I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t ignoring you, and I wasn’t attacked by a polar bear (although one might think that was the case if you’ve seen the abundance of polar bear postcards in Norway- FYI: they don’t live on the mainland).
You see, the truth of the matter is, I had other goodies on the brain than cookies. Namely chocolate. Chocolate in the form of Molly Weisenberg’s chocolate cake, a bag of chocolate-covered peanut “M’s” , and Mövenpick Belgian chocolate ice cream. With just two months before my due date, it seems as though our kid will easily develop a taste for dark chocolate due to my lack of self-restraint. In turn, my cookie baking runs off schedule and my promise to you of 7 cookies each Sunday before Christmas becomes an early broken promise.
Will you let me redeem myself? Say, with maple and pecans and lots and lots of butter in the form of a tender, tender shortbread? And just so we don’t get off track, let’s throw in a second cookie today for good measure. Maybe a favorite from last year? Like the Norwegian classic, The Sirupsnipper. We’ll call it “Syrup Sunday”- the day when you take a little maple syrup from Americana and mix it with a little bit of Scandinavian sugar syrup. The first Sunday of Advent needs more than one cookie, anyway.
Smørkaker med Lønnesirup og Pekannøtter
*Makes 3 or 4 dozen tiny cookies - more or less depending on the size of your cutters.
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
7 ounces (200g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (55g) powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons Real Maple Syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (25g) toasted pecans, finely chopped
+ 1 tablespoon pecans, shelled and chopped to a powder-like consistency (for dusting)
+ 1 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling
1. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and continue beating, then beat in the maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture in two additions. Stir until everything comes together into a thick dough, then mix in the 1/3 cup of toasted and chopped pecans.
3. Turn the dough out onto a countertop and divide into two pieces. Press each piece of dough out into a flat patty 1 inch (2cm) thick, wrap individually in plastic and chill completely in the refrigerator - about thirty minutes.
4. When the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick. Cut the dough into your desired shapes using cookie cutters or a knife and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the reserved pecan powder and granulated sugar, then lightly press it into the cookies with your finger.
5. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are barely golden.
Christmas Cookie #4
Norwegian “Syrup Collars”
While you’re all familiar with shortbread, traditional Norwegian cookies, or småkaker (small cakes) are perhaps less familiar. I’ve already touched on Pepparkaker a few weeks ago. Today’s Sirupsnipper (syrup collars) are diamond-shaped crisp cookies adorned with a single almond. I think the name alone is reason enough to try your hand at these. Don’t they stew up images of little, old, bosomy grandmas in a warm December kitchen? Perhaps a kitchen with a bowl of milk on the floor for the cat and a pot of dark coffee always on hand for unexpected visitors.
*This recipe calls for ammonium carbonate. Although it is more commonly used as a smelling salt, ammonium carbonate is used as a leavening agent in particular Scandinavian recipes. If you are able to come across some, I encourage you to use it. It can be substituted with baking powder, but the finished product will not be as airy of light as the original recipe.
1/4 cup (60 ml) corn syrup
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
6 oz./1.5 sticks (170 g) butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) of milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder (or- preferably ammonium carbonate, if you can find it)
3 cups (420 g) All-Purpose flour
+A small amount of almonds for decorating (preferable peeled), sliced lengthwise
1. Warm the corn syrup, sugar, butter, milk, and pepper on the stovetop over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temp.
2. Mix in the flour until well blended and a firm dough is formed. Place in the refrigerator to chill, 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Roll out your dough very thinly and cut out the “snipper” (collar) shapes- I used a pie dough roller to form crimped edges, but a diamond-shaped cookie cutter or a butter knife would work fine.
4. Lay your cookie shapes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly press your halved almond pieces into the center of the diamond.5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cool on a rack. Store in a decorative Christmas cookie box.