. Closer to my heart than fyrstekake is kringle, an almond- and raisin-filled, pretzel-shaped pastry. And don’t get me started on marzipan candy!



Fyrstekake with Rosé-Poached Nectarines
Cake recipe adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book

While planning a dessert to bring to a dinner with friends recently, I decided to bake this traditional Norwegian cake. But I wanted to give the dessert my own touch. As promised, here’s the recipe. Nectarines pair nicely with the cake’s almond flavor and add some moisture and contrasting texture to the dense, dry cake.  I kept the poaching liquid very simple in order to let the flavor of the frystakake shine without overwhelming it or adding too many flavors. But if you’d like, a little cinnamon might be a nice touch.

Despite the decorative crisscross pattern, this is a very simple cake that doesn’t require an artist’s touch. If you keep that in mind while forming the crust, you’ll be just fine, and you’ll spare yourself the frustration when the crust inevitably breaks or does something you don’t want it to do.

Despite the cake’s dryness, it keeps surprising well. Serve leftover cake the next day with coffee.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled and cut into slices
1 egg
1 cup whole almonds, unblanched
1 cup powdered sugar
2 egg whites
almond extract, to taste (optional)
wine-poached nectarines (recipe follows)
vanilla ice cream, for serving

Equipment: food processor, 9-inch springform cake pan

Sift the flour, sugar, and baking powder into a food processor. Add butter and combine; it will quickly develop the consistency of sand. Add one egg, and process until the mixture comes together into a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill while making the filling.

Clean and dry the food processor. (You do not need to wash it; rinsing it in warm water and removing the bits of dough will suffice.) In the same bowl, use the food processor to finely chop the almonds. (Be warned, this is surprisingly loud!) The almonds will still have a rough consistency, which is okay; you’ll get a sense of when they’re ready. Add the powdered sugar and two egg whites, and process until combined. Taste the filling; it will have a delicate almond flavor, much softer than  marzipan. If you wish to have a more pronounced almond flavor, you might want to try adding a little almond extract to taste. Then cover the food processor bowl and refrigerate. (At this point, you may leave the dough and filling to chill for awhile, or proceed to assemble the cake. However, the dough may benefit from a little time in the refrigerator, as it should help it become more workable.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using 2/3 to 3/4 of the dough, create the bottom layer of dough. Feel free to simply press it into the bottom and sides of the pan (you’ll want it to go up to about 3/4 of the sides), or, roll it out on a floured board into a circle about 10 1/2 to 11 inches in diameter, then press it into the pan. The important thing to remember is that the crust doesn’t have to be perfect; this is a rustic-looking dessert. Once the bottom crust is ready, spoon the almond filling in and spread it evenly onto the crust. Roll the rest of the dough out onto a floured board and cut it into 1/2-inch strips, then arrange them on the filling in a crisscross pattern. Once again, resist the temptation to make them perfect. The dough will easily break when you’re lifting the strips from the board; it helps to take a flat utensil and run it between the board and dough to loosen it, then lift it up gently. If it breaks, just put it back together like a puzzle. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes, until the crust is golden.

One the cake cools, cut into slices, and serve with nectarines and ice cream. Drizzle a little of the reduced wine sauce on top of each slice and serve.

Serves 8-10

Rosé-Poached Nectarines

2 nectarines
1 cup rosé*
1 tablespoons sugar

While the cake is baking, prepare the nectarines. Cut them into eighths, and put them in a saucepan with the rosé. Bring to a boil, then simmer for approximately ten minutes, or until cooked, but still al dente. Stir frequently, turning the nectarine slices over to make sure they’re cooked evenly. Don’t be afraid if they lose their skin; most of it will inevitably  fall off. When the nectarines are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon, and discard the skin. Reduce the wine sauce, stirring frequently, until it turns into a thin, jammy syrup.

*While I used rosé, white wine would probably have very similar results. I happened to have an open rosé in the fridge. The important thing is that you use an inexpensive wine, but one that you enjoy drinking, because the nectarines are the stars here.

You may want to double the nectarine recipe, depending on how many servings you need. I made it to serve four, but come to think of it, it could easily have served 6-8.