One of the great things about holiday baking is that everyone has their own traditions and favorites. Recipes which span for generations, recipes that cross continents, recipes that adapt and evolve in one’s own kitchen. Each recipe with a history and a story.
While sitting around a table with friends a few weeks back our conversation turned to holiday baking. In typical fashion for our area, most had plans to start off the season by making large batches of lefse. We discussed favorite cookies, like pepperkaker (gingerbread), kransekake (almond tower cake), and krumkaker (wafer cookies), to name a few. One friend, Anne Lise, turned to me, and with a broad smile and glitter in her eyes, told me that one of her favorite julekaker (Christmas cookies) is knekk-kaker.
The name immediately intrigued me. Anne Lise explained that ‘knekk’ refers to the caramel aspect of the cookie. As it bakes, the sugar and syrup melt and break down, giving these cookies their distinct caramel smell and taste. The oats almost fade away, providing bulk and substance rather than flavor. Knekk-kaker are thin and crispy, yet can be faintly chewy toward the center. They glisten with their caramel coat, and are elegant with their lace-like form.
Anne-Lise was more than happy to share her bestefar’s (grandfather’s) recipe for these delightful cookies so I could share them with you. They are simple to make and are also wonderful gifts to be given out to friends and family.
Knekk-kaker go well with tea or coffee and would be divine dipped into a little melted chocolate. The recipe makes about 48 cookies, and they are easily stored. If you wish to make a smaller amount, feel free to halve the recipe.
Anne Lise’s Bestefar’s Knekk-Kaker*
Makes about 48 cookies
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (160 g) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (50 ml) Norwegian light syrup or golden syrup
- 3 tablespoons (50 ml) heavy cream
- 2/3 cup (150 g) butter, melted and then cooled
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (75 g) quick-cooking oats
- 1 cup (120 g) sifted, all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Blend all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
Use a small spoon to scoop out a little of the dough and place it on the parchment paper. You should be able to fit up to 8 spoonfuls of dough at a time per baking sheet. Space them well, so they don’t cook into each other.
Place 1 baking sheet in the oven and bake the cookies for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. After 5 minutes, or when the cookies have stiffened, transfer them to a cooling rack.While the first batch is cooling, place the second baking sheet in the oven. Spoon more of the dough on the first baking sheet after you have transferred the cookies to the cooling rack. When the second batch of cookies are ready, take them out of the oven and put the newly prepared baking sheet in the oven. Continue this cycle until all of the dough is used up.
Store the cookies in a cookie tin or airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 3 weeks.
*Anne Lise’s bestefar’s recipe has been slightly modified in regards to the oven temperature and to account for imperial measurements